For decades, technician recruitment and retention has been a pain point for tire dealers and shop owners. An emphasis on college degrees over the years has overtaken the importance of skilled trades. Of course, our industry sees behind the veil of this with a lot of skilled service advisors and technicians making a good living. So, what’s a tire dealer to do when faced with a tougher-than-ever labor market?
We asked our 2022 Top Shop Winner and Finalists how they’re grappling with it in this episode of What’s Treading with Tire Review, presented by AAPEX.
We caught up with our 2022 Top Shops in Nashville, Tennesse, last year during our Top Shop Event, where we asked them a myriad of questions about shop operations. You can hear what they feel are their best marketing tactics and opportunities in today’s industry in past episodes. Today, our focus is on ways these Top Shops are recruiting top-notch talent and how they treat them to promote business loyalty. Maybe you can take away a few nuggets and apply them to your business.
- Don Foshay Jr., owner of Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment, a two-time Top Shop finalist, on how he structures employee referral programs and benefits. (1:37)
- Aaron Telle, president and CEO of Telle Tire & Auto Centers, our 2023 Top Shop Winner, describes how he and Laura Telle, chief people officer and Aaron’s wife, strive to create work-life balance for employees. (4:22)
- Rich Elliott, president of Best-One of Indy, a two-time Top Shop Finalist, and Scott Monteith, vice president, explain how they use the business’s values to guide the company’s growth and create a family-like atmosphere. (8:47)
Subscribe to What’s Treading on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. You can also read the full podcast transcript below.
Maddie Winer, Editor, Tire Review: Our Top Shops are pulling out the stops when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. For Don Foshay, Jr., owner of Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment with five locations in Maine, recruiting and retaining talent starts with promoting from within and creating a work-life balance.
Don Foshay, Jr: The recruiting of techs is what was really, really difficult [during COVID]. We’ve had to kind of look inward, so we’ve developed some hefty referral rewards for people that currently work for us. It’s structured so that they get a hit on the person’s first day, a hit on the person’s one-month anniversary, and a hit on that three-month anniversary. We were just finding outside sources for chasing help, and we weren’t really reaping any rewards from that. A lot of the people that were coming to work for us were coming because of people that currently work for us.
We structure our hours and the days that we’re open. I think they’re just a little more family-friendly than some of the big box stores. We close at 5:30 p.m. Saturdays we close at 2:00 p.m. We’re never open on Sundays. There are no nights. That’s just a little more appealing to some folks instead of working until 9 o’clock at night, or a mandatory Sunday, that sort of thing. It’s worked pretty well.
Winer: The business also focuses on charting out a path for employees and offering solid benefits.
Foshay: We went to a safe harbor 401(k), so you’re vested immediately when you come. It’s a 3% match. That 3% has lasted through the pre-COVID downturn. It’s lasted through COVID. We’ve never touched that match because we do have a lot of younger people that are participating in the program. Three weeks’ vacation after five years is aggressive for our area, so that’s worked out pretty well. Healthcare is a constant battle. We find ourselves switching almost every year just so that you always have two companies to play against each other… We’ve been able to be very aggressive in negotiating pricing on that.
The other thing we’re doing is paying for any and all certifications that you get. So if [a technician] decides to take some ASE certifications, there’s a bump in pay for that, and there are incentive rewards for that. We pay for any and all NAPA classes. We’ve sent some people to alignment schools if they’re willing to do that. We cover the whole thing. We pay them for the time that they’re there, as well as paying for the classes.
Winer: Telle Tire, a soon-to-be 20-location tire business headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, believes creating a positive culture is key. Aaron Telle, fourth-generation president and CEO, says he and his team also focus on work-life balance for their employees, which has helped attract talent.
Aaron Telle: One of the things that we did early on was about three and a half years ago, we closed all of our stores on weekends. With the younger generation and individuals, work-life balance has become more important than it was for maybe my father or previous generations. That’s something that we recognize and something that we really focus on is that work-life balance. A Monday through Friday work week has been something that’s really helped us recruit people.
Winer: In the recruiting realm, Laura Telle, Aaron’s wife and chief people officer, told us that engaging with tech schools and employees about their career path has helped in recruitment and retention.
