Stokes: Attitude Versus Ability
When it comes to attitude versus ability, I'm a big fan of attitude over ability.
I can get somebody that’s super smart and they know everything, but then they have an attitude towards authority. They have an issue with any type of system because it's not the way they used to do it at their last place. They always want me to do it their way. The problem is if I go in that direction, I’ll find myself always having an employee that is requiring lots of time to manage because from a personal development standpoint, or they're going to cost me a different way; they're going to stir the pot with my team, especially smaller groups. When you have a large shop, one really skilled but prima donna technician can't sway a 20-person team—but they can sway a five-person team. They can cause a lot of issues with five people so that sideways peer pressure is not as effective when you have these smaller shops, which in America is four to eight people. That said, you bring in Johnny and Johnny's got an attitude, he's going to cause a lot of these management headaches. Now, the flip side is you're not training him. That's a plus.
On the other side of the coin, if you hire a young technician with a great attitude who comes from a good family and has no drama at home, they really want to learn, but they ask a lot of questions. The difference is—and this is a big deal—if they have the right attitude and they’re intelligent, you’re sowing into good soil, not bad soil. You’ll reap a harvest. It may take a year, may take three years, but they'll grow into a great technician that will produce awesome returns for your company and for themselves.
That said, I'm a big fan of having at least three A level technicians in that shop, or an A or B level, so that C or D level tech who is asking questions has multiple people to talk to and is not slowing down one person. If you do this method, you’ll have to start your own training program and a lot of people may say, “Aaron, I don't have time to build a program.” It's not about building a program as much as holding on to the employee. Most of these young kids will quit and leave you if a dealership or a large chain offers them training immediately and lets them get their hands dirty. So our job is to make out industry more welcoming for young techs. A lot of them are trying to get in but we have to give them a fighting chance and not be so quick to fire them when they screw up. I think we would have a lot more employees sticking around a lot longer if we do.
I've got a young guy named Colin right now working for me. Started as a GS and he changed oil and cleaned the shop for two years. Then we put them on a really aggressive course over about six months in-house. He became a full-time tech and, eight months after we got him on the program, he was turning 175 to 180 hours a month on a flat rate—and that's just absolutely amazing. It's really special that we got this young man, and we got this opportunity with him. If we can keep putting opportunities in front of him, he will stay with us and never leave. If we don't, he will go somewhere else. But, if we invest in people, choosing attitude over ability, it will pay off in the end.