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Building a Trustworthy Staff

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When Dave McClung returned to Autobahn Automotive from a several-month absence in 2005, he was appalled at what he found.

“It was a mess,” McClung says. “My staff was robbing me blind. They were taking everything that wasn’t bolted down.”

McClung had just returned from treatment for a tumor on his spinal cord, and was wheelchair-bound at the time. After the medical bills piled up, his savings account was nearly down to nothing. Then he learned his employees were stealing money and shop supplies from his Lakewood, N.J.-based shop.

One technician was stealing various equipment and selling it on the side, while another tech was taking cars home and working on them there. The woman working the front counter wrote some checks from the shop to herself (which eventually got the police involved).

McClung’s trust in his staff was completely corroded, and he was forced to fire everyone immediately and start from scratch. From 2006–2010, McClung doubled as a technician and service advisor, spending the first few years working as a tech from his wheelchair until he was able to walk again, only able to hire his nephew as the other employee.

In the July issue, Ratchet+Wrench will feature McClung, and how he was able to install a successful workflow and diagnostic process in his small shop. Another important aspect to the success of the shop, which crossed the $1 million mark in 2017, was building his staff up into a team he could trust.

In April 2010, he hired a shop foreman full time, and says he had instant trust factor. After this, McClung went to local technical colleges, asking for the best students they had to join on as apprentices.

One of his best hires he says, was a B-tech who hadn’t worked on cars before, but had a career at Apple. This technician wanted to get into the repair industry after a life of loving cars, and McClung says he had an immediate interest in learning the industry.

“I gave him a valve cover job on a V-10 Audi to do his first day here. It took him a long time, but he didn’t miss a bolt, didn’t miss anything on it,” McClung says. “So, I offered him a full-time job with training. Within a year, he was hands down the best B-tech I’ve ever seen.”

McClung continued to find and hire people who were passionate about their work, and has brought his staff up to seven people, with himself, a shop foreman, two technicians, one service advisor, and one client care specialist.

Stay tuned for our July issue, where we’ll have more details on McClung’s inspiring success story and shop turnaround.

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