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Creating a Pipeline of Techs with Employer Branding

Learn how your employee branding can help create a pipeline of techs who want to work for you and stay employed with you.

Episode 211: If you’ve been struggling to hire technicians for your shop, what strategies can you put in place to create a steady stream of new technicians?

My guest today is Jay Goninen the Co-Founder and President of WrenchWay.  

Jay Goninen is the Co-Founder and President of WrenchWay. In this episode, learn how your employee branding can help create a pipeline of techs who want to work for you and stay employed with you.

Jay is a returning guest, he was on HDPR Live # 63 where we talked about a retention strategy that helps shops keep technicians. 

Guest Website: WrenchWay.com.

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per -mile.

If you’ve been struggling to find technicians for your repair shop, you’re not alone. What strategies can you put in place to create a steady stream of technicians working for your shop? That almost sounds too good to be true. We’re gonna talk about that today. And my guest is a returning guest. I’m really excited to talk to Jay Goninen, the Co-Founder and President of WrenchWay again. Now, if you recognize his name that’s because he was on HDPR Live # 63. Last year, I’ve included a link in the show notes. You can go back and watch that even though it was a live recording, we’ve got it on demand for you. And if you wanna learn more about WrenchWay and what they do, that’s a great episode to learn about them and to really also learn about retention strategies, to help keep the technicians, once you get them, it working for you at your shop. So let’s get Jay on the show. Jay, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Jay Goninen:

Oh, it’s great to be back on again, love what you guys do and appreciate the invite.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, this is an important subject. I think the labor shortage issue is going to only get worse. It doesn’t just affect technicians. It’s drivers, it’s parts people. And really when you look across the whole globe, we do see that there are labor shortages in most industries. So it’s not like we’re just competing to find people for our own shop or even our own industry, we’re competing against everybody and things are getting more and more challenging. So beyond some of those global kind of like macro things like demographic conversions and things like that those are big global trends. If we bring it down to the shop level, why are shops struggling to find technicians?

Jay Goninen:

To me, I think it comes down to one really basic reason, and that is, they oftentimes talk about how much they prioritize their people, that people are the number one asset, but yet they don’t spend any time actually on their people, even the people in their business. But when it comes to recruiting and trying to go out and find people it’s oftentimes number one priority, but number 500 on their to-do list, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves and it really falls into, if anybody’s ever read the Emyth Revisited by Michael Gerber, he always talks about working on your business rather than working in your business. And I think that is one of the biggest takeaways that any shop listening could really improve their status with if they just spent some time on it and prioritized it and had their actions reflect what they’re saying.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, I had Michael Lee Gerber on my podcast called Build a Better Business, which I published before I started The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. And it was absolutely incredible to get to know him. I loved his books, he’s got a trilogy of books. If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to read them, you know, start with the Emyth Revisited, then read Awakening the Entrepreneur Within. And then the final one is Beyond the Emyth. Those three books are gonna revolutionize the way you approach your business. But I think you’re right, I think finding people and technicians is an important thing that needs to be done, but all of a sudden, all these other tasks that become maybe a little more urgent and need to be addressed today, creep in there. And to your point, it kind of pushes it down the priority list. And, you know, if you were looking for new business and you were dependent on finding a new customer this week, you’d probably pull out all the stops and put all that other stuff aside to go find a new customer to keep your business alive. But in reality, finding technicians is just as important. So if it’s an issue of prioritizing your time, what’s at stake if somebody doesn’t find enough technicians, I mean, you can probably make it work for a while, but eventually what’s gonna happen to your shop?

Jay Goninen:

I think what’s at stake is their sanity. We’ve been doing it this way for a long time. Right? And it does feel like our entire industry is just in a constant chasing their tail type of motion. They keep doing the same things over and over again, and expecting a different result, which if I’m not mistaken, that’s the definition of insanity and I think that’s where they get really frustrated is because they probably are really good at bringing customers in. They probably are really good at repairing the trucks once they’re in their bays, but they’re not that great at talent acquisition and retention. And it’s truly because they take their eye off the ball. They’re not looking at it. And one of the common mistakes that I saw, even when I was in a shop and running a shop, I think this was something that I learned from was that when you have a full staff of techs, it’s really easy to get lazy.

