People and Profits Equal Success

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Rob Ingram. Photo Jack Kazmierski

In my previous column, I talked about the importance of increasing awareness of the skilled trades (including automotive service) among young people in school, especially those in grades 8 and 9.

I believe this is one area where we, as an industry can help alleviate the ongoing problem of a shortage of technicians.

Another, however, lies with the industry itself and shop owners and managers. And while I hate to beat a dead horse, it boils down to shop systems and procedures. For example, if you don’t monitor your average number of sold hours and your average work order size, plus you don’t charge properly for the services you offer, then you’ll never be able to attract any skilled technicians to your business because you can’t afford to pay them what’s required. 

Other options

As a result, you’re not going to be competitive in this industry. Why would somebody join your organization and then have to spend more than half their wages on tools, when for double the amount they’d be earning, they can go off and become an electrician or a plumber or work at a powerplant.  

If we are going to attract these people into our industry and into our shops, we need to be charging properly for the work we perform and not be trying to discount our services in order to gain market share. 

If we do take this latter approach, what will end up happening is that we will reach a point where we can’t pay our staff what they are worth because we can no longer afford to. And when that happens, they will leave and look for employment elsewhere.

While in many cases it might be the general manager or the service advisors who are essentially running the shop on a day-to-basis, ultimately the responsibility falls on the owner. If the owner hasn’t taken the time to invest sufficiently into their business and have the right systems and procedures in place to manage sold hours and charge appropriately for the work the shop performs, then they won’t be able to attract the people they need and the business will flounder. 

Today, with the government offering lots of incentives to complete trade qualifications and in some cases even providing funding for tools, there is no excuse not to invest in your business to ensure it is profitable. And in a wider context, the more service providers out there we have that are profitable, the more beneficial it is for the industry. 

Better position

If you’re charging appropriately for the services you provide and you are able to accurately track your labour hours sold and work orders, you can easily determine how profitable you are and make adjustments accordingly. If, as a business you are profitable, then you know that you’re in a much better position to attract and retain top talent in your shop.

It’s often said that it is the people that make the business and when it comes to our staff and technicians this is absolutely true. The best people will want to work for the best employers, who in turn are able to provide the best service to their customers. This in turn is able to boost the shop’s reputation allowing it to not only become more profitable but also be in a much better position to weather any economic downturns.

Today we find ourselves in a very unique situation in the automotive aftermarket. Ongoing parts shortages, rising inflation, geopolitical tensions and a severe shortage of skilled workers are creating challenges for everybody. 

That’s why we need to be on our game and have effective systems and procedures in place to ensure that we can firstly, meet any challenge that faces us and secondly, continue to attract and develop good people in our industry.

Rob Ingram owns and operates Eldon Ingram NAPA Auto Pro in Stratford, Ont. You can reach him at [email protected].



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