Shop Culture Matters

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Peter Sziklai has been a collision shop owner in British Columbia since 1983 and has owned Tsawwassen Collision Ltd. since 1995. He has been active in the BC ARA, serving on the board of the Collision Repair Division including a term as Chair. Sziklai currently serves on the CCIF Steering Committee. You can reach him at [email protected]. Photo Peter Sziklai

The time to start is now.  

Just because our industry is lacking in culture shouldn’t stop you from building a healthy shop culture.

It’s one of the ways you can keep your shop ahead of the game. Shop culture goes alongside training and rewarding techs for a job well done. An important part of the equation is trust. That’s something that is earned and developed over a long period of time.

And it works both ways. There has to be trust in the employer and trust in the employees, that they’re getting their job done. Cars are so complicated now, a tech may need to take some extra time to get it right. They’ll take that time if they know they’re getting paid regardless. 

If you’re assembling the front end of a car, you don’t start bolting things up tight and wonder why they don’t fit when you get to the end. You have to know how to initially set it up. Like in a Kia or Hyundai bumper, there’s practically a whole wiring harness in there. You can’t do that if you’re in a hurry. 

Tricky job

The tech needs to quiet down. They may not think they have the time to quiet down because he’s not sure he’s making money doing that. But I pay my techs to be here and work steadily. They don’t have to worry about a tricky job, if something’s unusual or they haven’t come across it before, they can read and consult however they need to. 

That’s one of the biggest drawbacks to paying a flat rate. The trust isn’t there. It’s all just churning out as many jobs as you can to make as much money as you can. The flat rate approach has been working for a long time, but changes are coming in fast in the industry that doesn’t support this system.

How is the employee going to trust that they’re going to get paid when their productivity is down? And how is the employer going to trust that the employee is honestly working? It doesn’t add up to the type of culture that will last into the future when techs need to take extra time and care to ensure repairs are being done correctly and safely. 

Higher-end vehicles

In shops that deal with higher-end vehicles, this is more the practice. Since they’re dealing with pricey products, techs are given the time to do it right. But why should that be the case? If a consumer paid $32,000 for a Honda, they still need to have a car that’s roadworthy and safe. He would like that car to be treated properly, fixed properly and given back to him correctly. You can’t be thinking those don’t matter. Those matter a lot to the people who own them.

And this is the part of our industry where change needs to occur. It’s not going to happen overnight or over the weekend. But it’s something to start thinking about seriously and taking steps to develop in your shop. 

The right shop culture can take you and your business into the next era of vehicle repair, which is already here. You have the power to make it happen. If you want your shop to be profitable, your employees and your customers to stay with you, it might be time to stop merely hustling jobs out the door, and instead, think about where you want to make meaningful changes.



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