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Invest in Training Your Repair Technicians

Learn why repair shops need to invest in training their repair technicians, and how iTRG is providing this training.

Episode 144:  When running a successful independent repair shop, it’s not just about attracting top talent, you also need to develop entry-level employees into top talent. How important is training your staff? 

In this episode, we really dive into that topic and learn about why it’s so important to invest in training your repair technicians, and how the Independent Truck Repair Group is providing this necessary training.

John Stoeckinger, the President at Independent Truck Repair Group or iTRG, is a returning guest. You can learn more about iTRG in episode 35 and episode 47, and if you haven’t heard part 1 of this conversation make sure you go back and listen to episode 141 first.  

iTRG Logo. In this episode, learn why repair shops need to invest in training their repair technicians, and how iTRG is providing this training.

Guest Website: indtrg.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are 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.

Welcome back to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. In episode 141 last week, we discussed the importance of having a premium benefits and insurance package if you’re an independent repair shop and the role that that plays in retaining and even attracting top talent, but also in how it empowers independent repair shops to lower their total cost of operation and make them more competitive. Today we’re gonna continue that conversation with John Stoeckinger, the president of the Independent Truck Repair Group, or ITRG for short. And just for those who maybe haven’t had a chance to listen to last week’s episode, head back and listen to Episode 141. Today, we’re gonna talk about investing in training technicians and how that is so important for the independent service channel, because there’s a lot of competition and the dealers, they invest very heavily in providing a lot of tools and resources for their technicians, both on the repair side and the parts side. And of course, for the independent service channel, there’s been a real lack of resources available. So I’m excited to get back into my conversation with John, where we talk about the training programs that they’ve put together for repair shops, who are members of their group. And again, John is a returning guest, he was also on Episode 35 and Episode 47. If you wanna learn more about the Independent Truck Repair Group. So John, welcome back to the show. So glad to have you here.

John Stoeckinger:

Thanks Jamie.

Jamie Irvine:

Let’s continue our conversation. Last week, we were talking about the role of insurance and medical and how those resources need to be in place to help repair shops attract and retain top talent. But there’s another big piece to the puzzle and that is investing in training. So when you’re running a successful repair shop, how does training play a role in retaining top talent?

John Stoeckinger:

It’s a huge thing. Training is one of our most requested internal resources that we provide to our members, electrical being the number one. Electrical training in my opinion, we have the best in the country. We’ve trained over 1700 technicians and more to come. I mean, going into January, we’ll probably train close to 75 to a hundred technicians in January and it’ll be on the electrical side. It is the number one requested. The second most requested on the training is DEP aftertreatment, which we also provide. And we also provide HVAC and wheelend foundation brake training. All four areas are terrific, electrical being the most requested and quite frankly, I won’t reference their names, but we’ve had a number of the large dealership networks. I’ve gotten phone calls from them saying, would we be open to training some of their technicians because some of their technicians have come from our independent side, have gone into them and they’ve referenced how good our training is.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay, John, but you didn’t answer my question. How does that all of that training play a role in retaining top talent?

John Stoeckinger:

So if you’ve got your current technicians in place and you’re trying to retain them, training is super important, so maintain and reinvest into them because the employee’s gonna sit back, go, geez, this is great, my owner, my boss is reinvesting into me. The second thing is we can’t find technicians. So you might have a CB technician that you’re bringing in. He’s a great worker, a great employee, but doesn’t have the experience. We then provide that training to him. So you can take it through our current onsite training or we just, about three or four months ago, we introduced ITRG Training Academy and in the training academy, it gets into not only into the electrical piece into HVAC in depth, but we also have the training for the service advisors, your shop foreman, and then the owner itself.

Jamie Irvine:

John, let’s break that down and talk about that. So what I’m hearing you say is on the one side, when you invest in your repair technicians, you make them more proficient at things like electrical, HVAC, after treatment, this is a part of the retention strategy. It’s gonna make them stick with you longer because you’re investing in them. But then from there, you really want to grow your business and you want to be able to, if you’re the owner and you’re still on the tools, you wanna be able to get off those tools. So let’s, break down each one of these different training programs in the academy, let’s start with the service advisor training program. What will people learn when they take this specific course?

John Stoeckinger:

Especially on Service Advisor, how to communicate between the technician and the parts guy, how to communicate between the technician and the customer when he walks into the door. How do you approach the customer. Here the guy comes out of the truck, he’s got smoke coming out of the engine. You know, he is upset. He’s stuck. He’s probably got a load. He’s got another 200 miles. How do you approach him? How do you talk with him? How do you make him feel comfortable? But more importantly, how do you go through the very initial piece of making him feel comfortable as a customer, he’s come into your shop, taking those issues and then take it right to the technician.

Jamie Irvine:

So, John, what I’m hearing you say is that if you are an independent repair shop owner, and if you’re investing in training your people, making them more proficient, I mean that helps your shop, but it also makes them want to stick with you longer. Also, if you are now investing in helping them become more proficient on some of these other aspects of being a repair technician, like you said, communicating with parts, communicating with customers, when a repair technician is evaluating their current job with you versus going to someone else, they’re gonna wanna stick with you longer if you have these things in place. So that’s the piece where it really does help on retaining people inside of your organization. Is that the way you see it?

