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Education overhaul

2015 Top Shops put their own spin on training
Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 08:00
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The next time you're considering ways to upgrade your business, think about coffee, specifically Starbucks. The coffee giant generates over $16 billion annually selling a product that not long ago Americans would brew themselves for far less than the Seattle-based company charges. Starbuck's secret? There is none.

Volumes of business articles have explored how this coffee stop succeeded so spectacularly where others fell short. Many analysts fall back on Starbucks finding a new way to promote a traditional product. Chairman Howard Schultz, who purchased the original six stores in 1987 and took the brand nationwide, disagrees. His response: "Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people."

That includes training, both classroom and hands on, at every level, from shift managers who greet you at the door to district managers and farther up. At the store level, baristas are schooled on dozens of different drink combinations, along with every area of customer service. The goal is consistently providing customers with a quality product paired with a gold standard experience. This training has convinced millions of Americans to regularly drop $5 on a cup of joe they could make themselves, most times with pocket change.

Of course, repairing vehicles is far more complex than making coffee and therefore requires at least an equal devotion to training. Shops usually have access to a wide range of learning resources, from formal classrooms to online modules and hands-on, in-house instruction. With these choices come tough decisions of where shops would do best to put their training dollars and time. One terrific guide is following in the path of the 2015 Top Shops. These businesses climbed to the top of the industry using the resources available to most repairers combined with their own unique spin.

Traditional route: I-CAR
I-CAR sits at the center of the collision industry's training efforts and for good reason. It offers proven courses often not available anywhere else. Insurers have come to demand I-CAR training as part of DRP requirements. OEM certification programs, says Doug Trulock, owner of South Broadway Collision Center in Lexington, Ky., often require I-CAR gold classification and additional training. For example, he notes that Audi certification also involves attending special I-CAR classes, along with OEM training. That's critical for a Top Shop that works extensively with dealers.

Some shops incorporate I-CAR even further. D&S Automotive Collision and Restyling in Mentor, Ohio constructed its corporate headquarters with classrooms dedicated for I-CAR training. Vice President C.J. Paterniti says the setup not only keeps the training accessible, it also makes it more convenient. "Since the headquarters is near all our shops, employees can come over right after work, have refreshments while they learn and be home by 10 o'clock," he says.      

Other shops have present or former I-CAR trainers on staff. Jim Caron, manager of first time Top Shop winner Acme Auto Body in Leominster, Maine, previously taught welding and steps in at times in his own shop to provide instruction. 

Jim Guthrie, owner of multi-Top Shops winner Car Crafters in Albuquerque, NM, also taught welding for I-CAR. Car Crafters staff member Carl Peet is a current I-CAR instructor and teaches classes at the shop. Guthrie sits on both regional and national I-CAR boards, including the Inter-Industry Segment Advisory Council  (ISAC), which helps set the direction of industry instruction. Being this close to I-CAR has aided Car Crafters in making training decisions that have helped it add its fifth location in just the past two years.

(Photo courtesy of G&C Auto Body) Training programs can be designed not simply just to add skill, but to bring in additional employees to boost revenue.
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