It’s really easy to just be like, Hey, you know what, we’re running great. Everything’s running great. It’s always gonna be this way. And then in my case one of our individuals got in a car accident and was out for nine months and it changes the dynamic of everything. And it’s when you find out that you’re not prepared, right? Because you think everything’s great and wonderful because you’re fully staffed, which not a lot of shops are right now but they’ll sit on their hands and get comfortable and then something happens. And I think the perception that you’re gonna get a technician that comes in and stays at your place of employment for a long period of time is inaccurate in some levels because I think, average millennial, non-technician is like four years.

Their average work stay is four years. I would argue that a technician might be less than that. And so I think being able to get a plan together where it is your number one priority, you are focused on it and really you have goals and objectives and things that you want to do. And really you know, something will talk about is building a brand that people want to go to, people like that is a destination. One of my first jobs was very much that way, where I had told people that I was working at this place and I had people come up to me and be like, how how’d you get in there? Like, what’d you do to get in there? I’m like, I don’t know. I just interviewed and I got the job. But you want that kind of reputation amongst technicians.

You want them talking about you as a great place to work. And that requires having your current staff be really, really happy and proud to work there and wanting to shout it from a mountaintop. Right. But it does also take that proactive effort to be able to show off your people when they are really happy. A lot of times we just, we don’t do that. And when we do that, or when we fail to do that, what ends up happening is you just blend in with a crowd. You just look like every other shop and shops are oftentimes frustrated because they’re like, well, all they want is more money. All they want is more money. And you’re like, well, you haven’t given them any other reason other than money to come work for you.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. So, you know, when you talk about shops, kind of all looking the same in the heavy-duty parts business, it’s very much like that. Like, especially when you’re trying to come up with sales and marketing messages to attract customers and you know that intuitively people think, okay, well, we want to tell people we’ve been in business for a long time. We want to tell people that we’ve got a wide range of products that they’re high quality products, they’re priced competitively. And we’ve got great availability and fast delivery. And of course, all of those things are important to someone who’s buying heavy-duty parts. But if everybody says that, those words become what I call invisible marketing, they literally become meaningless because that’s really talking about the barrier to entry to get into the parts business with repair shops. It seems to me like it’s the same thing.

It’s like, okay, you have a shop environment, you pay competitive wages. You know, maybe give them some flexibility in their work schedule. You provide them with some holiday pay and some medical and stuff like that. But like, isn’t that the barrier to entry to just getting an employee to come work for you, how do you go above and beyond that? And how do you change that messaging? I think that’s what we’re here to find out. Now we’re gonna take a quick break. And when we get back, I’m gonna get Jay’s answer to that question. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications. Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability.

Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. Okay. We’re back from our break. And before the break, I had posed the question to Jay about how we change the way that we talk about our shop, so that people see that we’re not just doing the minimum to provide them with a place to work. That we actually are a destination shop like he talked about. So Jay, what are people doing wrong? And how do we change that message so that we actually can show the things that go above and beyond like the barrier to entry to getting a technician.

Jay Goninen:

So in order to differentiate yourself, you have to have a story to tell, right? You have to understand why you’re different in the first place. I think a lot of times where shops go wrong is they just assume that they’re the same as every other shop. You know, there might be some things that maybe, you know, Hey our techs are way better than those ones down the road that the outside audience doesn’t really see that they just see that you’re a shop that’s very similar to the other shop down the road, technicians see the same thing, right?

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. Four walls, some bay doors, some tools, some guys who fix trucks or some guys and gals who fix trucks like y’all look the same to me. So what’s the difference?

