From a One-Man Band to a Proper Musical Group
Hi there, Fullbay friends! Today we’re addressing another topic request we received during a webinar: How do you know when it’s time to start hiring more help?
More specifically, the questioner wanted to know about hiring office staff.
Huh. When do you know it’s time? Is it instinctive? Does your conscience start nagging at you until you post an ad? If you ignore the problem, will it just go away?
The decision to hire some helping hands is a big one—and shop owners often put it off. To further explore this topic, we turned to Glen Grader and Andrew Pope of Integrity Fleet Services in Washington to help us help some others.
Before anything else, we need to make it clear: there is no cut and dry answer or equation that is going to work for every single shop. Sure, some operations have worked out formulas that work for them as far as tech hiring goes (in a recent webinar, AM PM Diesel Services reports it’s one tech to 23 pieces of equipment). But when it comes to hiring additional staff, well, it can be a bigger project.
To start, though, let’s take a look at the bigger issue: the resistance many shop owners face when it comes to hiring office support.
WHY OWNERS BALK AT HIRING
The #1 objection we hear against hiring back office staff is that it gets expensive. It’s a practical reason—even one new person on payroll means increased overhead, along with whatever time and money you have to spend training them.
A tech, by comparison, has a definite revenue stream attached to them. We hope you’ll allow us that phrase—we promise, we aren’t trying to reduce people to dollars. But you can definitely gauge how much—once up to speed—a technician will bring in per day, per month, and so on.
Office workers technically don’t bring in a ton of revenue, so it’s harder to see where the work they do will offset the expense of employing them.
If that line of thinking has been holding you back from hiring, try looking at it this way. Your office staff indirectly make your shop money—by taking the burden of administrative work off the folks who are working in the bay.
The more time your techs have to wrench, the more revenue they can earn.
Beyond that, by hiring someone who knows what they’re doing in a particular administrative area—whether it’s accounting, invoicing, sales, whatever—they can bring their experience to bear on their specific task. What does that mean? Oh yeah, our favorite phrase: higher efficiency.
The other major reason shop owners don’t always hire help when they should comes down to…well…feeling like they can (or should) handle things on their own.
“[Shop owners] can let their own egos get in the way a little bit,” Glen says. He can empathize with owners who aren’t sure they want to expand their office staff. After all, he’s handled the bookkeeping for Integrity Fleet Services for many years.
But owners—we say this with love—you often wear a lot of hats. Like…a lot of hats. You guys do a lot of stuff. Hiring someone who can take on the burden of one or two tasks can take a lot off your shoulders and free you up to focus on other things.
SO, WHEN IS IT TIME TO HIRE MORE SUPPORT?
Let’s assume you’ve cleared out any financial or mental blocks you have against hiring some support staff. Every shop’s experience is going to be a little bit different, but Andrew and Glen shared a key situation that usually leads to thoughts about hiring.
“Customer demand and workload are when a shop usually starts thinking about expansion,” Andrew says.
Indeed, Glen adds, hiring new people can coincide with branching into additional services. “When we started, it was all trailer work,” he says. “We had truck services in the back of our mind, but our customers really pushed us into ‘Hey, can you do this? Can you do that?’ If you’re a truly service-oriented mindset business, it’s hard to say no. So you give them options…but that’s hard to do if you don’t have the core competencies for whatever it is they’re asking.”
Wait a sec, Fullbay, you’re saying, that sounds an awful lot like hiring techs.
It does, doesn’t it? But remember, one thing tends to lead to another—if you hire more techs to perform more services, you may want to hire more office support to help with them. Because your techs need support, too—with parts, with estimates, with invoicing, and so on. “If we’re not giving them the support they need,” Andrew says, “we gotta change how we operate and add more headcount.”
HELP! I’VE NEVER HIRED SOMEONE!
The realization that Yes, I need to hire some office help often dovetails into another issue for owners—especially those who have been on their own for many years. Can you guess what that issue is?
(Hint: It’s in the subhead.)
Yep—lots of owners aren’t quite sure how to hire office staff. It seems like a strange new world.
When Glen and Andrew first set out with Integrity, they had plenty of prior experience with hiring. Still, they did have some useful advice for a one-man band looking to expand (hey, we rhymed):
- Look for attitude and personality fit over experience. The person with the insanely long resume and experience may not be the right person for your shop. You’re going to have to see someone day in and day out. Maybe your bookkeeper is fresh out of school, but they’re excited about the diesel industry and willing to learn, and they can turn out to be a phenomenal employee. Or, in Andrew’s words, “Prioritize attitude over aptitude. In the long run it pays off.”
- But consider your own teaching ability. Attitude over aptitude is great, but it hinges on your willingness to help a person grow. If that’s not you, then yeah, you might want to go the experience route with your new hires. Like we said, there’s no cut-and-dry answer to hiring; each shop’s experience is different.
- Beware the job-hopper. Yes, the economy impacts this to a point, but diesel techs are in short supply and extremely high demand. If someone has jumped between five jobs in three years…well…they might jump from your shop, too.
EVERY HIRE IS DIFFERENT
We hope we’ve answered some of your questions around hiring back office and administrative roles. Expanding is often intimidating—especially if it’s just been you (or you and a couple of techs) all along. It may mean relinquishing some of those hats you’ve been wearing…but it can lead to a more efficient and—dare we say it—glorious type of growth.
Happy hiring—we’re rooting for you!