Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2005   by CARS Magazine

Taking Sides

In the May issue of SSGM an anonymous "fed up" tech's opinions certainly stirred controversy among SSGM readers. Here's an example. -- Jim Anderton

Hi, Jim:

I am a new shop owner in a very competitive market. I just read the “Another Fed up Tech” rant in the May SSGM, and I just had to respond.

I certainly don’t want this to sound like an “us against them” situation, but I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the garbage that AFUT and others of his ilk seem to spew. If one was to listen to this stuff, the world owes AFUT a living, and he intends to collect it by any way possible. The fact is, the “good” techs, the ones that do the jobs properly, efficiently, and with a team attitude will always be highly in demand. These guys are a very hot commodity, and, contrary to AFUT’s jaded view, are very much respected by the shop owners.

The “good” shop owners very much understand, and respect the value of excellent techs. We know that they generate every dollar of revenue, and that we had better treat them like the gods that they are. And, yes, loyalty does play a big role. Loyalty to your principles, your customers, and your employer. “Happy” techs don’t leave. Does this mean that the world is perfect for automotive techs? Certainly not!! Our industry needs to become a desirable place to be. It needs to pay top dollar to get top people. It needs to make technical as well as business training a priority, and it needs to be the type of career that discourages backyarding. But, with all that being said, the business is not as bad as AFUT professes it to be.

I heartily invite AFUT to open his own shop. Risk the investment of time and money. Risk both your personal and business reputations. Take a chance … and if everything works out, enjoy the fruits of your hard work. It’s easy to sit back and whine and moan (anonymously, I might add) instead of stepping up to the plate, being the best you can be, and working in partnership with your colleagues to make things better. I encourage him to faithfully read Bob Greenwood, David Meunier, and other professionals like them to understand how and why independent garages set labor rates and parts pricing the way they do. And, along the way, understand the impact that the $50/hr. backyard “professionals” have on the entire industry, and eventually AFUT’s paycheque.

Finally, it is my opinion that if you allow customers to solicit you, or you them, on your employer’s time, then you are stealing, plain and simple. It does not matter what your reasoning is, it is unethical. Frankly, giving up your integrity is never worth the few extra dollars. You’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution. Which side of the ledger do YOU fall on, AFUT?

Craig Harley

OK Tire and Auto Service

Lethbridge, Ab

Hi Jim:

I read the response to Robert Summers letter from “Another Fed Up Tech”. I must say that this person is very naive and uninformed where he works. His comments about how much he gets paid and how he must supplement his income by backyarding have provoked this letter. I have been on both sides of this fence; I pulled wrenches for 10 years in dealerships and independent shops and have also operated my own independent repair shop for 19 years. I know how much effort it takes a tech to stay on top of this rapidly changing industry. I also know how much effort it takes to perform the tasks required; repairing today’s vehicles, within a reduced time allotment and with very close tolerances and very specific instructions. What gets me upset is when he backyards he forgets that he is working without liability insurance, no rent to pay, no GST, no CPP, WCB, Employment Insurance, No Health Plan, RRSP contributions. NO OVERHEAD. If this person wants to get paid 50% of the door rate and 20% of parts profit, he would be employed about one day, since bankruptcy would be inevitable. This person needs to go have a long chat with his employer to find out how much money is left over after the $500.00 work order has been paid and divided up to pay overhead. Surprisingly nowhere near $250.00 profit.

My theory of how to get everyone a FAIR share of the customers repair bill is this: Techs stop backyarding, make all customers come through your employer’s front door. Promote your place of business. Take part in what is happening in your place of business; help be part of decision- making processes. This would drive up the door rate and enable employers to pay more.

Employers need to let their techs understand what it takes to operate their businesses and let techs help with decision-making plans. Employers should take some management and human resource courses to ensure their businesses can compete and generate enough profit to pay for the cream of the crop techs. Learn how to make people feel wanted and needed inside the business. Employers should share some of the profit with those who helped generate it.

The next thing that both groups need to realize is that their competition is DEALERS not other independents. Once we see this, then this group must find one organization to get involved with. Since 1978 when I started in this trade Techs and independent business owners have wanted to have a union or association or brotherhood to unite all the Canadian automotive trade but we as individuals could not make the bold move to actually join one. We must choose one as our united voice.

As a group of Canadian Independent business owners and Canadian Technicians we could lobby the government to stop Manufacturers from blocking access to critical repair information, lobby government to give this trade tool write-offs, just as all other trades get. We could clean up our own reputation, Help promote the virtues of the trade to young people, educate people to have respect for the highly technical, skilled and specialized industry we are in. There; I feel better now. Thanks for letting me say something I wanted out for some time.

Howard Chew

Calgary Alberta

Hi Jim:

I would like to address the letter by “another fed up tech” in your May 2005 issue.

As a tech who has moved up the ranks and now own my own shop I am glad I don’t have techs with that mentality working for me. I pay for all my tech’s courses and any certification as well. I pay for their fuel to and from the courses as well. We offer a benefits package as well. I provide the scan tools and alignment machines as well as all the other equipment and specialty tools in my shop. I also pick up the tab when a tech or apprentice makes a mistake diagnosing a vehicle or inadvertently damages a vehicle. I pay for all the insurance and liability policies that go along with the business. It is also the business that brings in the customers as this shop has been around for over 50 years. If I had a technician that was telling customers he would do “their work” on the side he would have a short walk to the unemployment line. This tech is living in some type of fantasy world if he thinks that as an owner I am making $60.00 an hour profit on every job that comes through my door [I wish] He says that he wants 50% of the labour and 20% of the profit on parts?? Is he also going to be willing to pay for all the upgrades to electronic equipment and all repairs to the other equipment as well as pay for the heating, electricity and water and sewage etc.??? I don’t think so!! This statement by this “fed up tech” is just another example of someone who really doesn’t know what is really involved in business operations. This tech needs to get educated and his salary will go up. Most techs are well paid for their ability; most techs also think they are highly skilled when the truth is they may only be average. The sad thing is that a lot of techs don’t have the ability or the knowledge to warrant larger paychecks. There is a severe shortage of highly skilled techs with great diagnostic and repair capabilities and until most of the younger generation realizes that you have to commit to a job and work hard to get better you will be destined to remain at your current wage. A
s for his comment on what other profession requires a large cash outlay … he obviously hasn’t had to pay tuition fees at university. I own over $30,000 of my own hand tools and I have spent over $200,000 for equipment and shop tools. I have been doing this for over 30 years and love my job. For this tech who is so fed up I say this, have fun in your new profession.

Darryl Saundry

Vedder Motors

Chilliwack B.C.

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