Shop Life Columnists

Money Isn’t the Motivator

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0521.Marconi

About six months ago, Tom, an equipment sales rep, suggested that I speak with his friend Matt (not his real name) who works at a BMW Dealership.

Matt is a Master-level tech with 18 years of experience and not happy at the dealership. As a general rule, I make it a point to build a network with people in the industry, but with COVID-19 and because Matt lived quite a distance from me, I put the conversation on the back burner.

Whenever Tom came to the shop, he’d put in a reminder. But I kept procrastinating. Finally, Tom cornered me in my office, dialed Matt’s number, and handed me his phone. After a minute speaking with Matt, it became obvious why Tom wanted me to meet him. Just by the way he spoke, it was clear he was someone I needed to sit down with.  

Matt and I met the following Saturday. I gave him a tour of my shop and we headed to my office to chat. This was a casual meeting with no intentions of hiring—networking in its truest form. The more he spoke, the more I listened. There was not a bit of arrogance in his demeanor, only confidence and modesty, accompanied by a wealth of knowledge.

After an hour, I said, “I hear you are not happy at the dealership. Can I ask you why?” Matt hesitated for a second, then told me why he was not only unhappy, but disappointed with the auto industry. 

“Joe, with all due respect, I don’t know if this industry is for me anymore. I have devoted my life to becoming the best auto tech I can be. I don’t just want a job. I want a career. I bring that attitude to every place I have ever worked. Too many bosses have made promises to me that they never delivered on. From my perspective, the owners of the companies I’ve worked for have no vision of the future, and if they do, they don’t communicate that vision to their employees. The work atmosphere is horrible, with everyone at odds with each other. There’s no unity, only friction. I don’t even think my service manager knows my name.”

He told me his service manager would come out of his office once or twice a month, and when he’d approach Matt, he’d gaze at the name on Matt’s uniform and say something like “Matt, great job, keep it up. Thanks,” then walk away. One day, when Matt saw the manager out on the shop floor, he removed his uniform shirt and when his manager approached and said “Hey, ah, great job today. Thanks,” Matt instantly knew his manager didn’t know his name. 

Matt has worked at five different dealerships over the course of his career, not because he wanted to change jobs, but because he was recruited. Each employer made promises and painted a perfect image of the ideal workplace, but Matt was let down each time.  

As he spoke, I could sense the emotions and the toll his experiences have had, and to think he’s not sure he wants to stay in this industry anymore really bothers me. Here we have a Master-level tech, dedicated to his profession, a family man with two kids, in the prime of his career. He has every certification for BMW, Porsche, Audi, and Mercedes and is also an ASE Master-level tech. Sadly, his experiences and the actions of certain superiors have caused deep emotional scars.

We hear these stories all too often. How many times have you heard, “He left to work somewhere else for less money?” That’s because people don’t work for companies, they work for people. And throwing money at people is not the motivator we think it is.

While Matt’s is a dealership perspective, the lessons here are many. There’s a lot of talk these days about finding quality people. To be successful, we need the best of the best employed at our shops. But once we hire them, our job just begins. We must take care of them, mentor them, coach them and help map out their future. We also need to create a healthy workplace. Shop owners have an obligation to everyone employed at their business. We must fulfill this obligation each and every day. If we don’t, trust me, once the heart is gone, it would be long before the toolbox is also gone.

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