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Training as an investment

Does it pay to train?
Thursday, December 31, 2015 - 09:00
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First, I have a little disclaimer: I am an I-CAR instructor, so I have a positive attitude towards training, and my first I-CAR class was in 1987. Let’s just say the I-CAR of today just barely resembles the I-CAR of years past. If you send your techs, but you haven’t been to an I-CAR class in a while, stop in and sit through a class. More dynamic material, more challenging tests and a vast array of new technology to discuss all combine to bring a real learning environment. Even industry veterans can learn something new.  

I have found that essentially two types of students come to my I-CAR classes: those who ask, “Why am I here?” (I have to go) and those who say, “This is great—I am going to learn new things that will help me earn and increase my value. My company must care about me because they are investing in me” (I get to go).

With the first group, the “why am I here?” types, it can be a challenge to help them be open to the idea of finding the value. I actually had one technician tell me, “I am the best (in their role) and have been doing this for xx years. What can this class possibly teach me?” I was taken aback a little that anyone would consider themselves “the best” with nothing new to learn. I suggested that they were stuck here and committed to be there for the class anyway so they might as well relax, try and enjoy and just see what the class was all about. More on this later.

I didn’t want to include my own bias into this article, so I asked a variety of people in the industry for their thoughts and how they see training impacting their business and the business of their customers.

Ron Stazonni, the owner of D&R Auto Paint, a PPBE jobber in Omaha, Neb., has long been a supporter of training on all levels. I have joined Ron at many industry meetings, and can always find him either taking a class or two or leading/instructing a class or two. Ron now travels around the country and does jobber training.

When I asked Ron what he hears from his body shop customers, he relayed, “I’m regularly asked by my customers, why do some shops seem to be growing and my shop is flat or declining?” Ron’s observation: “One constant differentiator is always training.” 

Ron sees this as a sign of the times and elaborated, “We are in a world of instant gratification. If we pay for something today, we want results tomorrow. It’s difficult for many shop owners to see the long-term positive effects, the increase in profitability and the positive culture extensive shop training creates.”

I asked Ron for a real-world example to support his thoughts. “Any business will get the best results from training if you also measure results. As an example, I recently had a shop owner tell me the estimator training that he sent his office staff to has done nothing. He did not have pre and post measurements, but rather a gut feeling. Once we dove deeper into his labor sales, we found a 5 percent gain in sales. In this shop, that would result in an additional $42,000 per year in sales.”

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