If you ask shop coach Cecil Bullard’s opinion on how to help resolve the technician shortage, he has a pretty simple-sounding solution: Pay your technicians more.
“We have an epidemic in our industry. The epidemic is we do not have enough technicians. Certainly, we don’t have enough qualified technicians,” said the chief executive officer of the Institute for Automotive Business Excellence and RLO Training.
Bullard was speaking at NAPA Expo 2022 during his session, What are the Most Important Numbers for Financial Success? to a room full of automotive aftermarket shop owners.
“How many of you in this room could use a qualified technician in your business? I would venture a guess it’s everybody in the room. They ain’t out there,” he said. “How are we going to attract qualified technicians to our business if we’re still paying $20 an hour and they can get a job at McDonald’s making 20 bucks an hour serving hamburgers. We can’t do it anymore.”
He wants shop owners to do this: Raise their labour rates by $20 an hour. Take $10 of it and put it into your technicians’ paycheques.
“Don’t care if they’re junior tech, senior tech — take $10 of that raise and put it right to the technicians’ bottom line,” Bullard said. “Now we’re starting to get to a point where we can hire somebody as a junior technician … that is going to make us competitive with some of these other jobs.”
Bullard said that 16 years ago, he was paying his master technician $140,000 a year and his service advisor $130,000. His lowest-paid tech made $90,000.
“And the reason why was because [my labour rate] was $158 an hour when everybody else was $100. And you know what the busiest shop in town was? Mine,” he said.
As a shop owner, the point isn’t to stack as much cash for yourself. “It’s about taking care of the people that I’m responsible for. And it’s not just me and my family. It’s my technicians and my service advisors and their families — they need to have the right pay scale,” Bullard said.
Figuring out this specific area can ease many headaches, he added.
“If we finally get it in this industry, and we fix it? Now we’re going to have people lining up to be techs in our industry because they can make the kind of living that they should make,” Bullard observed.