News: Consolidator Report
When U.S. Army veteran Adam Aiello came out of Service King’s Mission To Hire program, he became a “rock star” in only 12 weeks, says Lakeitria Luter, director of Diversity and External Relations for Service King Collision Repair Centers.
“He did such a phenomenal job that he was promoted to general manager after only two months working at the store,” says Luter. “And he recently got promoted again at a second location, which is one of the largest shops in the Seattle market. It just goes to show that when we put people in the right place at the right time, they can excel.”
Mission to Hire
Aiello is just one success story out of many coming out of Mission To Hire, a hiring initiative that Service King launched in 2015 with the goal of hiring at least 500 U.S. Armed Forces veterans, their spouses or active-duty personnel within the next five years.
“We actually beat that target, hiring over 600 in three-and-a-half years,” Luter says. “We’re really pleased with what our team was able to accomplish, and at this point, we’re just going to keep it going.”
Asked whether Service King started the Mission To Hire initiative to fill a void of skilled employees or honor veterans or both, Luter says it was both.
“We had a lot of military folks within Service King that were already there organically from the start, but we really wanted to emphasize that we truly care about veterans and their spouses and what they can bring to the table. And then also with body technicians literally being the bread and butter of Service King, we wanted to also create an atmosphere or environment where they felt welcome, especially coming out of the service into our organization.”
Body technicians are a good portion of the roles Service King is filling with military veterans because of the huge need in that category.
“That’s where everything starts and stops is with our techs,” Luter says. “But another role that we hire a lot of veterans for is repair planner. Also, leadership positions such as general managers, regional leaders, etc. So it’s not necessarily just one particular position, which excites me because it shows that Service King is open to hiring veterans who have talent in all areas of the organization.”
One of the biggest positive traits Luter has seen in the veterans Service King has hired is loyalty, which she believes came from their time in the military and understanding rank, order and growth.
“We have a very high success rate of our veterans staying with the organization and continuing to progress and be successful,” she says.
As most longtime collision repairers know, the retention rate in the collision industry can be challenging, but Luter says Service King tends to retain their veteran hires at a much higher rate than non-veterans. Service King has many veterans with 20-plus years of service to Service King who are now in senior-level leadership roles. One example is Mike Fitzpatrick, who has been with the company since the late 80s and recently got promoted to market vice president of operations for the midwest region. Another is Danny Wilkins, director of vendor relations, who has been with Service King since the early 2000s.
“One of the reasons for this besides loyalty is that we truly focus on development within our organization,” says Luter. “Through our talent development team, we’ve built out career paths for our teammates to be able to successfully move into those particular areas of operations.”
Another characteristic Lute is particularly fond of that she has seen in veterans is being able to take initiative.
“If they see something that needs to be addressed, they take action or they’ll let the general manager know. Or, if it’s the general manager, they’re looking for ways to resolve those challenges.”
Effective communication is a skill that Service King looks for in all potential hires, and they find it frequently in the veterans they hire, whether from the U.S. Army, Marines, Air Force or Navy.
“We’re in the people business, and our goal is to be able to get folks safely back onto the roads,” says Luter. “And so having military folks – whether they’re technicians, painters, general managers or vice presidents within the organization – able to effectively communicate internally and externally to ensure that we’re maintaining our status as one of the top MSOs in the country is critical.”
One last trait Luter has observed in every veteran Service King hires is an incredible drive to be successful and do the work right the first time.
“You cannot buy that,” Luter says. “That has to be something that folks have innately in them. You can’t teach drive. And so that’s why we love to hire veterans because they have that drive to want to be successful and do well.”
Service King promotes its career opportunities to veterans in three ways: digital marketing campaigns, military installation partnerships and word of mouth.
Service King has a landing page for Mission To Hire through their careers website where veterans can apply for jobs online. But another way Service King reaches veterans is through partnerships with various military installations, educating them on the opportunities within the organization. Service King also has recruiters who are veterans who are able to tap into various markets and communicate the career potential within the multi-shop collision repair organization.
“What better way to share with a veteran that, ‘Hey, I’ve served in the military too, and this is why I’m at Service King,’” Luter says. “That’s one of the key things that makes us successful. Not only do [veterans] come in the door and we onboard them and give them the tools to be successful, but those same veterans are going back to their communities and saying, ‘Hey, this is why you should work for Service King.’ That speaks to that loyalty and tenure again because other people look at that and say, ‘Wow, you’ve been with the company this long and look at where you are now from a professional standpoint.’ That really helps to attract military folks to our organization.”
Let’s face it, the technician shortage is affecting every shop in the collision industry, so competition for skilled labor is intense. One of the things that gives Service King an advantage is having attained a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) through the Department of Defense.
“That’s basically where we can participate in the skills bridge program and specifically target veterans coming out of the military or getting ready to transition out of the military who have a background of working with vehicles, whether it be airplanes or Humvees or whatever, and move them into our apprenticeship program,” says Luter. “In that program, they will be able to fine-tune their skills the Service King way.”
According to Luter, non-military employees have reacted positively and favorably to working alongside military veterans. In fact, they have created a bond with them through Carry The Load, a non-profit organization that provides an active way to connect Americans to the sacrifices made daily by veterans, first responders and their families.
“They host national relays where you’re literally carrying backpacks and pictures of soldiers who are still alive or who have been lost in battle, and so it’s very emotional for our team,” Luter says. “Our team loves to participate, and our employees in over 300 locations in 24 states are allowed to participate in the relay whether walking or biking or whatever, and it’s a great way for our teammates to get involved and bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day.”