Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2007   by Garth Burnside, owner of Varsity Automotive Limited, Vancouver, BC

Take the time to invest in the community, staff

I've been a technician for some 36 years, first starting in 1970 at a small but very successful Esso station and later at another Esso location that had five service bays and a gas island; and in 1985...

I’ve been a technician for some 36 years, first starting in 1970 at a small but very successful Esso station and later at another Esso location that had five service bays and a gas island; and in 1985 I purchased the property where Varsity Automotive is now located.

It’s been an exciting time, as my family and staff have grown the business to one where Varsity Automotive now operates seven bays and has an excellent roster of technicians and, most importantly, Blair Hodgson, my longtime shop foreman who has been with me from the day I first started in this industry. But over those many years, I’ve learned that to become successful, one has to invest in a number of things, two of which are in the community and in one’s staff.

With the community, Varsity Automotive has been active for many years with the British Columbia Automobile Association in reaching out to high schools in order to help sponsor technician programs and training for students interested in entering the automotive field. Varsity Automotive also helps with many co-op programs by taking students in, giving them the chance to use their skills in a real shop environment and to learn from the experienced technicians and staff. And I take the time to fill out the reports and give constructive and helpful feedback in order to encourage these students to continue in this field of work.

The reason why we need to do this is that such students are our future; they will be the new technicians and shop owners which this industry is so eagerly seeking. Remember, this is a wonderful and rewarding field to enter and we really must do a better job of reaching out to students to tell them about what our industry has to offer them. We must do better in taking the initiative to find those students who are truly interested in entering this business and getting their names and phone numbers, and then helping them get the pre-apprentice courses and work they need, and even offering them their first jobs after they become qualified apprentices and then technicians. This investment in time will have tremendous benefits to our industry’s long-term health and profitability.

But just as we need to invest in our future technicians, we also have to be ready to invest in or current technicians and staff. Varsity Automotive does this in several ways. The first is making sure the staff is getting the necessary training they need to say on top of the latest vehicles. This training also come in handy when speaking to customers, especially those younger ones who buy a new vehicle and think they must take it to the dealer for maintenance. A well trained technician and service writer can explain that a service shop can service and maintain new vehicles; that the excellent work done for their 15 year old family car over many years of business continues with the band-new vehicle. People are too quick to believe that when they buy a new car they must take it back to where they bought it to get it serviced. Even some of my friends who buy new cars believe this and we have to do a better job in dispelling that. And to make sure we can do that, we have also taken the time to invest in new equipment, such a updated diagnostic systems, new wheel alignment and tire balancers, for example, and doing much more with online parts ordering.

It is through the investments in our community and our staffs that we can all better serve our industry.

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