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Recruiting Game: Pass or Pursue?

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Should We Replace Our Outgoing Lead Tech with Two or More People?

By Debbie Jennerjohn, owner of Ultimate Truck Service in Ridgefield, Washington

This series focuses on whether heavy duty shop owners should pass or pursue on the risks they commonly confront.

My husband, Dave, and I have been in business since 1999. Our seasoned lead technician recently left the company for another position. So, we asked ourselves a tough question: Should we replace our veteran lead tech with two or more trainable mechanics to build a stronger team?

We had many reservations about moving forward with a new team dynamic at our shop. It would definitely be an operational shift for us. What if we couldn’t pull it off? What if our existing techs aren’t that trainable? What if they don’t jell into a team? What if the service advisors don’t have faith in the technicians’ diagnostics? What if customers find out that we don’t have one strong person in the shop whom they can depend on to make sure the work is properly performed?

We ran through many scenarios in our minds—all of the pros and cons. This decision would not only affect our lives but our team and customers as well.

We went about rethinking our production strategy and took a hard look at the workflow.

Risks

  • Not being able to rely on a lead technician to diagnose difficult issues. As owners, we felt we needed to have one person in charge to be able to leave the shop and know it would be run as if we were still there.
  • Not having a central point of command for dispatching jobs to techs and ensuring that the workflow stayed in place.
  • Living without one person in charge. After all, that’s what Dave did when he worked in the shop, and that’s the best way to run things, correct?

Rewards

  • Not held captive by one employee.
  • If two new team members can be developed into well-trained technicians, there’s no need to have one strong shop manager in charge.
  • Higher percentage of efficiency on a more regular basis, which means production will be up, and vehicles will get in and out faster.
  • We will be known as a shop that’s thorough, competent and fairly fast at getting vehicles back on the road.
Co-owners of Ultimate Truck Service with their two new diesel repair technicians.
Photo courtesy Ultimate Truck Service

Dave and Debbie Jennerjohn (center) built a stronger team with their two new techs Chad Benedict and Gage Bellman (left and right).

Resolution: Pursue

After much back-and-forth discussion and studying our production stats for several months, we came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to depend on one employee in the lead technician position anymore. If we wanted to grow our business, we needed to develop a team environment with two or more new technicians.

We went about rethinking our production strategy and took a hard look at the workflow. As a management team, the three of us (our general manager, Dave and I) came up with a new game plan. We switched the dispatching of work to the general manager, which freed up the service advisors to sell more since they didn’t have to keep their hands in the production area. We then set about making sure our techs were trained on how to use the diagnostic software we have.

Dave stepped back into the mix to give the guidance that was needed to make this feat successful. He spent about one month in the shop training two new technicians, making sure they understood the diagnosing. He collaborated with the general manager to get a new workflow developed, which didn’t involve someone in the shop directing operations.

Dave and the general manager worked with the techs to get the workflow in place and educated them on their new job expectations. So, with a good deal of intense work, we were successful in taking the first steps toward building a strong team environment.

I now overhear the guys urging the service advisors to get the parts ordered, the jobs closed out and more work in the door.

So far, we hired two new techs—one replaced the lead technician’s billing time and another set us up for a new onsite preventive maintenance service that we’re in the process of starting. Not only do they have a great deal of enthusiasm, but they also possess a willingness to learn. In fact, we’re having more weeks where all of the techs receive bonuses rather than just one or two. We also implemented an end-of-the-year team incentive where everyone in the shop receives a $3,000 bonus if they reach our goals. We just need a little more hours billed each week by everyone to accomplish it. I now overhear the guys urging the service advisors to get the parts ordered, the jobs closed out and more work in the door.

We recently held our first team-building event where we catered a dinner, played games, and invited spouses and significant others to attend. It served as a morale booster for those who participated, and we plan to have another event soon. It’s very uplifting to focus on building a team, because I’m able to continually work on new ideas to improve our workflow.

Are we done yet? Absolutely not. There will always be tweaking of the workflow, but the techs have stepped up and are willing to meet the new expectations. Making the expectations clear and ensuring the two new techs understand them is key for this transition.

So far, we are happy with the new team environment.

Photo courtesy Ultimate Truck Service
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