Is it me or has the last year been super busy? I remember a time when we would have lulls in the cycle and shops would slow up. However, in the last 12 months, I’ve yet to meet a shop that wasn’t bursting at the seams.
Why Are We So Busy?
Why are we so busy? I think the supply chain and lack of technicians are creating a constant state of “ludicrous speed” (see the movie “Spaceballs”). Parts and material shortages and supply chain issues are affecting all channels that I can see, from paint lines to plastic trim pieces — no company is immune to this issue. Shops are constantly reworking their processes to accommodate the ever-changing parts landscape. To pre-order parts or not? That is the question.
As if supply chain and process demands weren’t enough of a bottleneck, the shortage of quality technicians is a reality most shops are facing. The technician shortage is nothing new. Frankly, finding great employees for our collision centers has been an issue since before the advent of fuel injection — which, in my role as a financial advisor to the collision industry, has me thinking: “How can we change this? What would appeal to people who are in their 20s?”
I started thinking about my own eight-year-old son Landon. Please know that I will encourage him to pursue vocational school and the blue-collar trades, but it got me pondering his future first job and how I would feel as a parent about his future employers. I began to think about how most shops don’t have benefits and haven’t begun to think about some of the newer concepts of flex time, remote work and unlimited vacation. It makes me think as a parent to someone in their 20s: “What would make us endorse a career in collision?” Frankly, the more I began to think about it, the more I could see clearly why the shortage is continually getting worse. I don’t mean to say this to berate people who are still working through their profits and losses (P&Ls) and trying to find a profit, but more to encourage us all as leaders to create a path that would encourage a young person to join.
It’s a generational badge of honor to complain about the younger generation. It was not too long ago that I was the young buck and heard all the people now in their 50s complain about the decade before them — me. They complained about our laziness and inabilities, but the reality is that the younger generation will always be different. The younger generation has yet to walk the path that we have and has not been exposed to the learning lessons of, say, wasting money on a 10-millimeter socket — because, let’s face it, you know you lost that sucker in the first vent you worked on and became an advocate for cheaper options ever since. But it’s a right of passage, and we all learn the hard way.
But it makes me think even deeper. Our younger technicians have lifted trucks, sometimes two or three vehicles, premium tools, credit card debt and tech school debt, and they often live paycheck to paycheck. Who can blame them when they look to leave their job to find another one elsewhere that pays more? My parents’ generation believed in staying with one company and working there until retirement, but that isn’t a virtue of Gen Xers or millennials. The newer generation is looking for the elusive work-life balance — and if anyone finds it, please send me the details.
Work-life balance is hardly found when you’re on your last $5 and payday isn’t for five more days. One could imagine a spouse encouraging his or her significant other to pursue a career change if that was the domestic financial landscape. No one could blame them for changing gears and finding a career that pays more. However, without basic budgeting concepts, this problem usually rears its ugly head again. The new, larger paycheck is met with gleaming eyes and a new Harley-Davidson Road Glide in the driveway, once again strapping the budget. And the cycle continues.
What I’ve found in my journey working in the industry is that common sense is not very common. Most technicians don’t realize that they should have an emergency fund of three to six months of essential expenses saved in cash. Many technicians don’t fund retirements because they don’t understand it or sometimes just because the financial advisor showed up in a gold chain and a tweed suit (don’t worry, I don’t own either of those). Hopefully you’re laughing at that lame joke!
The 20/60/20 Rule
Many collision peeps have never heard of the 20/60/20 rule. And this simple concept could be shared with our team members, peers and colleagues.
The 20/60/20 rule is a common financial planning concept of saving 20% of income toward retirement (when I say this, I usually see stomachs turn), 60% toward living expenses (rent, food, etc.) and the remaining 20% toward the fun stuff — the four-wheeler, the Bud Light and the SEMA ticket.
What if we as leaders started to educate our technicians on these concepts and helped them live more comfortably and understand the concept of budgeting? Some leaders in collision have learned the hard way how to manage, grow and save money. What if we share the simple stuff with our peers to help them get more comfortable with their personal expenses? The challenges our young and emerging technicians face are the demand for self-certification, learning the constant technology changes and keeping up with tool costs. It doesn’t help that current gas prices are sky high and, for those techs with long commutes, the extra dollar or so a gallon could be crippling. Many of our young, emerging technicians and collision professionals have never had a conversation around money. They learn from Instagram, TikTok and social observation. We can change that.
The call to action to all of us is to start supporting one another and sharing the simple things that we take for granted around our own personal financial success. What if we can get the 20-year-olds to directionally change their lives and their financial futures by learning to save and budget? It all starts with a conversation, and hopefully you have the time today to be the change.