The Mindful Mentor
On Memorial Day weekend, Bryan Gossel closed his shop, BG Automotive in Fort Collins, Colo., that Friday and Monday and rented a camper for all nine of his employees to go on a camping trip for the weekend together.
Two other shops, several parts supplier representatives and everyone’s families went with them and enjoyed the weekend as well.
“It was going to sting the checkbook but I didn't care,” he says.
Gossel says it was a bonding experience for the shop’s staff, but the most moving part of the weekend came when a technician from another shop made the comment that he wished his shop had a similar culture.
“The culture we have in our shop has gotten us to where we are at,” he says.
Gossel knows how lucky he is to have a winning shop culture, and he hopes it’s one way he can make a difference in solving a problem he’s particularly passionate about: the industry’s hiring shortage.
From mentoring students in his $2.5 million shop to taking his employees on trips, cooking them lunch every day and helping them follow their dreams, Gossel knows that being a leader is a lot more than turning over work—it’s being a point of contact for your team in any situation.
“I’m a servant-leader,” he says.
From education to team bonding, Gossel is not only a shop owner growing his business, but also a leader growing his team—here’s how he does it.
Grooming the Next Wave
As a board member of his local Front Range Community College, which houses a vocational program, Gossel recognizes there’s a hiring gap to fill industry wide, from technicians to parts people.
“It is a struggle in our industry big time to kind of learn how to grow our own,” he says.
When he joined the board roughly five years ago, he says the school sent students who were not up to par, and sometimes lacked an interest in the industry. Gossel, along with other members of the board, pitched an apprenticeship program that would eliminate that problem.
Now, students fill out an application and are accepted into the program before being considered for future hands-on work. Before, the high school just sent troubled kids to the vocational program, creating a mix of skill levels.
Since its creation in 2016, Gossel says that it’s been a great way to open kids’ eyes and show them what to expect.
Gossel has had eight students work in his shop over the years through the program, and he says it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, he says he was guilty of not giving his apprentices a clear path in the beginning. He hired and had full-time apprentices that were mentored by technicians who were responsible for their work, but realized that a mentor needed to be more than someone who was just willing to help a mentee out. A mentor needed to actually teach and be available.
“We failed and I felt bad because we were so busy taking care of the customer that we do run over these younger guys by not giving them what they need,” Gossel says.
For example, he had a mentee work for him for three years who eventually left to be a Snap-on tool representative. It taught Gossel that whether someone works for him long-term or not, it is his responsibility to grow the individual and help the employee realize the path he or she wants to go down—that’s what a mentor does. *See Sidebar: “Becoming an Effective Mentor”
To create a clear path for his apprentices, Gossel has outlined expectations, standards and procedures. He also has his mentees start with basic duties, such as cleaning, and work their way up to the “fun stuff.”
And while he says that it’s definitely a learning experience as mistakes are made and things are broken, Gossel just calls those mishaps the price of “tuition.”
Gossel spends roughly $1,000–$1,500 per month on recruiting efforts through Facebook, LinkedIn, Indeed and ZipRecruiter.
He says he’s always recruiting, and it’s all about getting his reputation around town that his shop takes care of its people and that, most of all, it’s a fun place to work.
He’s had several shop workers come to him for jobs, and if he’s not hiring for any reason at the time, he’ll still make sure to reach out. He has roughly 5–6 potential employees that he calls at least twice per year to give them the “warm-and-fuzzy hi.”
Gossel is also a fan of hiring outside the industry. If he’s out to eat with his wife and has great customer service, he’ll give the waitress his card. One of his CSRs was a former waitress he met at a chamber of commerce event. Although she eventually decided to go back to school, he says she remains a great friend and promotes his shop.
Growing these people all goes back to fixing the hiring shortage in this industry. Five years from now when the baby boomers leave, there will be no one to replace them, he says.
“If we don’t do something now, we’re going to get worse,” Gossel says.
Although Gossel is always recruiting, it doesn’t mean that he sacrifices quality. For him, “attitude trumps talent.”
“If you don’t fit in with our team, you are not going to make it,” he says.
Because his team is so close, it is crucial for any of Gossel’s new hires to not only get along, but also be a part of the team. To aid in finding better fits, he has gone to a team hiring method where multiple people are involved in the hiring process.
He has also implemented working or “technical” interviews for techs and advisors. With these types of interviews, you can see the potential new hire’s confidence. For example, with a service advisor, you can see how they answer a phone and deal with a customer.
But most importantly, involving your staff in the hiring process creates buy-in.
Grow Your Staff—Personally and Professionally
Above all else, Gossel says that it’s very important to support your staff’s dreams and whatever they want to accomplish.
“You need to be in the mindset of bettering your people,” he says. “I want my team to be successful. I want them to fulfill their dreams.”
Gossel says that one of his best techs wants to open a gym one day and Gossel wants to help him do so. And while he would hate to lose his tech, he says supporting staff members, regardless of if their dreams involve the shop or not, creates loyalty among the staff.
He also encourages his employees to have a dream board, just like he does. He says it’s a way for them to have confidence that they’re successful and to keep their dreams top of mind. Gossel wants to change the stigma of techs being told that they can make less than six-figure incomes. In fact, his techs are guaranteed to make that much thanks to his performance-based pay plan.
“I want my guys to make more than doctors do,” he says.
But that all comes with skill. Gossel invests roughly $75,000–$100,000 per year in training and 20 Group expenses.
“The more of us that are doing it right, the better and easier for all of us,” Gossel says. “It’s a true blessing.”
SHOP STATS: BG AUTOMOTIVE Location: FORT COLLINS, COLO. Operator: Bryan Gossel Average Monthly Car Count: 344 Staff Size: 9 Shop Size: 6,000 square feet Annual Revenue: $2.5 Million