So, how is that going to become better when your sales are down? I have a couple of ideas I am going to develop for my shop. I thought I would share them with you. Like many of you, my business has changed very quickly. The shop is busy, the techs are billing out as many hours as they ever have but the work has changed. The mix is made up of "fix it, it's broken" work, BIG maintenance tickets on cars that have never even met a technician and my hot rod business that has not shown any evidence of slowing down. Our staff feels blessed to still be busy when others are not. This fact has started a sort of chain reaction of technicians looking around for better positions. I am seeing resumes from techs who work for friends. Thus my first idea: if some quality people become available to you, why not consider trading up? It is just smart business isn't it? Obviously you can't side step your regular HR due diligence because there may be a reason that this seemingly quality individual is on the market other than slow business at their current employer. I am not going to spend much more space on that because my second idea takes more to explain.
Many years ago I attended a class presented by Bob Cooper, who suggested that the best way to weed out bad candidates was through a training program. To seriously boil this down to its essence, he suggested that you take several candidates for the same job and offer to pay them while you train them and they compete for the position. To find out if the candidate shares your values, you set them up to succeed or not. An example would be to tell all the candidates that you start business at 8 a.m., but that they can get there when they think they would be most effective to the business' productivity. My guess is you will lose quite a few on the first day who just don't get it. Now you up the ante by presenting a series of tasks that need to get done and tell them that they have a deadline that is more than adequate. Our hero here is going to get done early and look for the next mission. Within a few days at most I think you will have found your best candidate. You can create the necessary tests to determine their ability as you see fit. Maybe you get nothing, but you have had some inexpensive help to straighten away some of those tasks that inhibit your employees' productivity. You may have provided a learning opportunity for a young person at the same time.
Look to unconventional as well as your traditional means of contacting folks who may be looking for new positions and take advantage of the opportunity to acquire quality individuals who will appreciate the constant availability of good work in our industry.
Donny Seyfer is a second-generation repair shop owner and ASE Master Technician. An active industry educator, Seyfer hosts two automotive radio shows, serves as chairman of the Automotive Service Association of Colorado, works nationally to help repair shops with IT and service information utilization and writes for Motor Age, a sister publication of Aftermarket Business.