Jay Goninen:

Well, and the difference is the stories they have to tell right? And I think when they start embracing that, that’s very much how we built our company here at WrenchWay was with storytelling, with getting comfortable in front of being in front of a camera and being able to kind of showcase who we are and why we care so much about this industry and the same thing’s true as shops. The more you can get comfortable being in front of a camera, uh, the more that you can do it consistently, I think that’s a big piece. I think a lot of people will create a video and it gets like five likes or five views maybe. And they don’t keep going. And they’re like, well, that kind of stunk like we didn’t get anything out of that. Well, you’re not going to, you have to build an audience.

You have to build people. You have to build an audience of people that wanna follow you and see what it’s like to work there. I’ve, I’ve talked about this a lot, but there’s a reason why reality TV shows are so popular and why, uh, some of the stuff, you know, some of the shows on TV, you see, and you’re like, well, that’s kind of just like what we do every day. Like that’s our jobs, right? Well, people are obviously fascinated with it because it keeps going and going and going. They’re able to sell lots of ads to be able to support it. The same thing happens in a shop and where a lot of shops go wrong is they’re only talking about the owners, right? They’re only talking about the accomplishments of the shop as a whole. And we fail to really look at that service manager, that’s worked his, or her way up the chain to get to where they’re at today.

Right? I think there’s so much value in those type of stories. One, you show that you promote within, promote from within, two, you show that young person that, Hey, that person came in there, they worked their tail off and they got to a place, right. They got to a place I wanna be at in 10 to 20 years. And so I think being able to tell those stories makes it really easy on a shop to be able to understand what type of content to come up with. We have a cool part of our platform that really prompts that and helps with that thinking. So a shop doesn’t have to think about what content to produce, but the important piece is that you’re building recognition. You’re building a reputation amongst the technician community, and that it’s not all, Hey, we’re hiring type of videos, right? That’s one major issue I see with almost every company is the only time they post about technicians is, Hey, we’re hiring, Hey, we’re hiring. Hey, we’re hiring. And it just becomes noise at some point, right? Like it’s just another thing that I’m gonna skip over and not pay attention to.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, and not only that, if the only time you ever post something is we’re hiring. It’s just like, when you’re trying to sell something, if all you ever do is post like buy for me, buy for me, buy for me, what you’re actually communicating is I’m desperate. Please buy from me. Or, oh my God, another person just left my shop and we need someone today. And if that’s all we ever see from you, whether we consciously think that, subconsciously that’s what the message is coming to us. And that’s why we’re ignoring it because it’s not relevant to the person who’s viewing the video. Right?

Jay Goninen:

Yeah. And there’s studies on marketing that talk about how you turn off your brain and because these big marketing companies, or these big companies in general got so good at marketing that your brain, the human brain is smart enough to be able to decipher what they want to look at, what they want to see. And so rather than having that, we’re hiring story out there, if that person had been watching you for six months prior to that, and you’ve been talking about the shop you’ve been open about, you know, I actually like, I’m a big fan of talking about things you’re struggling with because I think it helps make you a real person. And I think oftentimes we try to be too perfect with stuff. And when you’re, when you think about who the technician audience is, a lot of them are skeptical.

And if all you’re coming out with is, you know, trying to paint a picture that everything’s great and wonderful all the time. There’s no business in this world that’s perfect. Big, small does not matter. They all have issues. And I think the more authentic you can be when you’re talking in front of a camera, that’s when people buy into you, that’s when people trust you. And I think it’s so important for somebody to go to a place where they know the person that they’re gonna go work for, they know, like, and trust, right? Yeah, if you can knock those things out, and I think a lot of it, you can with video, assuming you’re a good person and assuming that you’re a good shop, you’re gonna have a lot more success.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. So I wanna make sure that I get this and maybe by doing a bit of review, we’ll give people like a hit list. So, number one, if you own a repair shop and you’re trying to get technicians to come work for you, you better be meeting the barrier to entry, meaning you gotta give them a solid place to work, right. You know, you want a clean shop. You want a nice work environment. Everybody wants that. You want to be paid regularly at a competitive wage. You want to have some benefits, like these are the barriers to entry. So you gotta get all that stuff right first. But assuming that you’ve got all of that, right. What I’m hearing you say is one of the best ways to create this pipeline of, of techs that are coming to your shop is by building a brand around the shop that would actually appeal and attract technicians. That’s really what you’re saying.

