Running a Shop

No Benefits, No Problem

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Health care costs in the U.S. are expensive and continuously increasing. For some shop owners, the cost to provide full health care plans for employees is beyond the budget. Though your employees may prefer health insurance, there are alternative perks shop owners can provide in place of health care benefits. These perks would be valuable to your employees and show appreciation for the work they're doing to help build your business. 

If you're not in a position to provide full benefits, trying offer a combination of these perks to beef up your benefits package. to beef up your benefits package. Here are nine perks shop owners can provide.  

1. Offer Costco Memberships 

A membership to Costco is a perk employees could use at any time, and they would understand the value of this perk. 

"We are all about trying to help our employees and their families with day-to-day expenses. If this inexpensive add-on membership that I already have helps them, why not?" says Angie Jenkins, co-owner of Hookset Automotive & Tires with her husband, J.C. Jenkins.  

2. Offer Chiropractic Care and Massage Packages Each Month  

Supplementing chiropractic care with regular massages can have your technicians feeling and performing better. Shop owners can offer chiropractic care and massage packages every month, quarter or a certain number of times per year. 

"It just makes sense to offer chiropractic care and massage plans because business and work are hard on a mechanic's body," says Justin Wentworth, owner of Wentworth Automotive." We worked out a deal in which she charges a subscription monthly and handles all the scheduling. Her handling the scheduling helps busy technicians take advantage of this benefit." 

3. Invest in Chaplain Services and Mental Health Programs 

Consider offering a certain number of chaplain services and access to mental health programs each month. You can send employees to a local chaplain, offer virtual meetings or use mental health apps that offer appointments.  

"When we consider benefits, we must understand that at its core, it is to help our teammates flourish," says Joe Valind, owner of Auto Safety Center. "Just like a sore muscle can cause pain and low performance, emotional wellness can do the same. Offering the chaplain visits provides a confidential outlet for teammates to express and receive help working through life's tough spots. It's another way we steward our most valuable resource, our people."  

4. Offer Employee Assistance Plans 

Your employees are human beings navigating through the complexities of life, both personal and professional. These problems can range from alcohol to financial struggles to family challenges. Offering employee assistance programs is a benefit that helps employees to become better people and better employees. 

"We've all experienced a lot over the last few years. The stress is huge, and it is easy to internalize it. Having an outlet where employees feel safe to seek help is important," says Lisa Eckler, co-owner of Foreign Car Specialists with her husband, Kevin. 

"We're a small business and value our employees a lot—we're a family. We support our staff and want to make sure they feel appreciated. We use an HR company offering employee assistance plans as a benefit. It's affordable for us to provide and offers a confidential benefit for our employees. If they have personal problems or family issues, this program is there to help them. Things that add emotional stress could be brought into work. You can provide employees with confidential help and make them feel valued."  

5. Create a Vacation Stipend. 

You probably offer vacation time to employees after they've worked for a certain amount of time. One benefit you can offer atop that is a yearly vacation stipend.  You can give your team members a certain number of dollars or certificates to be used on vacation. Your employees will appreciate this as it gives them time to relax and enjoy time away from work. The added benefit is that they'll come back refreshed.  

"Too often, technicians will spend their vacation time working around the house or doing repairs on family and friends' vehicles. When they return to work, they are just as tired and burned out as when they left," says Denise Stanley, co-owner of Quality Automotive with her husband, John.  

"Our vacation stipend gives our team members $1,000 per year to use toward an actual fun vacation so that they can relax and recharge and spend time with family or friends."  

6. Offer a Reasonable Amount of Flex Time 

One benefit employees appreciate is having a flexible schedule. Having some leeway in their schedule to take time off for themselves or to attend family events. It adds convenience to their life and is an excellent perk. 

"Technicians can't work from home like other professions. As shop owners, we have to find ways to make things a bit easier for them. Flex time is becoming an industry standard in almost every industry; why should technicians be left out?" says Nick Morabito, co-owner of Gearheads. 

"If you want to keep good technicians, you must make adjustments. Many employees have more family commitments and a working spouse these days, and it takes more work to manage schedules. Flex time is a benefit that can make an immediate positive impact on their lives. The repair industry always seems to be last on the list with changing times. Life doesn't always happen as planned, and we need to be able to adjust." 

7. Create a Tool Allowance Program  

Tools are expensive, and some technicians prefer to use their own tools. Providing a tool allowance is a perk that helps techs get their tools with an assist from the shop. The amount of tool allowance you provide is up to you, and this type of program can be linked to performance or time with your company. Look through your numbers and the number of employees and create an allowance that works for everyone.  

"Excellent technicians are hard to find; a tool allowance adds value to good technicians and is appreciated," says Jim Neff, owner of All Season Auto.  

"We offer a performance-based benefits plan that takes into account their hours of production, time with our company and offers financial bonuses and tool allowances. Wages since COVID have gone up, and a tool allowance is one way to keep good technicians with your shop."  

8. Offer Profit-sharing Plans  

Drawing a salary is great, but employees will work harder when you add performance-based incentives. Profit-sharing is the best of all worlds, as it offers the opportunity to earn money and be a part of the company. It's a form of a retirement plan allowing employees to earn a share of a company's profits. Profit-sharing plans can be set up with stock, part-ownership, tied to retirement accounts or payments based on performance.  

"At Pride Auto Care, in our humble opinion, in any industry today, especially automotive services, taking care of your team and employees is critical to any operation’s success and longevity," says Kermit ‘Al’ Pridemore II, CEO and co-owner of Pride Auto Care. 

"Turnover can kill a shop. It takes a lot of work to find good quality people to represent your brand and level of quality workmanship. To that end, we believe in profit-sharing with our people. We take a portion of our year-end net operating profits and divide that between every eligible employee (1-year tenure), from the entry-level general service tech through our full-time employees, techs and management alike. It’s distributed in the first quarter from the previous year’s profits, as a percentage of their payroll to the company’s total payroll. This money is automatically deposited into their 401(k) accounts. It has been well received and appreciated for the many years we've done it. Our turnover has remained below our industry benchmark for years, and the engagement level of our people is second to none." 

9. Create an ID Theft Package. 

An FTC report revealed that consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021. ID theft is a huge problem, especially in a world that spends most of its time online. It doesn't take much these days for someone to become a victim of ID theft.  

Offering ID theft protection in other benefits packages can be valuable for your employees. You can offer a perk that protects their identity and removes one more life stressor.  

"We have a menu list of different benefits packages that we offer in our shop—we call it a 'benefits bank,' says AJ Nealey, owner of Nealey Auto Service. "The benefits start at $50 a month, and the monthly amount increases as employees stay longer with the shop. We let employees pick what makes the most sense to them. We partner with organizations such as Legal Shield to offer ID theft protection because it's important." 

Add These Perks to Your Shop  

These are a few perks suggested by shop owners in the 2022 R+W Industry Survey. There are perks you may have thought about based on what you know of your employees—consider offering them. How you take care of your team directly impacts the growth of your shop, and there are many ways to make employees feel valued. 

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