The importance of continued training

Andy looks at why ongoing training is so vital for professionals in the garage sector, as well as the businesses that employ them

Published:  26 February, 2019

By Andy Savva

One of the greatest challenges facing garage employers today is discovering and retaining good technicians, reception employees, as well as support staff such as administrators, valeters and drivers. As a previous serial garage owner, myself I know how difficult this can be in an ever-demanding sector which requires far more technical expertise and knowledge.  
    
I realised early on in my business career, focusing on recruitment, selection and retention was one of the most important steps towards building a successful business. The importance of continued training and development as a way of motivating, retaining and of course the recruitment of people cannot not be overlooked.
    
The implications of poor recruitment selection decisions for the business as a whole can be catastrophic. So, often when I am visiting garages up and down the country, I find staff members who are placed in positions without the necessary skillset for the job they are doing. I ask myself “why this is?” Well, the answer is garage proprietors are reluctant to pay a salary for the right person. Instead, they end up recruiting people without the right skills and then ask them to fulfil roles that they are just not capable of doing.

Correct person
You may ask me “What’s the right salary?” My answer to that is clear: If you have identified the correct person with the right skill level and pedigree, why not ask them what they would like to be paid to work in your business? That’s exactly what I did, and guess what – it always caught people by surprise because they were never asked that before. They never knew what to reply back to me, so I used to ask them what their current salary was, and when they replied back £32,000, I’d say well we are in luck then because I’m prepared to offer you £36,000, is that ok with you? If only I could take a picture of the reactions; SHOCK! But a happy shock.
    
If you are going to worry about £2,000 or £3,000 per year per employee or have a salary cap for specific positions or any roles for that matter you will never attract the right person in an already underskilled sector. My attitude was find the right person and offer them a package they could never say no to.
 
Attract and retain
Now it’s not  all about salary when recruiting and retaining staff,  although it is very important. It is also about being able to demonstrate to potential candidates that you have created a workplace that nourishes good people.
    
Provide an adequate staff room, and lockers for their belongings. Acknowledge good work, create an environment for thinking. Make sure there are logical and consistent operating policies and procedures crucial for success.  Along with this, provide  the correct tooling and equipment to carry out their duties. You also need to make sure they feel they are  a respected team member who will be involved in discussions and asked their opinions before business decisions are made that could affect them. Lastly, ask yourself, do they understand your vision, mission and values?
    
If it’s a yes to all the above before you know it you will have created a retention environment. Why would they want to leave you? Where would they go? Are there many other garages offering the package they currently have?
    
Above all, I insisted on a culture of openness and shared information. I wanted my team to know where the company they were working for was going and what it will look like in the future. I also made sure they knew where it stood in the marketplace. I wanted my employees knowing how their specific jobs fitted into the grand scheme of things and what they can do to help my business get to where I wanted it to go. My experience taught me if you operate in an open environment where information is shared you will certainly benefit from higher retention rates. I would have failed if I knew my employees had thoughts like:

  •  It doesn't feel good around here
  •  I don't get the support I need to get my job done
  •  They wouldn't miss me if I were gone
  •  I am not paid enough


The lack of opportunity with regards to  staff promotions in most independent garages can create problems as some employees who are ambitious to progress their career positions are very much restricted. This was always on the back of my mind, and to be honest there was not much I could do in this area if a particular employee decided to leave for a senior role which I could not offer, however hard that was for me seeing them move on to new pastures.
    
Luckily for me it only happened twice in my business career. In reflection looking back now, in that I am still stay in touch with both where it was am issue, I am proud that the grounding and professional growth that all my team members had, including these two individuals of course. The culture created allowed them to experience reception life, and taking over control of the workshop. Their continued external training and development meant both these individuals gained the knowledge and experience to continue their careers in senior positions within our sector.  
    
My overall goal as an employer was to make my business a place where people wanted to come to work. A place of discipline that is also  a fun place to be. A place of knowledge and harmony. A place where everyone respected each other, to cultivate a feeling of family. These are the fundamentals that are needed to succeed in recruiting and maintaining a stable group of team members. Yes, I may have been the owner of Brunswick Garage and the driving force behind so many ideas however none would have been implemented without the wonderful team that I assembled.


