The SOP: How to Fire an Underperforming Employee

June 13, 2024
What auto repair shop owners need to know about the termination process.

You're going through interviews and resumes trying to pick that needle in the haystack, the person who has the credentials to get the job done. As a shop owner, you're also trying to be sure that person has the knowledge and character to be the right fit with the team to be a value-added hire to help shift your company and your team to the next level. But what happens when they don’t live up to the hype?   

Andy Tirado, founder of Andy Tirado LLC, a leadership-driven consulting firm specializing in business and employee development, has worked with shop owners and collaborated with some of the industry’s top coaching and consulting companies. In this month’s edition of The SOP, Tirado talks about what happens when a shop owner needs to fire an employee who showed a lot of promise.   




As told to Chris Jones 


You see the signs, but there's an absolute sense of denial where you don't want to see them and you don't want to accept them. At this point, you're already in the deep end, and then that's where you start getting this sour taste in your mouth and, as a responsible leader and responsible owner, you start wondering, “Is it something that is happening internally? Is it something that can be controlled? Are we lacking the support for that particular person?” Those are your first evaluations. We don't want to say, "Oh, this person just isn't a fit” immediately. We go and analyze: "Did we provide the person the correct amount of training or support? Or giving them the tools they need? What can we do to try to help this person stay with us because it's a hard task to hire any person, let alone the right person? 


It’s Time to Part Ways

Good workers are hard to find, so there needs to be another strategy before terminating an employee. Is there anywhere else in the shop where the person might be a better fitIf you hired them as a technician, can they be a service advisor instead? Could they be a customer service liaison? Try them out elsewhere and once you've pulled every single card out of your deck and nothing seems to fit, then there is nothing more you can do than to start the exit strategy. By this point, you’ve had the conversations, you're provided the coaching, you're documenting it, and the warnings are dated and timestamped. The next step is to make that call; you have to pull that trigger. Remember that even though you're firing somebody and they may have not been a good fit for your shop, that doesn't make them a bad person. That's something to keep in mind. You never know if that person will come around later and if you have a different role, you may end up calling that person back. In this industry, I've seen that. It’s a common event. They end up either working back with you or working with another company you have a good relationship with. Now, if the person was an absolute disaster, did nothing for the shop, and only put more risk into the company, that's cut and dry—let go, eliminate all communication, and wish them the best of luck. 


The Termination Process: A Timeline 

We always give the first 90 days, which is industry standard, but we have to talk beyond those. In the first 90 days, if you're getting signs and feeling that denial, this means the person needs drastic and heavy help. From my experience, (performance) doesn't tend to be as big of an issue in the first 90 days. It’s after those days where you have to pay attention. The new hire gets comfortable, so have a monthly engagement to see where they're at, making sure that they're hitting the numbers. See where the productivity is and use a CRM or shop management system to show you documented and quantifiable data. Now, from the time that you've identified the problem to where you want a resolution, I wouldn't want to see more than 30 to 60 days tops, depending on the situation. It's a two-way street. If you're going to give them training, give them support, and give them the payroll, the exchange is their productivity. Termination-wise, if there is no change after that period, it's time to accept the loss and start searching. Here, you want to be sure to not do what a lot of shops are doing, which is terminating that employee and then start looking (for their replacement). You want to start putting the probes out early on when you sense the problem may not be correctable. When I interview for a position, I always have three other candidates—my top three. So, I have my selected one and two other candidates. I keep those two close by so I can reach out in case it doesn't work out with my new hire. Since I’ve already gone through the interviews with them, I have people ready instead of starting from scratch. The worst thing you can do as a shop owner is wait until termination to restart the whole process 


Closing the Loop 

When it’s time to terminate, you want to make sure that you're doing a face-to-face dismissal. It shouldn't be in an email, it shouldn't be in text. You should be scheduling a meeting. One thing to mention: if you're providing this person uniforms or equipment that belong to the company, that needs to be returned and that needs to be written down. Always have documentation during the termination process that is written and endorsed by that now former employee that any type of equipment or any uniform needs to be returned within 15 days. I know a lot of companies don't request the uniform back. I always request the uniform back because the last thing I want is for that person to impersonate my company as a non-employee. They can create a negative image of your shop by continuing to have and wear your uniform. You also don’t want your uniform to end up on the Goodwill rack. The last thing you want is to have a random stranger wearing your uniform. The average consumer doesn't understand that this is a random person wearing your uniform. And what if they don’t behave well while wearing it? Their consumer’s first thought is, “Well, that's what this company supports. That's the type of people they hire.” So, when it comes to uniforms, always ask for them back. Never reassign that uniform to a person, just destroy them; turn them rags. Just make sure that your uniform isn't out there being misrepresented after you’ve let a person go. 

About the Author

Andy Tirado

Andy Tirado is the owner & founder of Andy Tirado LLC, a leadership driven consulting firm specializing in business and employee development. With extensive experience in education, training & development, Andy is dedicated to helping organizations create a motivated, empowered, and forward thinking workplace.

About the Author

Chris Jones | Editor

Chris Jones is the editor of Ratchet+Wrench magazine and host of its companion podcast, Ratchet+Wrench Radio, a weekly show featuring automotive professionals across the auto care landscape.

Sponsored Recommendations

Download: Lessons in ADAS

As ADAS systems become increasingly popular, understanding proper maintenance is crucial. This eBook explains the importance of staying current on proper ADAS calibration processes...

Establish and track your KPIs: Gross Profit on Labor

WHAT IT IS: The difference between the revenue of a job and the cost of completing it as it relates to labor, excluding all overhead costs. HOW TO CALCULATE IT: Job (or repair...

Find the right shop management system to boost your efficiency

Find the right shop management system to aid in efficient scheduling, communication and payment processing

Craft a strategic marketing plan

Develop strategies and communicate them to your staff to keep you on track