Volume 8, Issue 5 - September/October 2006

Side Lites
uest Opinion

The Technician Dilemma 
by Josh Brewer

If the information I have been collecting is true, almost everyone in our industry is hard pressed to find good help. One of my customers, Tim O’Mara of Cal State Auto Glass in Atascadero, asks me every time he sees me if I know of any technicians looking for work. Being a wholesale representative, if I can find my customer an installer it means increased sales at the wholesale level and a possibility to take more market share. I do everything possible to help find good help for my loyal customer base. 

Have you noticed that technicians are an endangered species? I have, and I have also noticed something that happens when the endangered species is aware they are getting special treatment. Many technicians know their employers have no where to turn. They also are aware of job offers that start the next day if they are turned loose.

If character is what a person does when nobody is watching, then what kind of character is resident in your staff? As the auto glass replacement industry has turned mobile during the past few years, it has become apparent that there is a shortage of fresh technicians and an increase in their autonomy. Let me pose a few “what ifs” to generate a little thought as a business owner or manager who hires and fires. Put yourself in the shoes of a technician and think about these questions.

• What if you didn’t feel like coming in to work on Monday mornings?
• What if you didn’t think anyone would notice a corner cut here or there?
• What if you needed to run a few personal errands and were driving by the place you needed to go on your way to your next install?
• What if it was too hot or too cold to work?
• What if you thought the work required of you warranted an apprentice?
• What if your wife, girlfriend or even a buddy knew you had time to meet them during the work day undetected?
• What if you didn’t think there was any system of accountability for your actions? 

Let’s look at it from another angle.

• What if it wasn’t the install or commute that took so long?
• What if that leaker wasn’t from a bad lot of urethane?
• What if that damaged glass wasn’t delivered that way?
• What if the reason two jobs had to carry over to the next day wasn’t over-scheduling?

Then there are the possible ripple effects.

• What if that lost customer was preventable?
• What if the wrecked fleet was from trying to make up lost time, time that was not lost performing work related tasks?
• What if the cell phone or two-way radio was actually working?
• What if your increased phone calls rescheduling and explaining away the reasons could be minimized?
• What if that faulty installation was the cause of death, and could have been prevented had the technician not been rushed?

I have seen problems including, but not limited to, these types of abuse. I think it is an epidemic and the economic impact is significant. (I know there are good technicians who do not fall into any of these categories and this would not apply to them.)
To find a point of remedy, I’d like to look at the “fixing broken windows” theory developed by James Wilson and George Kelling and published in The Atlantic Monthly. It goes like this, “Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.” 

I recently read a book titled The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It told the story of a New York City police officer named William J. Bratton who was inspired by the broken windows theory and applied it for enforcement as head of the transit authority in the 1990s. The outcome was a safer transit system, less criminals on the streets and a safer city. 

While I am not certain of the best solution to counteract the problems I’ve been discussing, I would like to offer another what-if scenario.

• What if there were more talented people entering the auto glass replacement industry?
• What if we recruited young promising prospects from high school industrial education programs and gave them an opportunity at a good career?
• What if they were placed with our model journeyman technicians who have proven to have good character to apprentice under them?

Wouldn’t it be good for all?

One company in California is doing an amazing job addressing this issue and getting paid in the process, Mike Caudill of Horizon Auto Glass is spending a concentrated amount of time with enrolled trainees that pay for training in his school. They receive a concentrated 10-day training that focuses on every phase and application of replacement. He teaches the tools of the trade, literally, with recommendations for the tools needed to be successful in the auto glass replacement industry. Go to www.horizonautoglass.com and see what one person is doing to help with the technician dilemma.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.