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October Spotlight: The Shop That Knows How to Hire

The Shop That Knows How to Hire: Revolution Automotive Services, Inc.

Our October newsletter has focused on hiring and training; specifically, some of the issues the industry is seeing and ideas on how to combat those. For our shop spotlight this month, we’re highlighting a shop owner who has learned what it takes to hire and train effectively and used that knowledge to create a team and culture that seems to always be mentioned whenever anyone has hiring questions.

Meet Alan Symmes, owner of Revolution Automotive Services, Inc. Not only does Alan run an auto shop that is known for having some amazing employees and great team environment – he also focuses on giving back to the industry and making it a better place for everyone. Even his email sign-off offers connections and referrals for those looking to grow professionally! If that doesn’t tell you what a fantastic guy Alan is, his interview will. Check out what Alan had to say about his shop and how he’s implemented hiring and training processes to build a team focused on giving award-winning service:

Give a little information about your shop and background.

I live in Norwood MA with my beautiful and extremely supportive wife, Holly, and two daughters, Addison (5) and Hannah (4). I’m an ASE Certified Master Tech with L1 but my true passion now is for the business end of auto repair. I started Revolution after working 13 years as a technician and the last 7 of that managing another small Mercedes shop. Revolution Automotive is a German Car Specialist shop in Norwood, MA and I’m proud to say we employ the best of the best in our area offering nothing short of a “Revolutionary Experience for Every Client, Every Time”.

I opened the doors to Revolution in August 2012 with $12,000 I drew on our HELOC, the tools I owned at the time and a single bay I found to lease. We quickly grew into a 3-bay shop next door and then over the past 7 years have grown into a 7 bay shop with 5 employees, 6 loaner cars, factory scan tools and projected 2019 sales of $1.35 Million.

How did you create your finding, hiring, and training processes?

Training classes. I had no idea of how to create a process or even that I needed one to onboard effectively. I learned all of this in training. I met Cecil at a training seminar he taught in Boston and it was at that point, I realized how little I knew and how much I needed to learn if I was going to be successful. Once I had some knowledge, it was practice, practice, practice followed by trial and error. I put systems into place and when they failed, I learned from them and adapted to improve. This took a few failures to achieve but well worth it in the end.

What shop/team success do you contribute to having a system set up for hiring and welcoming new team members?

I have seen success in viewing the hiring/onboarding process as a ‘marketing campaign’. In marketing, I create an ‘avatar’, the ideal person we want to do business with. I do the same in creating an ad for a new team member. I write down who I want, what I am seeking in them and then figure out what would this person be attracted to. What do they want? Where do they want to work? What do they seek in a new position? What is going to appeal to them? I can now design an ‘ad campaign’ to cater to that individual. This process has greatly improved the quality of candidates I received in recent hires.

In addition to the ad, I have stepped up the interviewing process. I don’t make a decision after one interview. We have a phone interview, in-person interview (with myself), a team interview (with the team only, I am not present) and then the offer meeting.

Now, once hired, we train, train, train. I can’t stress this enough. Proper training is SO incredibly key to the individual’s success in your company. We just don’t do that enough in this industry. You don’t see large companies just putting the body in place and expect them to figure it out. I train them and oversee them for a minimum 1 week before they ever start to do the job on their own. But this training continues for the first year and all training is followed up on monthly to ensure the progress is being made. They also have a job description that we go through like a checklist to make sure they understand how to do everything that is expected of them.

Bonus Tip – I have not executed this yet, but some shops are having success with recruitment videos. Have a professional put together a video that you can use in your recruitment to appeal to potential candidates.

What do you think is the most important thing to look for when hiring a new employee?

Attitude trumps aptitude every time. I think your candidate needs to understand your culture and be inspired by it. If they are getting excited about your company culture and your company vision, then you likely have the right person. That person is going to be working towards the same goals you have set.

If you could give one piece of advice to a shop owner about hiring and training, what would it be?

Educate yourself and start networking with other like minded, successful shop owners.

 I know when I was a new shop owner, if you asked me about my ‘onboarding process’, I’d have told you, “What!? Can you fix these cars? You’re hired.” I thought it was a joke. Big companies have ‘onboarding processes’, I don’t need that in my little shop. Well, BS!!! After attending training seminars and networking with other successful shop owners around the country, I realized how important this really is. I’ve also learned how important it is to your new hire.

If they are coming from another, larger company (dealer, or another industry), and you present them with a well thought out process, a vision for the future and growth potential, an employee manual and a job description, etc., etc., etc.……..These things give them confidence and peace of mind. They may be nervous to leave the security of a large company to work at a small business. But if they can work at a small business where they have the pay and benefits, they need plus a projected future and be part of that growth process, now that’s appealing! That’s what will get them in your door! And that’s what will have them buying into your company culture and your vision!

One last tip- It can be uncomfortable doing things differently and maybe not feel right at times. But I can assure you, “Success is Achieved OUTSIDE your Comfort Zone”. So, let’s get uncomfortable!

It’s no wonder that Alan and his shop are always brought up whenever a shop is looking for some good hiring and training examples! The Institute has loved working with Alan and is grateful that he took the time to answer some of our questions for October’s shop spotlight. You can find more information on his shop’s site here and send us a message or contact us below if you have any questions!

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