Drinking Water From a Poisoned Well
A few months ago I placed an ambitious young man in a lube shop to start learning "real world" automotive. He wants to be an Automotive Technician and is in the automotive program in his high school. Last week he was let go due to the business slowing. In discussion, I found that his peers at the lube shop were saying "get out while you can" and "you will never be able to pay your bills doing this".
We currently have a shortfall of top technicians. Everyone has to start somewhere. It is true that working for just over minimum wage will not get you an apartment or pay the bills. Once my friend has mastered step one, he can go to step two. Step by step he can grasp each concept until he is a master. At some point in between step 1 and master, he will make enough to provide for himself. Eventually he can buy a modest home and live the American dream.
The poison his peers fed him did not do anyone any good. I had trusted this business to give him a foundation to start building on. The shop let me down. I have now placed him with another shop. I am not sure what to expect. I truly hope that this shop does not repeat the same crap he heard from the previous one. My suggestion to all who think being a tech is a bad idea is to pursue something else and let those who want to be technicians live their dream.
Being a tech is not about the money. It is about using your brain to analyze a problem and using your hands to fix it. Back in the day we rebuilt engines at the shop level. It was one of the rewarding jobs we did. Installing rings, pistons, bearings, heads, pan, covers, timing chain. After it is all assembled and in the car you would anticipate the sound of success. Turn the key and crank the engine. Once it was running, it was like you gave birth to a child. The satisfaction is incredible. If this is not for you, get out, do something you like. Don't poison the well for those coming up.
Money is important. We need to make enough to take care of our families. We need to make enough to put some away for emergencies and for retirement. We need to have the success and lifestyle enjoyed by other skilled workers. Some techs have this now. For those who are not making this kind of income, I have shops begging for help.
The shop culture is so important. When the team works well together, it creates an energy that can not only be felt but also seen. Seen in the way the team interacts and in the way the business operates. If you have bad apples, they can spoil the whole crew. Shop managers, please work with your team to build them up. Make them feel appreciated. If you have a bad apple that just won't listen, help them find something else.
As a technician are you happy?
As a manager, what do you see happening in your shops?
As a technician I am happy. I love the challenges of auto repair. I always have. Personally I love the satisfaction of quickly finding that problem no one else could. That pushes me to be the best I can. Take part in all of the trading I can. For the top level technicians and owners auto repair is not a career it is a lifestyle.
During my career I had worked in some very poorly run shops. The last one had issues covering payroll from time to time. But out of loyalty I felt I needed to stay there to help keep them afloat. It took six years of my career before a friend set up an interview for me at my current employer.
I have worked flat rate. Did not like the lack of teamwork Also did not like not knowing how much my pay was going to be week to week
Probably the best place I worked at before my home now was a little two bay service station. That was my first real mechanic job. That job taught me not only how to fix cars but how to be a better person and how the whole shop worked. If you talked to the customer and took the appointment that job was yours. When they came in you waited on them and wrote up the work order You looked at the car. You priced out the repairs, sold the job, orderd the parts ,performed the repairs and cashed them out . That way if anything went wrong you were the one dealing with the issue. Does not take long before you do a great job so as to avoid any issues with the customer. That was a great place for an aspiring tech to see how all of the business worked.
At my current workplace it’s what every serious aspiring technician could want. Great pay. Awesome benefits actually better than big business offers. Excellent tooling. More than fair managers. Excellent service writers. All the available training one could ask for. Always busy. Hourly wage
What they expect in return. Put the customer first. We all need to be team players. No egos allowed. Work hard when you are on the clock. Take advantage of the training offered. Only good attitudes accepted.
All of this is possible due to a culture built by management. It bleeds down from the top. Everyone in the company does their best to please management because management does their best to please the employees. In return the employees take care of the customers so we can continue to grow and improve.
We also try our best to provide a great place for a young technician to grow. Management understands that we can not continue with out younger employees to grow in to experienced top level technicians.
So they do exist. It’s not a unicorn. There are great top shops out there. I have been in one for 18 plus years now. Have the young tech that is truly interested in this field keep looking. He will find his home. Work hard and keep training then the technician will be highly desirable .
I agree completely. I have seen way to many guys in this field that hate it. Even some that made a very good living. I worked in a bad environment for a long time. I worked there for 8 years and really grew to hate this profession. When I finally had enough, I moved my box 5 times in 1 year. Landed a job at a good shop, with a very good environment. I love what I do now and it doesn't hurt that I make almost twice as much as I ever have.
