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The Humble Mechanic: Good Tools, Bad Shop

Charles, the Humble Mechanic, encourages good technicians to work at the best shops.

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What’s up everybody? I’ve had this topic burning in my head about good technicians working at bad shops. I was talking to some students, and I think exactly the way I said it was, bad shops don’t deserve good technicians — or good service advisors, good warranty clerks, good detailing people, you get the idea.

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In fact, you could even say that bad businesses don’t deserve good employees. As I’ve said so many times, I had a really great dealership experience. I worked for a really good company, a great boss and had a good group of technicians around me for pretty much my whole career. Now of course it wasn’t perfect and there were things that made me mad and yeah, there were days where I wanted to slam my toolbox shut, lock it and go on home.

Overall it was pretty darn good, but I read and hear about and even meet people who don’t have that experience, who work at a poorly run shop or have a bad manager, bad owner or whatever it is. It makes me really mad because they’re giving the entire auto industry a bad name, and it makes me a little confused and anxious because you have someone who is a really good technician and they feel stuck working at a bad shop.

The next thought that always goes through my mind is, why would you want to work at a bad shop? Why would you settle for that today? Probably more than ever, we hear about the shortage of technicians in the industry and shops can’t find good technicians. I think there are a lot of reasons for it that largely fall on the shops themselves, but there is so much opportunity in the industry today to get a better job.

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Now that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to go across the street, do the exact same job that you do right now and just make more money or have a better schedule. This may mean you have to move across town or to a different state, or that you have to change car lines, maybe go from an independent to a dealer or the other way around.

I think the main reason we settle for these bad shops and allow them to do bad things to customers or treat us technicians poorly is that it’s hard. It’s hard to change jobs and it can be scary, especially if you’re someone like me who worked at a dealership. It would’ve been a struggle having been a VW tech for my whole career, and for example going to work for Ford. It would have been a whole different thing. I understand that and I totally get it. I’ve also heard the excuse of already being invested in a brand, having all the special tools or training. For the most part, I feel like that’s simply an excuse to not have to do something hard.

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Look at it this way: the first day I started at the dealership, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how to fix cars and I certainly didn’t know how to make a living fixing Volkswagens. Sure, I went to tech school and trained with VW for about 13 weeks, but that doesn’t mean there’s a guaranteed piece of paper that says here, Charles, now you know how to fix Volkswagens.

I still had to learn it. And if you learn it once, despite us old dudes being stubborn, you can learn it again. Guys, good technicians today have so much broader of a skillset then we give ourselves credit for. The time we do give ourselves credit it is when we’re talking about it from the way customers see us. Customers don’t understand that on top of the regular mechanical work we do, we also have to do electrical diagnosis; computer diagnosis; noise, vibration and harshness diagnosis; and understanding coding and networking to a certain degree.

We’re really good at saying customers don’t value the skillset of a good technician today, but what we’re really bad at by and large is using that same argument for ourselves to better our career. Maybe that means a promotion or moving to a different shop. Maybe that means starting your own business, opening your own shop, doing mobile coding and programming, doing mobile repair or mobile diagnostics. Whatever it is, we sell ourselves short of just truly how good we are as great technicians.

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Now notice I keep saying good technician. If you’re not a good to great technician, this may not apply to you. So if you’re one of those technicians who feels like, “oh, I’m stuck, I have a bad boss, the dealership’s terrible, my warranty clerk is not any good, my advisor’s terrible,” the first thing you need to do is make sure it’s actually true and that you’re not just creating excuses to overcome not being a very good technician.

If that’s the case, what you need to do is look around and see where you can improve. Where can you get better? Right? Maybe you are a “C” level technician who thinks you’re an “A” level technician, so now you’re going to work hard to get better.

Finally, I need you guys to understand, I truly, truly want this for each and every one of you. If you are a good technician, please do not settle working for a bad shop. They do not deserve you. They do not deserve your talent, your skillset, your customer base or any of it. You guys deserve better.

Go somewhere else. Make a dollar or two more an hour. Heck, I’m even cool with making a dollar or two less if it’s the right environment — if the shop is good, the parts counter is good and the manager is good. Somewhere you’re able to talk to your customers and bring your client base with you or get yourself in a position where you can be a mentor to the next generation of technicians coming in.

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So I want you guys to truly listen to the next words that I’m going to say as best you can. Take it to heart; bad shops, bad dealerships and bad businesses do not deserve your high level talent. Go somewhere else that’s a better fit for you and that deserves your talent, skillset, your time, your life and your client base.

Go make it happen. I really want this to serve as a motivating factor for you.

Feel free to check out my video at https://bit.ly/2Pk9ENs and let me know your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you make a change. 

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