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Finding A-level Technicians
Posted to Shop Management Forum on 1/25/2014 123 Replies

Sorry folks, this may be another of those dangerous posts where I throw out what's been rattling around in my head. I was looking at the classified forum today and seeing everybodys "A-level tech wanted" "ASE Cert. tech wanted" "must be able to do all repairs" and even an ad for a service writer who can do repairs, or a service writer who knows HTML programming. These ads are from all over the country. So, I came to a couple of conclusions.

1. Lack of A-Level or Master techs is not a local problem, it's industry wide.

2. Most businesses don't seem to know what they really want so they look for a guy who can do everything

Now, it seems to me that if we just keep posting the same ads all over the place with the same "we're a busy shop, pay depends on experience" it's probably not going to get any better results than what we have gotten in the past. I responded to roughly the same ads when I was turning wrenches 15 years ago.

Is it even realistic to find somebody who can be everything to everybody in an independent all makes/all models environment? I'm sure there are some out there, but they are few and far between.

Maybe, before we go off looking for that one guy who can be our go to guy and save us from ourselves, we should take an honest look at what our business is and what do we need.

Step one - honestly evaluate where you are in the market - are you at the upper end competing with dealerships and specialty shops? are you at the bottom competing with craig's list? or are you somewhere in between. Where you are is going to determine what type of cars and customers you will be dealing with.

Step two - honestly evaluate what you need. Do you need a guy to do 40 hours of VW driveability work a week? Do you need a guy who can primarily do brake jobs with an occasional check engine light?

Step three - Can you pay competitively? If you can't, don't make promises to people you can't keep.

Step four - Think about what your vision for the company is and what your future plans are. Don't hire for what is in the parking lot today, hire for what you want to be in the parking lot tomorrow. For example, after you evaluated your market position and needs, you've decided that you want to take the car in the direction of a VW specialty shop. You are no longer looking for an all makes/all models/do everything A-Tech, you are now looking for a VW tech who can work on some other things during the transition. Advertise accordingly. Maybe you've decided that you just can't afford that super tech and it makes more sense for you to focus on the jobs that you can do and let somebody else do the other jobs.

Maybe what you really need is to re-evaluate the way that you are doing business in general. If the cars are not getting fixed quickly because your techs are busy running to the parts store, maybe you need to hire a parts runner, not a technician.

A highly skilled, highly qualified A-level technician is probably going to be the most expensive employee that you hire. You may have to hire three or four of them before you find one that really is what he says he is. Finding this guy is going to be a time-consuming and expensive search because there are very few true master techs out there. Before you go through that, it might be a good idea to see if there is another way to do things, or if you really need that guy.

I look at this industry - between what I read here, people I talk to, and my own experiences as a tech/service writer/service manager and I believe that the single biggest problem we have is poor management and poor training in general. Too long we've stuck with the outdated idea of "If you build it, they will come." and an idea that you just hire that "do everything" guy and everything will work out. Maybe it's time to adjust to the idea that the "do everything" guy just doesn't exist anymore and we need to properly organize a shop to effectively use the skills of the people that do exist. Think about the construction industry --- in general they no longer have the craftsman who handles the entire construction of a house, they call in various specialists to do specialized tasks.

Sorry for the length and the ramble.

Nathan from Colorado

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