Jay Goninen:

It is 100% more of a pull type strategy than a push type strategy. Right? And if you get comfortable in the uncomfortable right now, you’re gonna put yourself ahead of so many other shops. And it is an awkward thing to do when we first started doing it on LinkedIn. When I first started doing videos on LinkedIn and even doing our podcasts and doing different stuff like that, it’s not stuff that comes natural to me. It’s not stuff that I get up in the morning and I’m like, all right, I get to be on camera today. No, I, I don’t like it, but I knew the impact that it would have. And it had a huge impact on our business and the ability for us to sell the ability for people to even know who we were. Right. We were a startup and being able to get people to even understand who you are, it’s the same principle with the shop.

It’s very much, get your face out there, get known as an expert in your field as somebody that treats their people well. And I think the struggles that you’ve currently got, it will change and it shifts. And one of the big things that I think we’ve noticed over the years is that so many shops view this as a transactional thing, right? They view it as I need one tech, I’m going to go find one tech. And in past years that used to work, you’d throw an ad on Indeed or prior to that, you would throw an ad in the paper or put a sign up and you’d have five people apply. Now, they can’t get people to apply. And so I think turning that from being a transactional viewpoint where you’re thinking about, how am I going to get that one technician, and then becoming super, super frustrated when you put that out on Indeed, and you don’t get any applicants rather than doing that, get ahead of it right now.

And even if you need a tech desperately, right now, it will help. But what you’re doing is building a long-term strategy. So the way that this looks today, isn’t the same way it’s gonna look in a year, right? It’s gonna take you some time to build that audience, but the more you can be proactive about it right now, the more you can get comfortable in front of a camera. And the more you can get comfortable telling stories about who you are, which I know these shops, they are passionate and they have pride in what they’ve accomplished and they should, because so many of them have accomplished. Awesome, awesome things. Get out there and talk about it. And, and don’t always just put a we’re hiring ad out there, like get out there and create a buzz about your shop. And you’re going to have a lot more success when you approach it that way.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? So get your house in order to start with, make sure you’re meeting those minimum requirements, with not only your shop, but the way that you compensate your people create. It sounds like you’re creating a culture here. And then you’re being transparent about that. And the great thing, what I’m hearing is is that even if you’ve got some holes you can actually be fixing some of this stuff and improving some of this stuff in real time. And by actually documenting that and making that available to people, that’s actually gonna attract the right kind of people to your shop. So you don’t have to be perfect to start. You can start and build this over time.

Jay Goninen:

So we do a topic of the month, each month for WrenchWay. And last month, it’s funny that you bring that up because this is one of our big things, is that we want you to promote and/or improve, right? So when we say that our topic of the month, last month was onboarding, and so you would be shocked, maybe you wouldn’t be shocked, but how many shops had called me up and were like, I’m not gonna lie, we suck at this, we are awful at onboarding. It’s something we need to improve. And so what we had done was built a bunch of guides out so that if they did stink at it, they could go out, have resources to be able to learn how to do it and get better at it. And what we wanted to do is have them solely focus on that one thing for the month, right?

