Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2006   by David Dansereau

The Brawn and the Brain (August 01, 2006)

Part one of a two-part series

Being in the family business definitely has its moments. I started out as everyone else, just an employee to the business. My dad, Larry, was and has been the best teacher I have had. Maybe because he was a little harder on me than the other teachers, maybe because he had a way of making it all make sense. Whatever it was, I owe him for moulding me to the automotive technician that I am.

In our booming economy, many technicians have been lured to the oil patch in search of untold riches. Some are successful, while others burn out from the torrid pace and lifestyle.

As a small independent repair shop with 21 years of service and reputation behind me, I have seen many mechanics and technicians come and go. I use mechanics because some people do not have the commitment to be technicians. Technicians are justified in demanding a respectable wage. We would all like to make $30/hr. and up; but as an owner, I ask, what is the value of a lifestyle to you? If you do not feel a spouse, children and family are important to you, then we are simply not on the same page.

As an owner, I along with many others, are willing to pay for that kind of lifestyle, if the technician can be a professional. So why is the industry having a problem retaining technicians? The answer, plain and simple, is because they don’t know how to be professional. I have heard more reasons for people showing up late, missing work or just quitting and leaving their tools behind than you could believe. To demand the means necessary for that lifestyle, techs can’t come in late because clothes weren’t dry, alarm clocks didn’t go off or (my favourite) they are hung-over. Professional wages demand professional technicians.

Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes owners can go too far. We often expect a tech to come into our shop and produce like no other tech has before. A lot of owners are former techs themselves and so we know how to work, that’s what we do. We don’t know how to mentor, motive and retain people. Get that training! Why is it we take courses to learn about new car features, but are not willing to take a course on management?

Our shop has become part of a mentorship group where owners have meetings during the afternoon with a facilitator. The evenings are spent with our techs and service advisors to fill them in with the daily discussion and motivate them through an understanding of our business models. Send your service advisors and techs to relevant technical courses and send them often.

The point of my story is this: owners and technicians need to work together. The owner is no better than the tech because his name is on the door. He may have more risk and some of his demands may be high, but lets face it, so are the customers. Who are we really employed by? On the other hand, the technician is no better than the owner because of his knowledge and mechanical talent. Without a shop to work in — you’re nobody! If you want a wage, be professional and give at least 100% while you are there.

If we truly start to work together, we can clean up the image of the our industry and hopefully attract new people to our noble profession. We can chose to succeed together and all be fair to each other, or watch the industry go down the tubes. After all, it’s your lifestyle that is at stake.

David Dansereau

Owner / Technician

L.A.D.’s Autopro

Calgary, Alberta

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