If you're not happy where you are, try to find a shop that you can be happy at. Orfind something else to do for a living
And we would not expect this how? Most shop management (not the ones on here probably) could care less about shop employees. Lose one? Hire another until either they leave or get fired. Rinse and repeat. Not about the money? Really.... That makes for a nice talking point UNTIL it IS about the money. When the bills become too much to be covered by your paycheck, then it becomes about the money. When the tool bill gets out of hand, and the health insurance goes up and the hours get cut, and the boss cuts your time on the last big job to "help the customer" because they under quoted the job, then it becomes about the money!
You have shops begging for help? What do they offer? Is it the same ol', same ol' as everyone else? Are they really willing to pay for a good person willing to learn and with good work ethic? Are they willing to provide good training during the day instead of at night? Are they offering a good benefits package with increases in vacation time for 2, 3, 5, 10 years of service? Do they provide paid insurance for the employee? I know of a HVAC, a electrical, and a plumbing company in this area that offer this RIGHT NOW, with paid training included!!
Is it only the money? No, but that becomes the most important when the rent and the utilities and food all need to be paid, and there is not enough! I have been fortunate to work for several very good shops in my career, but I have also worked for some very bad ones early on. There are not enough really good ones out there, so some techs never get to work for them. You will not get rich doing this. You will not have great benefits doing this. You will not get great insurance, 6 weeks vacation, sick time, weekends and holidays off, etc. from most shops. But there are many jobs you CAN get these benefits with the same skill set, without buying tools, and with much better working conditions and pay. This industry need to get it together, before there are no good techs left to hire (almost there now).
Yes it's not about the money...… Until it is.
“When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”
So when I said it was not about the money, what I meant was that there are some jobs you could not pay me enough to do. I am just not interested. I have a passion for automotive. So with that passion I am willing to take a lower wage than I would doing something less desirable. I want to make a great wage and live the American Dream. I just don't want to hate life just for a fat paycheck.
I agree with everything you are saying. Just to offer a view from the flip side I am offering good pay(including performance bonuses), medical benefits, 401K, continued education and training, I am admittedly light on the vacation part, we almost never work a weekend, all major holidays off. In fact this is our last day of work until Jan. 2nd as we are closing the shop to give everyone some time off for the holidays. Despite all of this I am having one hell of a time finding a technician to fill a needed spot. Quality techs just aren't available, probably due to all of the points you've just made.
I work with some shops with a good culture. The benefits vary but one shop in particular told me he was offering a multi thousand dollar sign on bonus. When I asked him if he would pay for relocation he said "Mike, I am losing $15K a month not having another Master Technician. I will do what it takes to get one". So within reason the opportunity is there. I can say his top technician makes well over six figures.
To this very purpose, I just started guest speaking at our local vocational high school. I am trying to give the students there a very realistic idea of the incredible potential that they have as well as the security that their talents will provide them. We have covered potential pay scales, tooling up and trends in our profession as well as learning that mistakes are learning opportunities and are vital in bettering yourself. The very point of, as my friend Woody says, someone poisoning the waterhole, was one of the first things that I addressed with the students. I think the better prepared that they are to face the real world and it's challenges, the better they will survive and then thrive. Like a garden, they need to be prepared, cultured, nurtured and will, especially with the right environment, thrive !
What are you doing to ensure that the future techs thrive instead of being choked out by the weeds ?
Michael, as a technician I am blessed for the journey that has been given to me however I am not so happy of where i am. I started out my career in 2013 at a euro shop, feel in love with BMW and i was challenged with diagnostic issues on a daily bases and really felt that I was really getting the wheels moving as far as being very successful in this field. The down side was I was working 6 days a week every week, no benefits to look forward to, had a owner that demanded training and ASE certs however never sent us to training and if when it came time to take ase tests he told us it had to be on our time! I got fed up and decided to take a gov job in 2017, didnt know what it was like. I didnt know anyone that had been a tech for gov. a year in and I am really not happy bout the wall i have ran into. Sure I have benefits and time off now however there is no growth here as a diagnostician if you like doing PMs and tires and suspension and steering then its perfect fit. guys here have no interest in training, make fun for me going to training classes, they dont see the use in advanced diagnostic equipment nor do they care about it being more efficient.
I'm stuck in a hard spot because my ultimate goal is to be a diagnostic tech either at a shop or mobile guy, I wanna be like the Keith defozio, or the guys from trained by techs or the guys on here but where i am at right now that will not happen for me. So i have to decided to take the benefits and time off with knowing I will fall behind or never fulfill my goals or take the jump and hope i find a shop with good benefits, the help/ ability to grow into that ultimate goal I want to conquer. Im still young gun and have learned that no matter where you go the grass will always be patchy brown.
We need young guys like you in this industry. If you have Euro experience and want to learn I'm sure you could find a spot at a place that would be open 5 days a week and have benefits. When I go to a training event especially for BMW there are other shop owners looking for someone just like you!!!
