By Andy Fiffick, Chairman and CEO MACS Worldwide, Owner Rad-Air Cleveland, OH
I always enjoy going to our convention to find old friends and meet new ones. It is truly an environment that fosters networking all day and night. This year (as in the past) I was asked to host a box-lunch Roundtable discussion group on the subject of “Employee Retention,” and I agreed.
As the people came strolling in after the first day’s morning session, I was glad to see that I had an almost full table of willing participants. After munching on lunch and introducing ourselves, we got down to brass tacks and found out that none of us really had an employee retention problem at all. We discussed our employee legacy plans and found out that we all were doing about the same thing for our employees and fostering a real family environment for them. For the most part, none of them were leaving unless it was to earn more money outside our industry.
Talk of wages and pay scales ensued and soon we were on the subject of the lack of young professionals available to us for entry level positions and apprenticeships. It appears that this problem is, at minimum, nationwide. Our discussion group of seven men came from every corner of North America, and we all had the same problem: the lack of good, talented, young employees!
After much thought and back and forth banter, we decided that there were several reasons that we could not attract bright young apprentices into our industry. Sure, we blamed everyone and everything: the economy, school systems, lack of will power, no work ethic, high cost of tools, systems becoming too complicated, and so on, and on, and on. But shortly, we were out of time and off to our chosen afternoon training sessions.
Needless to say, after a couple of weeks with this unanswered question floating in my head, it came to me—we have no one to blame but ourselves. The real truth here is that we do not pay our entry level employees enough to attract the brightest and best candidates into our shops and industry. In some cases, our seasoned staff is also underpaid by today’s standards, and they leave us for other industries. In a real world economy, if you want the best, you have to pay for the best. Like my dad always said, “You get what you pay for.”
Why should a mechanically-minded young person want to be a mechanic or technician? The vehicles are complex, you are never done learning, the hours are long, it’s hard work, it’s dirty work, you spend thousands on tools, and the pay is low. A person can work forty hours a week toting a briefcase of tools around to repair copy machines in an air conditioned office, and make more money then our guys and gals, not to mention becoming an engineer or other technical professional which even pays more.
The image we portray of our own industry needs to be upgraded. As an industry, we need to wake up and adjust our business plans so we can afford to hire the best people and keep our good people.
Every time we drop our price to match or beat the competition, we diminish our industry’s ability to raise ourselves up and demand the compensation for our employees and profit for our businesses. Every time we drop the price, we in turn train the public to think that it’s OK to ask for a discount. Every time we advertise a service for less then the fair and equitable price that ensures our profitability and survival, we diminish our worth in the motoring public’s eyes.
I see way too much advertising of loss leaders to attract customers into our shops – and then we complain that the motoring public doesn’t want to spend money. What should they think? We trained them to think that way. How are we ever going to attract good people if our image is tarnished and we offer low wages?
It may be best summed up by a quote from Robert Bosch: “I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.”
I urge the industry to look at their true numbers for operating their businesses and adjust their policies, procedures, advertising and business plans so we can raise our image and afford to pay our new employees what they are worth.
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.