by David Rogers
What happens if you can’t find another tech to hire?
The usual path to growing sales includes adding an additional tech so the shop can handle more cars and bill more hours. It’s such an ingrained idea that many owners have gone back into the bays to help create those additional sales “until I can hire somebody.”
But what if you can’t? If your growth plan depends on finding an A-Tech and there aren’t any…now what? How long will this “temporary” phase last? How long will you tolerate missing time with family and working late hours in the bays to keep sales up?
Before you grit your teeth and resolve to do this for as long as it takes, you need to know something.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the technician pool will grow by an average of 46,000 techs for the next ten years. It also says that the number of techs needed to keep up with demand and close the technician shortage gap is 76,000 per year.
The technician shortage is already keeping you from hiring the tech you need, and is getting worse by 30,000 technicians every year. The gap is widening relentlessly by 2,500 techs every single month.
This is not an article on the technician shortage, however.
As I write this article, the technician shortage is just one of the uncontrollable issues facing shop owners. It may be the most painful, but it’s far from the only one. Financial decision-makers are trying to balance slowing down inflation with preventing a recession. Energy costs are increasing. Fewer Americans are working. International conflicts keep emerging. Uncertainty is everywhere.
And yet, this isn’t an article about doom and gloom either. Yes, bad things are coming. And yes, bad things are already here. Everyone is divided and angry and scared and in some ways the outlook is grim.
But the problem with operating from the two poles of fear and comfort is that it always leads to bad business decisions. Comfort tells you “I don’t need to change anything; I can keep going like this for a little while longer” even though the numbers say that you’ll have to keep doing this indefinitely. Fear says “I can’t change anything; bad stuff is coming and I need to save money”, even though history says that bad stuff coming is perpetually true.
The only way out of operating at these two poles is to focus on what you can control.
What you can control starts with what you can measure.
Circling back to the question I asked at the opening of this article, what happens if you can’t find another tech to hire?
After all, you can’t control whether there are qualified A-technicians in your area. You can’t control how long it might take to hire one. But you’re still in control of sales and growth in your shop because of what you can measure.
How thoroughly are your technicians inspecting vehicles right now? How effective are your advisors at educating customers about those inspection findings? How much time does your team lose on busy work and unproductive tasks?
Each of these things is easily measured, which means that it can be controlled, improved, and tracked over time. If your existing team can bill more hours because you improve each of the numbers I just asked about, you will increase sales. In fact, not only can you potentially increase sales by as much as you would by hiring a tech, but you’d also do so without having to add payroll.
This is the danger of comfort in the decision-making process. Comfort invites you to avoid looking. Comfort says you can keep going like this for now. Comfort says things don’t need to change, that light at the other end of the tunnel probably isn’t a train.
But at the other end of the spectrum is fear. Where comfort helps you avoid making changes by ignoring problems, fear helps you make the wrong decision because it’s based on emotion.
Fear prevents you from firing a bad technician because what if you can’t find another? Fear looks at looming economic problems and prioritizes savings instead of advertising more to protect the business. Fear acts impulsively instead of strategically.
The enemy of fear is measurement.
Measurement shows you the immediate and trackable results of the changes you make, which means that you never have to wonder if what you’re doing is working. You can see your marketing’s effect on your new customers’ average repair orders. You can track your team’s results after implementing a new process.
But let’s bring this full circle. Because what if you can’t find another tech to hire?
Control what you can control. Invest in the team you have. Train your apprentice technicians into full technicians, and train your advisors to become the leaders you need to run an efficient and productive shop. Give them the tools, the training, and the responsibility they need in order to make themselves and the shop successful.
And do these things from a place of confidence by combining them with measurement. Every time you create a new process and make your team accountable for another aspect of the shop, measure and track their results so you can know every day if they’re performing. As your technicians start to grow out of their apprentice role, the measurement will give you confidence that they’re progressing toward becoming the technician your shop needs.
Not only will this break the shop out of the fear/comfort decision-making cycle, but it has the added benefit of building a brand-new culture in your shop, one where every employee is committed to helping the shop grow and win.
Your shop can win, no matter what uncontrollable circumstances come your way. Just remember to focus on what you can measure and control. You’ll create more sustainable success when you do this, and create better lives for yourself, your family, and your employees!
As published in Auto-Link Magazine