Recruiting and hiring done right

March 1, 2021
Rob Gagliano offers real-world expertise in hiring not just for body shop position positions, but for the wide variety of skills needed within a dealership: sales personnel, service advisors and technicians, parts staff, etc.

When I thought about writing a column about how collision repair businesses can improve their employee recruiting and onboarding processes, I knew who I wanted to spend some time talking to about that subject. 

I’ve known Rob Gagliano since 1997, doing some consulting and training and watching him help build Collex Collision Experts into a 16-shop chain in two states before selling it to The Boyd Group in 2014 for about $45 million. I also knew that over the past four years, Rob and two of his siblings have acquired three dealerships in the Detroit metro area. So Rob offers real-world expertise in hiring not just for body shop position positions, but for the wide variety of skills needed within a dealership: sales personnel, service advisors and technicians, parts staff, etc. In all, Genesis Automotive Group has about 160 employees at three dealerships, including its stand-alone body shop that has sales of about $400,000 a month. 

“By design, we have only limited direct repair activity,” Rob told me of the company’s body shop. “We chose to go a little different route this [than we did with Collex], so just a handful of DRPs, but mostly fed from our dealerships.” 

Somewhat surprisingly, Rob says that no matter what positions need to be filled, the challenges for his dealership are much the same as those faced by collision repairers. 

“In the body shop world, it’s techs: Oh, the techs are getting older, there’s no young people coming in,” Rob said. “Well, guess what? Car sales is very similar to that. It’s not a glamorous, prestigious job that people go to college to do. So it’s challenging to get younger folks to want to come into our business.” 

He said that just like collision repair techs, car salespeople often bounce from one store to another. And just as many collision businesses have found, getting recruits to come in for scheduled interviews has been tough this past year when they may be able to make as much from unemployment benefits just staying home. 

“You often have to set up 10 interviews to get one or two people to actually show up,” Rob said. “That continues to be a challenge.” 

So with all that as background, I asked Rob to walk me through some of the tools and techniques he’s used either at Collex or more recently at his dealerships to attract and develop the talent the company needs.  

Go old-school – because it works. Rob said one of the best tools for recruiting – the referral bonus – isn’t all that creative but is very effective. 

“Our employees know friends and people they used to work with, so we have a referral program,” he said. “Anyone who refers somebody gets a $250 bird-dog fee after the new hire completes their first 90 days with the company. We like that one because it’s usually leads to the most successful hires.”  

Get creative with your ads. Rob said before he writes a help wanted ad to place on Indeed or ZipRecruiter, he researches what other ads for similar positions are saying to help ensure his ads to stand out from the competition. That can mean right down to what the open position is called.  

“So often you see: ‘Auto salesperson wanted. Must have experience,’” Rob told me. “So we might say we are looking for a ‘product specialist,’ rather than a ‘sales consultant.’ We might try to attract someone who feels like they’re in a dead-end job by talking about ‘unlimited earning potential.’” 

He said rather than focusing on experience, he wants his ads to give someone who might not think they could sell cars – someone who is selling shoes or electronics, for instance – or even those not in a sales position but who are comfortable with people – like restaurant wait staff – a feeling that they could learn to successfully sell even a high-ticket item like cars. 

This was just the start of my conversation with Rob. Check back here for my next column when I share how and why Rob really focuses much of his recruiting effort on new entrants to the dealership world rather than only on the “journeyman technician.” 

About the Author

Steven Feltovich

Steve Feltovich of SJF Business Consulting, LLC, works with dealers, MSOs and independent collision repair businesses to make lasting improvements and achieve performance goals. He has more than three decades of automotive industry experience, including 17 years with Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes. Connect with Feltovich on LinkedIn. 

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