We had a simple goal for our latest Shop Owner Roundtable webinar: share some awesome information with everyone who listened.
Okay, to be fair, that’s our goal for every webinar. But the Roundtable is special, and not just because some members of our marketing team have a not-so-subtle obsession with King Arthur. The Roundtable is where shop owners can speak directly to other shop owners. We can provide all kinds of free and fantastic information, but there’s just something about hearing it straight from the source, right?
In April, we had two exciting guests join us for a long talk about hiring, retention, and much more. Jennifer Callaway, co-owner of Inland Empire Fleet Maintenance, and Henry Uribe, owner of OnSite Truck & Equipment Repair, joined Fullbay CEO Patrick McKittrick and COO Chris O’Brien for a thoughtful, far-ranging conversation about what it takes to build a business in our changing industry.
As usual, we hope you’ll listen to the entire webinar, but if you’re pressed for time, read the recap below and catch the full replay later!
THE DIFFICULTIES OF HIRING TECHS
The crew jumped right into the question that presses on everyone’s mind: How do we hire techs these days?
Both of our owners agreed that the ongoing shortage is the result of several trends that have evolved over time. Chief among them, though, is the bulk of at least two generations being told that they need to go to college to be successful.
We’ve discussed this issue before, but it does bear further exploration. Young people, says Henry, don’t realize they can do anything else. Becoming a technician, or looking into other blue-collar work, just doesn’t even hit the radar.
So, you have a significantly reduced potential workforce. Luring those people to one job over another is going to take substantial effort—yes, we’re talking about money, but also the environment provided for the techs. That’s where a lot of places, especially larger ones, fall short. “[Some] big companies have lost the personal touch,” Henry says. “They don’t have the connection with the employee or with the customer.”
Small shops can make themselves more attractive to diesel techs by being good places to work. Jennifer knows all of her techs—what’s more, she can tell when they’re happy because they’re often singing. If someone isn’t singing, it’s usually not a great sign.
Everyone, she says, brings something to the table in a smaller shop. “Everyone’s opinions and views are heard,” she says. “And if you want to wreck the company culture, you’ve got to get out of the sandbox.”
Jennifer and Henry both agree that there’s more to a great technician than mechanical ability.
Oh, don’t get us wrong—that’s a huge part of it. But a tech isn’t operating by themselves in a void. They have to be able to work with other techs in the shop, as well as managers, customers, and everyone else they need to deal with on a daily basis. So yes, mechanical ability is a big one, but so is the ability to blend into and become part of a team.
Henry is all about finding peoples’ motivation. He’ll chat with a potential tech about their life: What do they like to do? How do they spend their weekends? Things like that. If a tech says they love hanging out with their kids, Henry generally interprets that to mean this person may not want a lot of overtime.
Jennifer has noticed an uptick in techs wanting to discuss benefits more than salary (though salary is still important!). “They’re interested in Monday through Friday; flexible schedules,” she says. A lot of them don’t want to do road calls in the dead of night. That’s something shops are going to have to get on board with if they want to draw in good talent.
ON MARKETING AND GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
We promised ourselves we wouldn’t pop too many shameless plugs into this recap, but both of our guests are working with Dieselmatic and they’re both stoked about it. Marketing, they tell Patrick and Chris, is important to growing a business operation. Having a good website, Jennifer adds, is critical. “Everybody looks on the web, everybody googles you. If you have a good online presence, that validates what they have in front of them.”
And while marketing is a big portion of the battle, marketing alone isn’t going to fuel a shop’s growth. There is a lot of noise in the world today—much of it distracting, and almost none of it has anything to do with you. “Turn off the noise,” Henry advises. “Focus on your business, your customers, your people.”
You’ll also learn about:
- What is driving technicians to apply to smaller or medium-sized shops
- How they decide to take a chance on potential employees
- Clocking out vs. craftsmanship, and how that applies to techs
- And much more!
It really was a spectacular session, so we hope you’ll watch or listen to the entire thing when you have the time. Let us know what you think—and remember to send us questions for the next one!