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Joe Henry

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Industry pulls trigger, hits foot PART-2

Joe, that’s hogwash, Techs make BIG bucks!

Have YOU ever turned wrenches for a living? I have. I put myself through college working on everything from race cars to diesel trucks and heavy equipment. And I am still a weekend warrior tech at age 66 working on cars and trucks for a friend’s hot rod shop. I can attest with scars on my arms and hands, it is HARD WORK. (By the way, as much experience as I have, at age 40 I could no longer even come close to flat-rate, never mind today.)

On top of my tech background, I have a history of being one of highest producing dealership Service Advisors. That earned (or cursed) me with all sorts of Fixed Ops Manager dealership positions through the years.

In my many years of dealership experience, I have had to: break up technician fist fights, was nearly run over in the service drive on purpose by a tech’s girlfriend who was mad at me because I back flagged her boyfriend tech, had a tech lure me out to the parking lot, pulled his 44 magnum out his vehicle and warned me not to screw with his pay, jumped into cars and finished fixing them after hours because a tech screwed up the repair.

You get the idea …..

So when I read articles by self-proclaimed stable genius “experts” who say most good techs make a great living and have the potential to make $100k+  like it is common, I want to puke.

Can they make that much? YES, but indulge me. You must understand the perfect storm that has to happen in order for this vision to become reality.  

The tech MUST:

  • -Flag at least 50+ hours every single week NO MATTER the repair difficulty, rechecks,  warranty rate reductions, low paying recalls, weather, sick days or holidays
  • -That includes in the middle of summer and it’s blasting hot in the shop (my techs’ production fell 15% the 1st day it hit 90 outside), to an ice cold floor and snow dripping on techs’ faces from melting
  • -Tech needs to work on at least 2 to 3 cars at a time and plenty of carry-overs
  • -Tech must have the lifts and flat stall space to support cars that are apart, or are waiting for approval, or waiting for parts
  • -Techs’ Service Advisor MUST have a strong following of customers and not afraid to present in a very professional way, all recommendations the tech lists on the inspection sheet
  • -Did I mention there must be plenty of car count each day? Just a couple of slow days in the beginning of a tech’s pay week and it deflates the tech’s attitude for the rest of the week
  • -Parts fulfillment or parts delays kills production too
  • -And how many times have you said “do me a favor” (translation: do this for me or a customer for free)

So if techs are paid this amount hourly (flat-rate) / this is how much they make at 50 hours annually. And remember, it MUST be done each week:

$24/$62,400

$27/$70,200

$30/$78,000

$35/$91,000

$40/$104,000

What is the average flat-rate dealer pay? About $24 an hour. Despite the recent N.A.D,.A. study, most other studies on the internet show the average dealership Tech makes $49k a year. When you average that figure out, that is way below our 50 hour week average.

Now you may say “Joe, I have Techs who turn 60 and 70 hours a week, most weeks”. I did too. However, their warranty was always bumping the rev limiter. Also we did not have “fluids for life” back then so does your menu ignore this dilemma?  PLUS I had a customer following from years of customer relationships that bought most anything I presented.

The lowest hanging fruit is now spoiled

Where are my techs today? Almost all of my seasoned techs are: disabled, retired early, in management, or in another field. And over the years, I managed 50+ techs.

When those Techs came into the industry, high schools were still providing options of trades vs. college. How about now? You know the answer. ….

There is no more deadly trap than the trap we set ourselves. Let’s stop doing that!

I know I sounded louche so far. But here is my two pronged approach to try to correct the Titanic’s course:

1 – MOST IMPORTANT, RAISE YOUR DOOR RATE and submit a warranty rate hike so you can have the gross to save the techs we have from leaving the industry. Let’s start visualizing paying and treating techs like the professionals they are. Granted, we can’t slay all of their dragons, however we HAVE to get their job satisfaction up in order to promote this trade to others.

2- Start thinking about establishing a weekly 40 hour guarantee. Yes, A and B level techs probably want to stay on flat-rate or production bonus. But study after study of techs’ job dissatisfaction shows the NUMBER 0NE BUZZ KILLER is flat-rate! You see that in the tech forum above. Also, I just read where the state of New Jersey is sponsoring a tech apprentice program and the director has already found that pushing these entry-level candidates off of a guarantee in 6 months, washed most of them out like a rinse cycle. D techs, C techs, and even some B level techs can’t keep up on flat-rate these days. But why lose a tech by shoving 25 to 35 hour paychecks in their hands when they have been in your shop for 40+ hours a week?    

We have to have more door rate for more gross so we can think about weekly hour guarantees. But until we participate in conflict resolution with our current techs in the hostile environment, we will continue to drive down a cul-de-sac, in a speeding car, with bad brakes …….

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