We need to put the right people in place to grow our businesses and secure our futures.
By Allan Janssen
Lieutenant-General Walter Natynczyk could have asked for tanks or humvees or flak jackets. He could have asked for updated weaponry or munitions. He could even have asked for helicopters. (We almost expected him to ask for helicopters.)
But when he was asked, at the AIA’s recent Automotive Conference for Executives, what the Canadian military needs most to do the challenging work it is asked to do in the world’s hot spots, he said people.
He didn’t hesitate and he didn’t blink.
“We need people,” he told the leaders of the aftermarket’s biggest manufacturing and distribution companies. “Isn’t that what you’re looking for too? Isn’t that what we all need?”
He’s absolutely right. Everyone’s looking for more boots on the ground.
Human resource issues have been climbing steadily on the priority lists of repair shops for years. And for good reason. It’s a seller’s market when it comes to labor. Consumers are demanding ever-better service, convenience, and competency. And with new vehicle technology constantly being introduced, we need the best and the brightest to ensure we can fix today’s fleet of cars, let alone tomorrow’s.
So the most progressive shop owners among us are shoring up their businesses with more comfortable working conditions, more flexible schedules, improved benefits packages, and more frequent training sessions. They’re doing whatever they have to do to retain their best people. And, above all, they never stop recruiting. They’re always looking for new talent. Even raw, undeveloped talent that they can adopt and nurture.
It’s tough. But some of you out there are getting creative about this new business challenge.
One shop owner I spoke to recently has started a car club that meets regularly at his shop. He put some notices up in the local high schools, inviting motor heads to learn about the latest trends in modifying cars. He came up with 12 subjects to spread out over a year, and at each meeting he sets up a car for a hands-on demonstration. It’s informal and fun. Kids eat that stuff up! And when the stars emerge from the group, he starts talking to them about a career in automotive repair and service.
I know another shop owner who devised an assembly puzzle using automotive parts that requires at least some natural ability for taking things apart and putting them back in the right order. He sets it up at community events as a fun challenge or a fundraiser of sorts. Not only is it good exposure for his shop, but once in a while he spots a young kid with a real flair for mechanics.
Lt.-Gen. Natynczyk has it right. More and better equipment is not the real challenge – not in his field, nor in ours. The real challenge is finding the right people to carry our missions (or our businesses) forward.
We need to find the most promising apprentices and journeymen to grow our businesses and secure our futures. We need people to take some of the load off our shoulders. We need the best and the brightest to help drum up new business, and solidify our reputations for quality service.
Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
Sir! Yes sir!
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