Paving the Way for Future Success

March 28, 2024
Donnie and Kristi Hudson of Troy Auto Care and Donna Wagner, vice president of industry and media relations for ASE, share tips to help you create upward mobility toward a winning career for your technicians.

From college intern to right-hand man and mentor to all, Josh Burke is just one example of how Michigan-based MSO Troy Auto Care has been successful in creating career paths for its employees. By stating his career goals, he’s risen in the ranks and is prime to become an owner himself one day, if that’s the path he chooses.  

If you don’t have career plans for your staff, it may end up hurting you. If they’re not getting the training and challenges they desire at your shop, they will most likely end up going somewhere else and good techs are hard to come by these days. Troy Auto Care owners and spouses, Donnie and Kristi Hudson; along with Donna Wagner, vice president of industry and media relations for ASE; share their keys for setting your staff—and yourself—up for success by creating a career path.  


Understand What You’re Getting Yourself Into  

Before you start setting career paths for your staff, you need to believe in what you’re doing and understand why it’s so important. It’s a huge commitment on your part, explain the Hudsons, both financially and time-wise. That said, if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort to better your technicians, they’ll leave you for someone who will, Wagner and the Hudsons warn.  


Recognize If They’re Successful, You’re Successful  

It’s essential to push for continual training and advancement for your staff because, the more successful they are, the more successful you are, Donnie, vice president of Troy Auto Care, says. If they’re up-to-date on the latest training, there will be fewer comebacks and more money in the end for your shop. Wagner agrees and says that staying on top of training is essential because the technology in vehicles is changing at a rapid pace and successful shop owners need their technicians to stay current to give the best customer service.  


Get to Know Their End Game  

This can be done as early as your first interview with someone. Shop owners need to know what their staff hopes to get out of taking a position with the company. Wagner says that, ideally, shop owners will discuss with techs and find out what they would like to do in the future and, based on that, create a plan to help get them there, just like what the Hudsons do with their staff at Troy Auto Care.  

Donnie explains that they ask their technicians what their thoughts are on a career path and if they’re happy with what they’re currently doing and if that’s what they’d like to do for the rest of their lives. Some are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For those who express they’d like to do something else eventually, the Hudsons say someone from the leadership of Troy Auto Care will sit down with that person and discuss that further with them.  

“Sit down with your techs and talk with them,” Kristi says. “Take the time to say, ‘Have you ever thought about your career?’ That might open their eyes. If employees see you care, that’ll change things.”  


Set Goals 

At Troy Auto Care, the end goals run the gamut from becoming a master tech to being a part of the business and having ownership in the company, Donnie says. Kristi says that they love to hear that their staff wants to grow and, when they do, the first step is sitting down together to lay out what exactly those goals are, both short- and long-term. An example of a short-term goal could be getting a new certification or tackling a job that they’ve never done on their own before and long-term could be owning their own shop one day.  

Give Them Tools for Success  

Shop owners need to support their technicians with their career goals and one way to do this is to provide them with the knowledge they need to get them to where they need to be. Training is the best way to do this, but it comes with time and many times, financial, commitment. According to Wagner, shop owners need to help their staff out with both by giving them time to get the training they need and, if possible, pay for that training.  

“To make money, you have to spend money,” Wagner says.  

Donnie says that his staff attends NAPA training and goes to SEMA every year and he would like to take them to VISION. They also do frequent in-house training and share resources that are available. Troy Auto Care supports its technician’s training fully by paying for it and even giving them financial support while they are at the training. He says they sometimes allow the technicians to bring their spouses.  

For shop owners who feel they just can’t afford this, Kristi adds that there is a ton of free training out there and that if you can’t afford the full price, offer to pay for part. Showing you’re willing to help get them there will make a huge difference.  


Customize Your Approach 

A career path for your technicians shouldn’t look the same across the board, Krisit says. It’s not the same for everyone because each individual will have different strengths and different end goals. That’s why every single technician who has a career path at Troy Auto Care has a unique plan.  

“There’s no cookie-cutter career path,” Donnie says. “It needs to be tailored. So many variables play into it.”  


Keep Open Lines of Communication  

Goals change. It’s important to keep checking in with your technicians to see if they have new interests they’d like to pursue and how they’re feeling about the current path that they are on. Wagner says a good way to do this is to have what she calls a “stay interview.” Instead of an exit interview, you meet with employees on a monthly or quarterly basis to check in and see how things are going. Donnie says that they have weekly team meetings and every morning they have a morning huddle.  

“Communication is key,” Donnie says.  

If someone is upset and feels like they’re not being heard or being challenged, they will move on, Donnie says. He adds that you need to interview your techs at least once per year to see what tools they need to grow.

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