Any time we talk to dealers, the question of how they’re recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent—mainly technicians—is always on our minds. The TechForce Foundation estimates that demand for talent in the form of automotive/diesel/collision repair technicians will total well over 900,000 positions through 2026. That stat represents openings for new positions, replacements for those that leave or retire and unfilled positions from prior years. Take a look at some of the ways that tire dealers are actively recruiting and retaining employees below.
1. Always be Looking
You know how companies tell you to send in your resume even if you’re not looking for a job? Well, second-generation tire dealer Ryan Goff has adopted this practice at his business, Roger’s Tire Pros, with two locations in Idaho.
“I always have a job posting on Indeed,” he said, also noting the recruitment and training tools Tire Pros provides its dealers. “I just set a budget for it, and if somebody sends in their resume and we don’t have any positions for, let’s say, a service advisor, I’m darn sure going to talk to them because I don’t know what tomorrow holds.”
The owners of TMA Yankton—Doug Budig and Bob Vornhagen—share a similar attitude. With many tenured technicians on staff, their team members often know other technicians in the area that they’d want to work with. Yet, they receive many recommendations from their own customers.
“When people say, ‘Oh, I know someone who’s looking,’ I always ask for their phone number. I get a lot of customers saying, ‘Hey, call this person. Call that person.’” Doug says. “We’ll write their name down, and we have a constant, growing list of potential people, so when we have a position to fill we already have a bunch of names and numbers so we’re not starting from scratch.”
2. Give Great Perks
For many tire dealers, their biggest expense is labor. For Aaron Telle, fourth-generation tire dealer and owner of Telle Tire, it definitely is, and he thinks that’s the way it should be.
“That’s not a liability, that’s an asset for us,” Aaron says about the business’s employees. “By providing our employees the tools and the processes and then aligning our values together, that’s how we hopefully continue to grow and create those unique, personalized customer experiences for many years to come.”
Telle Tire’s employee benefits list is extensive: It starts with paid-for training and ASE certifications, 401(k) with match and notable company contributions to medical/dental/vision and life insurance. As an employee’s tenure grows, the company begins to offer more unique perks as well, like free oil changes, paid birthdays off, emergency paid time off, profit-sharing potential, free airline tickets and even anniversary and retirement trips.
3. Find Incentives
One way to achieve results is to reward people for their hard work. With the challenging labor market, Doug Miller, president of St. Lucie Tire & Battery with 17 locations along Florida’s Treasure Coast, said that he and his team decided that the best way to combat a tough labor market is with a performance-based bonus program for everyone from tire and lube techs to those at the distribution level.
“We had to figure out a way to incentivize people for doing a good job, being accountable and taking care of our equipment,” he said. “We built a bonus program out for our techs, even hourly technicians, and, you know, it keeps them hungry.”
4. Set Goals
For Don Foshay Jr., owner of Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment with five locations in Maine, the pandemic created a major shift in the way his technicians are paid. To keep techs, he and his team came up with a plan they called “Project 15” to increase wages. They studied every line item of revenue to find out where they could save or opportunities they were missing to make more money–whether that be what’s not being asked at the counter or if they’re not suggesting certain services for customers. In many ways, it was about improving the customer experience.
“We want employees to be invested,” Don said, adding that his business was able to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour as a result of this program. To continue to increase employee pay, each location has a monthly report card to track the performance of 12 different services and sets goals for the number of each they’d like to achieve.
5. Provide Flexible Schedules
While Burt Brothers has always valued its employees, COVID forced its five-man ownership team to take a step back to truly understand what its employees value in their careers with the business. One of those values was flexibility.
The business has added more part-time employees and flexible working schedules to accommodate employees’ lives. For example, they’ve added shifts from noon to 3 p.m. and 1 p.m. to close—shifts that an employee would have previously not been able to take, since they didn’t fit the mold of a more rigid schedule.
“Now it’s like, when are you available? We’ll make that work,” says Jake Burt, principal.
6. Show Them You Care
Let team members know they are valued. Many independent tire dealers, like Best-One of Indy, are known for treating their employees like family. That might not be your style, but still, it’s important to show them your appreciation. Best-One of Indy does it through appreciation events, team parties, awards, bonuses and involving team members in important decisions. For the past three years, the business conducted a company-wide satisfaction survey to discover how it can continue to serve its team members. “It starts with making sure our team members know that they’re not just part of the team, but contributing members to the overall organization — regardless of what their position is,” says Vice President Nick Howe. “Team member and family-focused events throughout the year are fantastic, but at the end of the day, it comes back to making them feel like they’re a part of the family: taking an active interest in their lives and genuinely caring about their well-being.”