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  • The importance of continued training  

    By Andy Savva

  • Get to the essentials 

    Marketing can be hard to grasp, even for the most experienced business operator. This made it an ideal topic for Andy Savva to cover as part of his 2019 training course schedule. Andy's one-day Marketing Essentials course provides an overview of what marketing actually is, looks at key approaches and how to apply them to a garage business.
        
    Aftermarket sat in on a sold-out session held in Crawley in February. In front of a packed room, filled with garages owners and staff, Andy dispelled some myths and misconceptions surrounding the discipline: "Marketing is one of the most misunderstood functions found in business. Whatever the reasons for any negative image that marketing may have, it is essential to realise that marketing is vital to ensure the survival and growth of any business. Marketing cannot be ignored and needs to be a part of the culture of any successful organisation.
        
    "Marketing affects everyone. We are all consumers. Most businesses depend on marketing to provide an understanding of the marketplace, to ensure their products and services satisfy the needs of customers, and that they are competing effectively."
        
    Despite running great businesses, Andy has found that garage owners often struggle when it comes to marketing: "Understanding customers and anticipating their requirements is a core theme of effective marketing, yet this is somewhat difficult for garages to fully get to grips with. So too is understanding general market trends and developments that may affect both customers views and the activities of businesses in the aftermarket repair sector. You must also be aware that a business does not have the marketplace to itself. There are always direct competitors, new entrants and indirect challengers.”
        
    Andy added: "Marketing should concern everybody in a business as it sets the context in which sales can take place. Whatever your role, you play a part in setting that context."

    Interaction
    As Andy got into the meat of the marketing matter, he led the delegates through what marketing is, and how they need to approach it and enact effective marketing within their businesses. Even the most experienced business owners and managers can get a little confused when asked to distinguish between marketing, advertising and sales. After asking attendees to pick where they would plant the marketing flag, with a few near misses along the way, Andy went through the specifics:
        
    "Marketing is a systematic approach aimed at bringing buyers and sellers together for the benefit of both. Many people confuse selling and advertising with marketing but they are not the same. Marketing is about promoting goods and services that both satisfy customers and also bring profits to the business.
         
    "Selling is the interaction that takes place on a personal level with potential customers. Marketing on the other hand is aimed at generating those potential customers in the first place. Many people confuse selling and advertising with marketing but they are not the same. Advertising is part of the marketing function, but never the other way around."
        
    For marketing to succeed, there needs to  be a goal and a way of achieving it, which Andy went on to cover: "Any marketing campaign needs to have a clear focus and this is why it is so important to make the right choices. Will the business compete across the entire market, or only certain parts? It is also a good idea to ensure all employees know the strategies being adopted, so that everyone works together to achieve the same goals." Andy then asked a question of the group: "Do you know what your garage business is trying to achieve and how it is trying to achieve it? In most cases the answer is no."
        
    The goal influences the method, and vice versa. From this point, Andy covered the classic four Ps of marketing – product, price, place and promotion – and went from there to the more recent extended marketing mix, incorporating people, process and physical evidence. Beyond this he laid out transactional marketing, which is sales-focused, and relationship marketing, which takes a much broader view including customer service, and quality presentation and results.
        
    Next he took on the thorny issue of branding as part of the marketing strategy, and why a strong brand is so important for recognition, financial value, motivation and loyalty. All of that was just the pre-lunch session. After lunch, Andy went into even greater detail on areas such as the marketing triangle, SMART objectives and SWOT analysis. It's heady stuff, but Andy made it approachable and applicable to the sector.

    Inspirational
    Those in attendance found a lot to take away from the day. Dani Comber from Thrussington Garage in East Goscote, near Leicester said: "I find Andy really inspirational. I think he's brilliant. He can come and work at our garage." Commenting on what she was learning about marketing from the day, Dani said it showed the gap between what they were doing at present, and what they should be doing: "I find it demotivating and motivating at the same time. You want to do everything, you've got the intention to do it, but you've not done it. On the other hand you are motivated because you see what you can do."
        