I have 5 shops (including our own) that I could throw a rock at and hit that would take on a young ambitious tech like you. If you have any interest email me your info and resume, FYI, we are one of the good ones.
Hey Jeff I really appreciate your response. I will have to think About it as I have a lot right now I need to get through these next couple months like Training classes and ASEs. id also have to talk to you more, I see you are in MO.
It is a real shame that you are not able to use your talents to their full extent. Understanding electrical, diagnostics, programming, networks is a valuable skill to have. Keep looking and you will find a great opportunity. Feel free to reach out to any who have responded on here. We are all happy to do what we can to place you in a better environment.
Michael you could say it’s my own fault however when I decided to take this current job I thought I’d be helping with the great good Of America by providing my skills. Not that I’m not proud of that however I wanna be the best I can. If I ever need to help or advice I wouldnot mind reaching out, one of my goals this year is to network with more techs. Keep doing what your doing to help all of us!
As a tech, I am happy. Its a shame they gave him that advice. It's also a shame that there are other forums that basically say the same thing. That lube center is definitely not the only place saying those things. I started out in a lube center when I was 17. Worked there for about a year. Then I went to a major tire store and worked there for several years. Left that place and decided I wanted to really get into fixing cars so I went to tech school, while I was there I got a job at another lube center and was the "mechanic" there for about 8 years. Was I making great money at first? Heck no! But I learned so much along the way. Went to every autoparts store class I could. Tried to learn how cars worked. There really was no one to teach me anything there so I had to figure it out myself. I was paid hourly so that helped. Did I screw stuff up? You betcha! About 5 years in, I was making enough to buy a house and was able to afford my wife to quit working to raise our daughter. Barely, but we made it work. 5 years ago, I made the switch to my current company. That's when my career really took off. The tooling, resources, other real techs to discuss problems with. The next level of training that this place is willing to pay for is awesome. I attend as much as I can. When I was at the lube center the classes were mostly free. Not that that's a bad thing, I learned tons from them. But we all know good training costs money. The guys at the lube center that were telling him to get out of the business have probably worked there forever and don't have the drive to grow. They've been stuck in their 10 dollar/hr job for 15 years and have bad attitudes about it. A lube center can be a great stepping stone in this career. At least, it worked for me. Now, I am making what I believe to be great pay(if you research average tech pay). I do work flat rate, but we're busy enough that money is not usually an issue. We have a great group of techs. We have actually started our own "tech talk" once a week to help the guys that need it learn more. I have brand new vehicles, modest house, travel trailer, living quite comfortably, enjoy the challenges of the tech life. Every day can be exciting. Its always something different. I can say I'm happy...
As a shop leader I believe what's missing for the new tech in this story is a clear career path description of what is possible in our Auto Profession. We cannot prevent the naysayers from trying to dissuade the newbie but In a perfect world, you would replace the dream killers with people who want a great career.
Our industry lacks documented career paths that are complete with what the earning potentials, training requirements and the time line.
At our shop we've started a grass roots project about this subject which can be seen at autotalentco-op.org . When successful, there will be auto industry careers documented to use for all roles in our profession. These career paths can then be used for recruiting and training.
I look forward to the thoughts on this thread.
I like what you are doing. A clear path to success is lacking in our business. A lube technician needs to know that there is far more out there for them if they just apply themselves. It may not be as a technician. It could be a service advisor, store manager, parts store manager, insurance adjuster and the list goes on. I took a look at your website. I can tell your team has put a great deal of thought and effort into the concept. It will be exiting to see your success as the program rolls out.
BTW, we met a few years ago when I was working for a parts manufacturer and working in So Cal. Small world....
I love being a Diagnostician but as the TBT stream came to the consensus, most of us that do it for ourselves are virtually unemployable. We are a unique breed.
Regarding young techs and poisoned wells, the techs that hate the job should get gone, we'd all be better off without them, leaving the floor clear for passionate professionals and mentors that want to pass on their enthusiasm and skill.
This is exactly why I have my channel and community, to build positivity, encourage learning (whatever the level) and to drive up the poor perception of our profession.
I like your unemployable comment. It seems once we taste of the freedom of being mobile and our own boss, it is difficult if not impossible to go back. Some are happy to punch the clock and work in the same location all day. For me, I like a new challenge every day. Moving from shop to shop keeps me interested. When I working in shops before, I tended to get frustrated with the "dead time" while waiting for parts or more work to come in. Now I can solicit more work, study a subject online or work on a pet project.