And if you stink at it, get better at it and then make content about it. But if you’re pretty good at it, and you feel comfortable telling people about your onboarding process, maybe even what you think you could improve about your onboarding process, get out there and talk about it. People, I think people have empathy for folks because they’re in tough spots, everybody’s in tough spots. Like everybody’s got their own challenges, but the more you can get out there and talk about it and not act all insecure, like we all have flaws. So being able to go embrace those things, and really create that transparency, which a lot of shops are very uncomfortable with. If they can get comfortable in that space, I think, again, it’s going to be something that’s gonna move the needle for them.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s fantastic. And WrenchWay has tools available to help people to find technicians, to connect them. If you wanna learn more about that, we’re gonna make sure that there’s a link in the show notes for you. And we’ll talk about that in the outro. Just by way of concluding our conversation today, Jay, it sounds to me also like you can’t fake this. Like, if you wanna build a culture and you wanna build a reputation, you can’t put a bunch of stuff on video that’s not real. You’ve gotta be real. And when people come and they say, Hey, I watched your video and now I worked for you. And wow. It is exactly, as you said, that’s when the magic happens, because that’s when people start telling other people, they start saying, yeah, this place is awesome, watch this video. It’s just like the way that they said it. So you can’t fake it. This is about authenticity and building that real culture and systemizing your business in a way that it actually delivers on what your promises are.

Jay Goninen:

Yeah. And not only that, when that person is in there and happier, it’s probably because they’re a better fit, right. We’ve gotten into the habits of just hiring anybody that can fog a mirror, right? Like, and it’s because we’re desperate. We need to get the work out the door. And the only way to get the out the door is to hire more people. When you’re intentional about hiring and who you’re hiring, and I talked to a shop the other day, and this was one of the coolest conversations I’ve had in a long time. And he talked about how they started bringing in people that fit their culture. And the number one thing that they hired on was culture before technical aptitude, before anything else, they were hiring based on what that person’s attitude, aptitude were and being able to get them in and knowing that they’re a good person and that they’re gonna fit their shop shops that go out and, and paint a picture. That’s not realistic are really screwing themselves to be quite frank because that person, if they do sign up to come work for, you still has to come in the shop and work for you. So if you embellish something and they get in there and they’re like, like you said, well this is the opposite of that, this isn’t what you said, I don’t like this place. You’ve just created one. Somebody that’s going to talk poorly about you amongst their friends.

Jamie Irvine:

To everybody they know.

Jay Goninen:

And two, you’re gonna lose the employee because they’re not gonna stick around. And the fact that still happens blows my mind. But I mean, that goes all the way back to writing job ads and newspapers when people would embellish and what they were, and rather than doing that, take a step back and talk about, get comfortable with who you are. Talk about it. And if you have flaws, admit them, and if you don’t like, well everybody’s got flaws, but if you get comfortable talking about them and they’re not so egregious that, you know, you’re gonna put the business under people understand that people respect that. And the more you can just get out and document your journey. I think the more people know who you are, and at the end of the day, when you’re trying to create that pull type strategy for technicians, that’s what they want.

They want comfort level, that the reason they’re leaving the shop that they’re at is because of something, maybe they didn’t like their manager, which in most cases, I think that’s what it is. They don’t like the manager that they’re working for. And in some cases, they go to the next shop and the manager is very similar to the manager that they just left and they run outta hope. And when I say they run outta hope, they run outta hope that there’s anybody in this industry that can take care of them the way that they wanna be taken care of. And when you lose that hope, what happens is they’re not hopping from shop to shop, they’re leaving the industry together. So the importance of finding the right fit and finding the right personalities that can mesh and really putting together that team intentionally rather than just trying to reactively hire everybody is a total game changer for a shop.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Jay the Co-Founder and President of WrenchWay. To learn more about WrenchWay, go to wrenchway.com. Links are in the show notes. Jay, thanks for spending a few minutes with us coming back on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and talking about this important subject, we’ve got to do better because we cannot have people leaving the industry. We need these technicians, and I really appreciate you sharing your expertise on this.

Jay Goninen:

Ah, you’re the best. Thank you so much for having me on always a pleasure to join you. Always a pleasure to see all your social posts and everything out there. I’m a huge fan of what you guys do. So thanks for having me on.

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