I seem to regularly meet collision repairmen who have a preference for one type of shop or another. Some techs spend a large portion of their careers in dealership body shops, while some tend to favor independently owned facilities.
Still other techs like myself will go where the best total compensation package is offered and stay there as long as they make a reasonable living and feel reasonably respected and reasonably appreciated.
If you’re a shop manager looking for qualified techs, you may be missing out on a few potential applicants simply because you run one type of shop or the other. So what is it that draws a tech to the dealership more than the independent or vice versa? I talked to several techs in my area as well as nationwide through Internet discussion boards to find out.
Facilities & Equipment
Obviously, the multi-millionaire who owns a dealership (or maybe several dealerships) can afford to build a larger facility than the average independent businessman. And he also can fill the shop with more top-of-the-line equipment than the independent can afford.
A large, well-equipped, modern facility will certainly attract a number of potential employees. Some dealership owners are investing tens of millions of dollars in state-of-the-art collision repair facilities these days.
On the other hand, a small shop with good equipment can very well attract the same techs. Most techs like to look around a shop before accepting a job offer because they like to see the equipment they’ll have to work with. If a potential hire looks around your shop and sees a repair facility that would enable him to proficiently complete repairs, you stand a better chance of luring him away from an offer from the dealership shop down the street.
Whether you run a dealership or independent shop, your equipment should be well-maintained, well-organized and easily accessible. The best techs won’t work in a shop where they spend too much time searching for or waiting for shop equipment.
Benefits & Compensation
Dealerships generally offer larger benefits packages than independents, but this doesn’t mean independents can’t offer better benefits.
While dealerships usually offer better health care packages at lower rates along with paid holidays and vacations, the independent shop owner often has fewer employees and is better able to tailor benefits packages to the needs of the individual employee. The small businessman can compete with the dealership benefits package by creating a separate benefits package to meet the interests of each employee.
Some people like baseball. Others like football. Others like movies. And tickets are often discounted when you buy them in quantities. Maybe you live near an amusement park, museum or zoo. Surprise employees from time to time with tickets for their family to visit one of these venues. Restaurant gift certificates also make nice surprises. You also may be able to shop around for group discounts on cell phone packages, computers, health club memberships, etc.
Anything you can get a deal on that people use can make a nice benefit. Years ago, I worked in a rather large dealership shop where the owner bought a truckload of Adidas shoes three times a year.
Every four months, I’d get to work and find a shoe box on my work bench containing shoes my size (which they obtained when I was hired). At first, I thought this was kind of strange, but looking back, I think that was one of the more appreciative employers I’ve seen. They knew where they could get things cheap in large quantities so they passed the savings onto us.
Some things (like the shoes) were given to us while other things (from cotton towels to toothpaste by the case) were offered to us at the same prices department stores were paying. There were no paid holidays or paid vacations, but the company saved me at least of couple of thousand dollars a year on quality products.
Car Lines: Less Is More
Another big advantage dealerships tend to have over independent shops is a steady stream of work on vehicles made by just one or two manufacturers. A lot of customers still go to the dealership where they purchased the vehicle when they need collision repairs.
Whether the dealer has its own shop or it refers collision repair customers to another shop, a loyal customer will often trust the dealer’s word over an insurer’s referral. This keeps some dealers consistently busy with little or no reliance on insurer referral programs.
In addition to the steady flow of work, dealership techs tend to focus their attention more closely on the few brands of vehicles the dealer sells. The tech who works in a Honda dealership can expect to repair more Hondas than other lines and can therefore expect familiarity to increase productivity.
On the other hand, some dealership owners own several dealerships – carrying several different makes – but only one or two of them will have body shops. In this case, the techs – like their counterparts at independent shops – must learn to build any and every vehicle that rolls in the door.
The independent shop owner looking for ways to increase production should consider making a list of which types of vehicles and repairs each tech prefers. By assigning each tech as much of his preferred make (Ford, GM, etc.) and as many of his preferred types of repairs (front/rear, side hit, etc.) as possible