Yea I'm a lead tech at Firestone 10 years, my manager does pay for me to go to classes I want to go to. Yea I've seen tons of guys come through our doors and the neighboring shops say the same thing "no money in this business". Thing is, there is. The ones I see say that are the ones that want to do either only brake jobs and suspension, or lazy guys thinking there is money in a job they think doesn't require a skill or the drive to keep up to date on training. Then they see you actually gotta use brain power. Then they become that lazy crew. Feeding young guys that might actually have the strive that there is no money. Personally I'm at a wall in this job, I want to do more. It's just not possible, I'm waiting till May to see how the new baby is to make sure I can be ok to get out and try my own business I figure 5 years until I'm out on my own, daycare is expensive. But once I know my family is good to take the dip in pay until the job takes off I'm gone.
Just a thought. I believe that there are other opportunities within Firestone that may be a good fit for you. There is much to be said about working for a company that gives you insurance and other benefits. Maybe you would like training other technicians or being a troubleshooter for your region. If you want to run your own shop or mobile business that is fantastic. Study business models that work in your area and create a plan. Consult successful business owners and make sure it is what you want to do. For me, I have had to have other sources of income while building the business. The mortgage, utilities, taxes, food, vehicles and insurances do not go away. If you properly prepare it can be done.
Yea, there used to be a area trainer, not sure what changed. But Firestone still has a regional training program. That was a consideration of mine. If the plan to get out goes awry.
"Eventually he can buy a modest home and live the American dream." Maybe where YOU live brother. Certainly not here, or Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or ....
Well Geoff, You got me there. I had a Blue Chip job with a parts manufacturer a few years ago. Part of the deal was to move to Southern California. Even right after the recession I was unable to find a home that was affordable. A modest home with small lot outside of LA was $300K back then. Due to this and other circumstances I had to resign. In interviewing technicians at most shops I found that the pay average in California was no higher than in my home state. So the taxes, fuel, electricity and housing were substantially more and the pay was the same. The weather is fantastic. The beaches are great. The national parks are breathtaking. I choose now to visit Cali for vacation vs. living there. I have never been to Hawaii. I hear that buying a home there is impossible for someone making an average wage. It is a real shame.
Maybe the answer is to pull stakes and move on. There are many places in the West and Midwest where the taxes and cost of living are far lower. Due to lack of talent, the wages are going up. The question is, if technicians can't afford a place to live and move away, who is going to fix the cars?
You have gone full-circle there, "who is going to fix the cars?" and therein lies the TRUE problem. If the car owners don't make enough money, and don't have the background education to understand concepts like "cost of ownership", then you have NO GOOD CUSTOMERS.
You can't have a successful business with no good customers.
This means a good auto career at a good auto shop (or mobile programming) can only exist in the right area.
Larger business like McDonalds have always understood things like this, but it's only in the last few years, with all the small techs talking online (and the super successful guys bragging) that this becomes more obvious.
The example of the shop here, is an extreme example, since unlike back-woods Kentucky (or whatever), we can't even get a once a month "big score" from the tourist that breaks down. (All the tourist here drive rentals.) Another specific issue here is most people drive 3000 miles a year around here.
But like most poor areas, people are the fourth owner of a used car that they "just bought" with a list of ten things broken. We lift it up, we see one tire about to burst, and their wallet is now empty and non of the other problems are ever addressed.
So "we" can pretend that we can lift up the industry but "we" can't because bad/poor/broke customers are the true problem. It's a social issue.
Really? We're in the LA area (Huntington Beach) and our A level techs own homes and live good lives. The B level guys do well too and can afford local rents. Our goal is to always lead the team up the career path and make it good for them, the guests and the shop at the same time.
We can all pull together and make the auto service profession a very desirable career opportunity.
Happy New Year. Let's make 2019 a remarkable year for all of those who we touch.
You are one of the good ones. It is fantastic that you care enough to pay the guys well. Many techs are not so fortunate. I met guys in the Bay Area making $10 to $15 an hour. For me, I did not want to take out another mortgage and live leaner than I was used to.
A quick Google search tells me: " The median home price in Huntington Beach is $812,500."
A standard 20 % down payment, is a "mere" $162,000.
How would anybody who has been spending $500 a month on tools since he was 19 years old have $162,000 laying around?
None of my business, in his personal case (of course) but the barrier to home ownership in our field is tool payments.
You will never save up any down payment money, if you are making tool payments.
There are several schools of thought on the tool purchases. There is one theme where the shop owns a standard tool set used by the technician. I'm out for a few days but would enjoy re-engaging in this thread. On the housing affordability, there are houses below the 'median' price in HB and the prices are even less in the local surrounding communities.
Our profession can charge a fair price and pay the technicians a fair price for the win win result we need.
I'll check back after the 1st. Happy New Year.