Laura Telle: We’ve been really looking out into the community at our tech schools and recognizing that young talent and getting engaged with them earlier than after graduation, being a part of that conversation in the classroom and helping support tech schools in the local area as well. Also, we are clearly defining for our current associates how they can grow, and what opportunities they have for training both in the shop and outside of the shop and providing them with a clear path of how they can continue to grow their skill sets.
Winer: Telle Tire’s benefits and training are more attractive factors for the business. Laura explains what the business offers.
Laura Telle: When you first come on board at Telle Tire, you’ll have the opportunity to start with training. Right out of the gate, we really want to provide people with the opportunity to get those ASE certifications. If they need the training, testing and support, we provide that upfront with those resources. Insurance is definitely a big thing. As we continue to grow, we really want to provide great benefits. So medical, dental, vision, life– all those important aspects. In addition to that, contributing to that 401(k), so that when people are ready to move on and take that step in retirement, they’re financially in a position to do so. We have great matching on that as well.We also do paid birthdays off in addition to traditional holidays.
In addition to that, whether it’s maternity, paternity or adoption leave, we recognize the importance of being in a family business and that each child new to a family is very important and celebrating that time with them is important. In addition to that, free oil changes in the business after a year is another perk. Then as you continue to grow with the organization over time, we provide airline flights. We just recently had a technician take his family to Florida, so we provided all those airline flights for them, key milestone anniversary trips, retirement trips. So once you hit that 20-year point, we want to provide you with that opportunity to take you and your significant other to a place of your choice. It’s been a great experience coordinating with the associates, and they have gone to some great places.
Winer: Aaron says Telle Tire’s culture extends beyond benefits.
Aaron Telle: All of those items are great and important, but being able to walk up to somebody and knowing that they have a voice and that they can speak up and we’re here to listen to them and have empathy [is what it’s about]. They’re a part of the process of improving the business, and I think that goes just a really long way in being able to talk to our teammates and let them know that we’re here for them in whatever capacity that might be. And there are a lot of different variables that come with that… Just being a good person and letting them know that they’re a part of this and that they have a voice is something that’s really important to us.
Winer: Best-One of Indy with 15 locations in central Indiana takes a similar approach to recruiting employees both for shop and office positions, says its President Rich Elliott.
Elliott: At Best-One of Indy, we use word of mouth and some referral bonuses for current team members. Our HR manager uses our payroll provider, and that payroll provider accesses up to 40 job boards at the same time for one fee and for different jobs that we post, in addition to using social media in each of our local markets. So it’s kind of a combination of a few things. And obviously, we get the best success when we get a referral because that’s a person who loves working with us, loves what we’re doing, loves what we’re about, how we care for people and how we live our core values.
We’re trying to attract the best talent we can. When we get them in-house, we do the best job of training them that we can. So we’re not always looking just for someone who specifically knows tires or the tire business.
Winer: Like Telle Tire, Best-One of Indy is engaged with local tech and vocational schools, including Lincoln Tech, which has 22 campuses in 14 states. Rich emphasized though that one thing he feels that makes Best-One of Indy a great place to work can be summed up in two words.
Elliott: The two words that people use who work for us and have been with us for any length of time is, it’s a family atmosphere. It’s a family environment. And so, heck, when people spend most of their waking hours at work, every family’s dysfunctional, every family has its challenges, but they feel included as if it’s their family. And so much of that begins with our focus on living out our core values every day.
We have four core values: live with integrity, character and passion; commit to the pursuit of perfection; accept the urgency of accountability and the necessity of change; and possess a servant’s attitude. When we have conversations with team members– whether it’s a praise or correction, we start with the core values. We feel that what this does for our team members is bring a real great clarity and consistency to how we work with them. It’s not just, ‘Hey, you’re doing this wrong,’ or ‘Hey, you’re doing that wrong.’ It’s more this isn’t in line with this core value or that core value.
Winer: People are so important to Best-One of Indy that they also offer an array of benefits like health insurance, dental vision and a 401K with generous company contributions. But the company’s vice president, Scott Monteith, says it goes way beyond that when it comes to the people that make the business run each and every day.
Monteith: We can’t be in business without them. We’ve been in business since 1986, and it’s because we have created a culture. We’ve created an environment in which we’re family. Since ’86, I can’t tell you how many weddings I’ve been to or funerals or births or birthday parties or anniversaries. There are six members of our leadership team, and we’re all engaged with our team members. I think that’s the closeness that we have. It’s that personal relationship we have with not only our team members but some of their family members as well. So I think that makes us unique.