G&C uses a comparable home grown, in-house process that develops new hires and boosts sales. New estimators pair up with veteran writers and are marched through G&C boot camp, a rigorous months-long course where trainees work on multiple management systems. Crozat calls the training " fairly brutal," noting that only 50 percent of participants make it through. Those that fail usually do so, he says, because they either are unable to master the work or give up after facing the difficulties associated with a front line shop position.
The attrition is necessary to weed out less than stellar performers. "We only want our best people writing," says Crozat.
Training lasts 5-11 months depending upon how long it takes a graduate to meet the program's requirements. Those that do can earn $90,000 their first year. Mentors receive incentives in the form of a $2500 bonus for each graduate they help make the cut.
New techs likewise work with an experienced body tech who spends several months conducting training (techs and other employees additionally receive I-CAR instruction). Mentors here also earn incentives to turn out capable workers. G&C initially pays the new employee for the first three months. After that, they're on the "tech's dime," explains Crozat. By helping the senior tech be more productive, both workers bump their pay.
Crozat notes that a freshly trained tech can help a mentor make an additional $18,000 annually. "I tell them they can use that to max out their 401(k) and in 20 years have millions of dollars for retirement." he says.
This system ensures G&C maintains a talented workforce capable of sustaining its business trajectory. It's working out quite well as the family-run MSO prepares to open its tenth location with more growth in sight.
Maintaining the investment
Considering the rising costs of training, especially instruction provided by OEMs, shops are under increasing pressure to ensure that education remains under their own roofs. Some have responded by asking employees to sign contracts agreeing to stay with the business for a set period of time or reimburse the shop for the costs. Results for this practice have been mixed, say owners.
Some employees are more inclined to stay. Others believe they still can walk away from the deal with little fear of repercussions. "If someone does break the contract, you have to ask yourself if you're really going to go to the expense of enforcing it," says Perdue.
A better solution could lie in, appropriately enough, training. Training isn't simply about adding or honing technical skills. Owners and employees also have the opportunity to pick up new business ideas for reshaping a shop. Those changes can make a business a more inviting workplace that keeps employees around. That includes transforming it into an ever evolving environment where employees can test the limits of their potential. With that in place, there's little reason to take those hard won skills elsewhere.
Just something to think about over your next cup of coffee.