Awards Insight: Matt French

Jan. 1, 2017
Keys to creating a team-oriented shop culture that attracts and retains quality young talent

When Matt French came aboard as general manager at Stock Auto Body and Mechanical in Wood River, Ill., in May 2015, the shop was struggling, trying to dig out of debt. But French promptly revitalized the workforce.

“You can’t fix a shop overnight, and Matt’s methodical about this,” says Stock president Kent Eberhart, who nominated French for a FenderBender Award. “He’s got a method. Matt’s got a really, really good way with people. Our employees here, they respect him to the utmost.

“He has re-inspired me to love my shop again, after 30 years in the business.” 

French keeps his staff content through his positivity, and by showing frequent appreciation. The general manager has a personal touch to his praise, too: He’ll take a standout technician out to lunch, for example, or plan an impromptu happy hour get-together. French simply wants his staff to know that any above-and-beyond work won’t go unnoticed.

The general manager’s enthusiasm has spurred an increase in quality applicants at Stock, where the annual revenue has increased from $1.1 million to $1.7 million during French’s tenure. French details how any shop can keep employees happy, and keep a steady flow of talented young applicants rolling in. 

Listen to Keep Your Crew Content

A good manager is only as good as the people they surround themselves with. There’s a solid communication line between me and the technicians. There’s definitely an appreciation for what they do out in the shop. I mean, without them fixing vehicles, we’re really not doing a whole lot here up in the office. … That’s probably the biggest reason that I’ve had a decent amount of success with technicians—they know the door’s always open.

Appreciation Creates Camaraderie

These guys tend to string together and get the job done, whether it’s a late night, or an early morning. I’ve been on the other side, where you can’t get a technician to stay any longer than eight hours. You have a group of guys out there and they’re busting their tails to do that? I think it’s important that management and everybody else knows that ‘Hey, these guys are doing it, every day.’

Modernized Shops Attract Applicants

I think the biggest thing is the equipment you have in the facility, the way that you conduct daily business and training. More and more, the younger technicians, they’re coming out of schools in which they seek training—they don’t want to fall behind. 

As long as you’re offering those things, the technicians will follow. 

If you just stay stagnant, you’re not going to have the younger technicians moving through.

Create Ability for Upward Mobility

A lot of younger techs start as paint preppers or things of that nature, and you almost have to run an organization in a fashion in which they know ‘Hey, you’re not going to be a detailer forever, you’re not going to have to prep bumpers forever, you’re not going to have to do R&Is forever.’ But the only way they feel that way is by giving them the knowledge that ‘Hey, moving forward, I’m going to make a living out of this industry.’