Defined career development plans are a huge part of developing a successful, sustainable business.
When I took on my current role as Vice President and Managing Partner at Budds’ Collision, I wanted to continue many of the working practices established by my predecessor and mentor, Sam Piercey.
However, I also saw that to continue moving forward, would require an investment in developing the right culture among our staff.
The last five years have seen a lot of change in our team—people have left and others have replaced them—but what was and continues to be important is to have everybody willing to understand the importance of a career development path and that to be successful you need to not only embrace change but anticipate it.
Developing from within
In our shop, we’ve created a practice of developing from within. People start at an entry-level position and are promoted over time. At the same time, we develop a career plan that includes specific goals. If they show promise and value in their position, the faster they earn more promotions and greater responsibility.
Contrary to popular opinion, we have found some millennials that understand the concept of delayed gratification and are willing to work hard toward achieving their goals.
If young people have a passion and interest in cars and an understanding of the workings of them, a good shop will take the time and effort to invest in training and developing these people, so they become highly skilled and highly competent professionals. And in the long run, both the employee and the shop benefit.
Yet, if we look at the industry overall, there is still a difficulty in attracting and keeping good collision repair technicians. Part of the problem is that a lot of businesses are still looking at the short term rather than the long term and when you do that, it creates a downward spiral.
A common practice at the moment, because good techs are often in short supply, is for one shop to offer better wages and maybe benefits than another, enticing away good techs from one shop so they can go and work at their location.
The trouble is, in this scenario, nobody really benefits, not even the technician. If somebody is motivated purely by money, chances are, they won’t be the best fit for your shop or your team. Also, if a shop is willing to offer more money and the management knows that insurance companies X and Y will only pay a specific door rate, the extra money to entice a technician away from another shop comes straight from the bottom line, which will hurt the shop’s profitability.
You get back what you put in
I’m a big believer that you get back what you put in. If you are poaching technicians from other shops, all you’re essentially doing is hiring mercenaries which doesn’t benefit your shop, nor the industry overall.
On the other hand, finding enthusiastic young people by creating opportunities for them to engage with you—whether it’s through high schools, local colleges, even career fairs or even social media—can really pay dividends over the long term. Not only can you harness the potential of these young people by channelling their interests and developing defined goals for them, but you can also help your senior techs stay engaged and motivated by giving them an apprentice to develop.
Ultimately, the result is better productivity, better results and more profit for the shop. And once established, it’s a cycle that can be repeated over and over.