“These Business Skills online workshops were developed after our 2009 labour market study, Performance Driven, part of which focused on skills gaps and training needs,” explains Jennifer Steeves, CARS Council president. “The data showed that shop owners can underestimate their own need for training and updating skills, and they don’t always have time to consider the impact new skills and a fresh perspective would have on their operation.
“This project supports and strengthens our industry by increasing Owner/Operators’ participation in training that directly impacts their bottom line. Shop owners were an integral part of the program development ensuring that the training reflects their ‘real world’ environment and provides relevant skills upgrading opportunities. Following the pilot workshops, operations’ data was tracked and the owners could see the positive results. Data showed that, over the three months post-workshops, participants increased their total sales by an average of up to $25,000.”
The development of the training modules started with two-part pilot sessions. Held in March and June 2012, in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, sixteen owner/operators and managers participated and contributed their expertise. The content focused on bay staff productivity, profit improvement and employee training. Participants worked to answer questions such as these about their businesses – ‘are sellable technician hours being wasted?’ ‘are the needs of the vehicles coming into the shop being missed?’ and ‘can technician time be filled with missed time at no additional cost?’
John Pederson, Benson Auto Parts, Hamilton, Ontario, Advisory Committee Member and participant, notes, “This initiative was a team effort by people who are working on the front lines of our industry, every day. That’s why the online content is relevant to today’s business — it’s user friendly in that you can work with your own data, and it applies if you have one bay or ten.”
Pederson further points out that “during the workshops, we picked up reminders and things that we could definitely incorporate into our businesses. Depending on the level/volume of business there would be more to change for some than others. It was also reaffirming for some folks that they’re already doing the right thing.”
Before attending the sessions, participants calculated a number of key figures to compare to their post-workshop results:
• Average cost per transaction
• Total sales
• Average number of transactions
• Labour sales
• Average daily hours sold per technician
• Average hours sold per transaction
One of the observations made during the workshops was that O/Os are not necessarily aware of their operational results during the month in progress, which is a business weakness. Focusing the participants on what really occurs on a daily basis exposed that they are not necessarily in ‘control’ as they think they are. One key was learning that comparing monthly performance numbers against that month’s plan would be a valuable addition to the planning and management of the following month.
Then, the monthly follow-up to the workshops was critical to staying ‘tuned in to their outcomes’ and revealed the impact that the new practices had on individual businesses. According to the stats, a whopping 93 per cent of participants were more confident in their ability to better plan bay staff productivity while 88 per cent felt they were better able to control their work capacity. Another positive result is that 75 per cent have hired, or intend to hire, additional staff. The majority was able to increase their average cost per transaction by up to $49 and all participants increased their total sales by an average of up to $35,000. Overall, the data indicates that the Owner/Operators who attended recorded a positive ROI.
The data from the follow-up shows that half the Generalist O/Os were able to realize a very positive ROI, from increased net profits from a respectable $6,400 to four participants who recorded from $21,000 to a whopping $48,000.
Jean Duchesneau, O/O, Centre de l’auto Beaumont, Mont-Royal, Quebec, adds, “All of this information and training is extremely helpful to anyone who wants to increase the productivity and profitability of their business. The online training is very effective (and convenient) and allows you to both upgrade and better manage the day-to-day tasks that actually make a long-term difference to the bottom line. I found it to be a good way to expand and refine the business skills than can put you on the road to greater success.”
Additional breakthroughs were made by participants who continued to apply their new knowledge. One shop revised their report structure to separate technician workload from non-technician workload, meaning that they no longer compare numbers against irrelevant data from the previous year.
According to Advisory Committee Member and participant, Dave Parker, O/O, Parker Auto Care, Ottawa, “I think anytime that you take a course, if you can just leave with one new thing, that’s great. I got far more than that — I actually found things I didn’t know about my business. For example, the ideal ratio of technicians to advisors is 2.5 to 1. I had 5 folks on the floor and I was trying to make it all work. Now, I’ve hired a new service advisor and it’s made my life a lot easier. There were things I learned that surprised me, and I’ve been able to implement positive changes that have really impacted my business so I’m very happy.”
The workshops are available online as part of the CARS OnDemand training inventory, which is accessible at subscribers’ convenience. To find out how to subscribe, call 1-855-813-2101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Canadian Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) Council was established in 1988 to develop and promote a national human resource strategy for the automotive repair and service industry. Over the past decade the CARS Council has spearheaded several projects to identify and mitigate some of the most pressing human resources challenges. For more information, go to www.carsondemand.com.