John Stoeckinger:

Absolutely. You know, at the end of the day, when you’re hiring somebody, they come into your shop, knowing that you’re willing to reinvest in them. That’s critical. The setup of your shop. I mean, one of the things we provide on our training is here’s the owner, he’s got a shop, you’re trying to bring technicians to recruit. What should your shop look like? What’s the proper procedure and format of where the tools should be set up in the shop? What type of business and operating system are you running to make it ease of access and accessibility to not only working with the customer in that truck, but how’s that reporting sent back to the back office to the service advisor and then ultimately to the owner? Those streamlining things make it very, very efficient internally. And as an independent shop, if you’re looking like the dealer, not to say we wanna look like them, but if that’s who we’re competing against, we have to be either be equal to or better than what they’re doing. And that’s what we’re to them today.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. 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.

We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about the integral role of training and in the investment in your repair technicians, in an effort to not only attract, but also retain those people longer and make your shop work better. John, we want some of our employees, not all of them, but some of them, if they have the inclination to progress in our organization, we want them to develop their leadership skills. So becoming a shop foreman was the first leadership role I ever had as a stepping stone to becoming an operations manager. And that really set the tone for my career. And I’m sure that in repair shops it’s very similar. That shop foreman role would be kind of one of those first steps in someone developing their leadership. So tell me more about the shop foreman training program that you’ve developed.

John Stoeckinger:

The shop foreman training program was kind of funny. With a lot of our members. They said, you know, uh, here, I’ve gotta put a shop, foreman him, we’re getting busy, busy, I’ve got eight days. I’ve moved to 15. I really need to put the right guy in there. And typically what our owners wanna do is go, I wanna get my best technician and put him right there in the middle of that and let him manage my other 12 or 15 technicians. That may not be the right decision. Even though he’s your lead technician, is he a good communicator? Does he work well with others in that shop? I mean, there’s a lot of things that you may wanna look at before you put that foreman in place. Once you put the foreman in place, now he’s worked out in shop, he’s been there for seven or eight years, he may not have the resources in place to understand how do I communicate now with those guys I’ve been buddies with now they’re reporting to me. How do I functionally put that together? What’s the right way to technically talk with my technicians out there. That’s one, the second piece that is now retaining that information. How do I report it to the president or the owner of the company? And those are critical things. So how do you measure that to make sure I’ve got the right person in place? And that’s what we do.

Jamie Irvine:

You’re really speaking to something I’m passionate about. So there is a massive difference between doing the job and managing the people who do do the job. Those are two completely different skill sets required. Now, some people start off as really good technicians and make even better leaders. But oftentimes that’s not the case because you know, if you’re a great technician, you’re probably very, very analytical and maybe you’re highly detailed oriented, but perhaps you’re not going to be the most social or you’re not gonna be the most articulate in how you communicate. And so if you have a great technician and then you take them out of that role and put them in a leadership role, like as shop foreman, all of a sudden you lose your best technician. And on top of that, if they’re not really built psychologically to do the job of leading others, then you create a big problem in your shop.

So evaluating your staff, making sure you identify like who is the best person to manage and to lead and who is the best people to do, that doesn’t mean that you don’t give them promotions or raises. And you don’t really give them a reward for being your best technician. It just might be an actual kindness to them to not push them into a leadership role. That makes a lot of sense to me. So as an owner, if you’re ever gonna get off the tools and if you’re gonna have your employees run your repair shop, or if you’ve got dreams of opening up multiple shops, you’re gonna need shop managers. That’s another level of leadership and management above the shop foreman position. So tell me about the shop manager program. What does it involve and how does it work?

John Stoeckinger:

We really get into KPIs, key performance indicators. That’s where you kind of get into, okay, here, I’ve got 10, 15 technicians. I’m beginning to maximize my shop. I may get into growth. How do I measure my people, really need to know what’s the productivity versus the efficiency of my shop. How do I measure that with the technicians? That’s one. How do I measure that with my internal administrative staff? What are some of the indicators? I understand what they’re doing, how they’re doing things, and then how am I bringing those resources together, that information and what am I doing with it? And that’s one of the things we do internally from a consultative standpoint. When you come in, we take a look at what your shop is, what it’s doing today. You want to put those KPIs in place and we provide that solution for you to understand exactly what your issue is today. And then put those KPIs in place that can better measure your company.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, those are so important in the long-term growth of a business, you’ve got to understand what moves the needle and once you measure something, you can manage it. And once you can manage it, then you can make, and continuous improvement is often the name of the game. So John we’re coming to the end of our conversation, what’s just one thing you want people who are listening today to remember about retaining and attracting top talent, because that’s an issue that’s not just for the independent repair shops, that’s for the parts houses, the manufacturing side of it. Really every aspect of the trucking industry is struggling with this. So let’s just leave them with one thing that they can remember,

John Stoeckinger:

If you can remember this one thing, and I’ve seen this with all our members today, it’s very tough to find talent. So it’s retain talent and bring new talent in. Onboarding is the most important thing you can do, you bring in a new technician. Roughly 50% of the new technicians that any of our guys hire leave within six weeks – within six weeks. That was a big, I never knew that. And the reason behind it was you brought them in and you didn’t have a proper process or onboarding procedure to let him know that, one he’s important and two, he’s not alone. And he has access to the resource internally within that company. You spent $5000 or $6,000 to bring him in, put a proper procedure onboarding process together to keep him and retain him.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with John Stoeckinger, the president at the Independent Truck Repair Group. Also known as ITRG. To learn more about ITRG and their training programs visit indtrg.com. That’s indtrg.com, links will be in the show notes. John, thank you so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report again.

John Stoeckinger:

Thanks Jamie. Appreciate it.

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