    Elisa Bramall from Scantec Automotive from Hailsham, East Sussex said: "I have attended several training courses with Andy. I only have good things to say about him of course. His passion being the main thing, and that he says it how it is. No beating around the bush. A lot of his values we stand by as well, i.e use of OE parts, tools and genuine equipment. When you attend his training courses, it aligns with what we want to achieve. With all of his experience, if you think you know it all you certainly don't."
        
    Tina Drayson, Operations Manager at CCM Garage, based in West Sussex and Surrey said: "I have done Andy's financial course before. It is phenomenal. I have learned so much from it. It has certainly changed the way we are doing our business. I am hoping that today with the marketing essentials will give us even more direction going forward."
        
    Terry Roberts, owner at  Witham Motor Company in Witham, Essex said: "I have just become a RAC approved garage in the last few weeks, so I am looking at changing my brand. I am really enjoying it. I am learning a lot and have picked up a lot of things."
        
    Commenting on what he was getting from the course, Billy from  Beacon Hill Garage in Hindhead, Surrey said: "It just hammers home that if your standards slip, and your marketing as well, and you take your eye off the ball, things will go wrong. I will be going back to give a few people a kick up the backside to bring standards back up. "
        
    Brothers Mahesh Vekaria and Pravin Patel own a garage each in Harrow. Mahesh, owner of Cardoc said: "What have I learned from Andy today so far? It has refocused and re-energised my enthusiasm for marketing. We do a fair bit of marketing, but coming today, you see a different angle to it."
        
    Pravin, proprietor at Harrow Service Centre, observed: "Today has been interesting. I have learned a lot. In a sense we already do a bit of marketing, but to understand what it really does mean and the ways we are doing it – is it right or wrong? – is really useful. It is something to implement when we go back to work."
        
    In that the pair are brothers and are based just half a mile apart, Aftermarket was curious as to who would get back and implement new marketing initiatives first. "I would say that I would," said Mahesh. Pravin agreed: "Yes  he would, definitely, having said that, he looks after my marketing for my garage as well. So he has double the work really."

    Information
    Edward Cockhill of Uckfield Motor Services in Uckfield East Sussex observed: "It is quite an eye-opener. I saw marketing as just advertising, whereas it is really the whole perception of my company. There is a lot of cogs that are going to be turning when I get home. "
        
    Peter Bedford of GT One Ltd in Chertsey, Surrey said: "We are an independent Porsche specialist. Our business is in need of a bit of a review in its marketing ideas, and we are looking to freshen it up. I have come along to see another angle of it. Some things I think I know and we have applied. Some I know and we have not applied, so you need a kick up the backside. Some things are brand new. On the whole it is brilliant."
        
    Cieran Larkin from Larkin Automotive in Dublin commented: "It is good to get marketing training from a professional who has been in the garage business as opposed to someone who is dealing with generic marketing. Andy's experience is brilliant in that way."
        
    Nick Robinson from Marchwoods in Folkestone had been to Andy's courses previously and was back for more: "I came to Andy's events last year for garage financial understanding and customer excellence. They were real eye-openers so I have come back for another one. I was badgering him earlier to see what is coming up next. I will be at that one as well!"
        
    Meanwhile, for Edward from Swanley Garage in Swanley, it was his first time: "This is the first one I have been to. It is really good. It is about getting all the information and having the guts to go out and do it. We are all guilty of not doing marketing properly, it is about taking that jump to rebrand yourself or say right we are not doing that any more, or we are not doing cut price work, or we are not going to let the customers bargain with us any more, and seeing where it takes you."

  • The Garage Inspector - Training dates 

    The Garage Inspector a.k.a industry consultant Andy Savva has announced a number of one-day business training course dates.

  • Automechanika Birmingham launches Garage of the Year Competition 

  • Snap-on sign up as Top Technician/Top Garage 2019 sponsor 

    Snap-on has signed up with Top Technician and Top Garage 2019, becoming the first sponsor put its full support behind the  two competitions .


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