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Technician shortage is a term we all hear when it comes to staffing a smooth shop operation. Many businesses struggle to find the skill level they are looking for. Multi-location owners, in theory, face the problem with even more impact. Dan Garlock found a solution, which leverages the economy of scale of a multi-location shop and is a very unique approach with amazing results for his shop operation. Join Bill, Uwe, and Dan to learn what approach he’s taking and how it has paid off.

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated using Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you notice an error, please contact [email protected].

Bill Connor (00:06):
So good morning, afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you’ve reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio where we gather on Wednesday. It’s at 12 o’clock central for our panelists to share some wisdom with you about the automotive industry. Today I’m here with Dan Garlock, owner of Silver Lake Auto, multiple location owner been with us here before. He’s going to share some information. And we also have Krista Oldenberg, the recruiter for his shop plus AutoVitals’ founder Uwe Kleinsmith. Join us for a discussion on the technician. Shortage is a team that we hear really often when it comes up.
People have opportunities for creating staff for smooth running shops. Many businesses kind of struggle to find a skill level. They’re looking for multi-location owners. In theory, they really face a problem on an even larger scale. So Dan has found a solution which leverages the economy of scale and it’s a very unique approach with some amazing results for a shop operation. So far as onwards, teamwork is required in the shop to provide great results and you’re going to take away some tips today for staffing a smooth shop operation. As always, you’ll learn from our guest panelists operating shops just like yours. So if you wouldn’t mind, how about you go ahead and get us started off on a path to go ahead and try and drag some information out of Dan.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:28):
First of all, I want to welcome both of you. It’s a pleasure. I’m really interested and for full disclosure, I talked to Dan about this already, so that’s why I’m so excited about it. But let’s take a few, I don’t know, years back maybe technician shortage is a term I have heard. I don’t know in the last five years for sure. But then I started getting to know people like Dan or Brian Bates or John Long, and they said we don’t have a technician shortage. And then I said, what? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. And then when I started digging more, it seems like, and then correct me if I’m characterizing that wrongly, that shops who especially see a technician shortage are on the hand of what I would call a workhorse producing ours. Whereas the new type looks at the technician as a staff member and not just executing a particular task. So they’re a team member, they’re part of the decision making, and all of a sudden the recruiting of this kind of skillset changes the profile. What you’re looking for
Dan Garlock (03:10):
That’s heavy, that’s heavy Uwe
Uwe Kleinschmidt (03:14):
Make it easier.
Dan Garlock (03:16):
Yeah, well, I mean it’s one of those things if you identify a problem in your organization, if you focus on it and you try some different processes or try some things, it’s a process of elimination, right? Until you finally get it right and figure it out. And we’ve gone through those too and we’ve, our progression, we really had a mindset of growing our own technicians for the longest time of bringing ’em in when they were fairly green and growing ’em through the organization. We put the processes in place to allow that to happen and we got great results doing that. It’s slow and it’s hard. It takes a lot of time. And today in the rate that we want to grow our organization, we can’t just rely on that only. It took us to a point and now we’ve kind of capped that out. So we need to start fishing at some other pounds.
And so we brought Krista on earlier this year to kind of shore up some of our social media and we created some tactics in our social media to really engage with our customer audience in a different way. We really wanted to do a different one, engage with them differently. And as we saw some of the challenges of our growth is finding that talent or somebody in the chats at Unicorn or that experienced technician to bring it in here. We needed to find a way to connect with that audience out there where they’re at too. And through some of our searching and some of our researchers, we found that we can really engage with them differently through LinkedIn and we can actually start getting some experienced technicians and they are out there. And when we first started this, what did we find Krista in the greater Milwaukee metro, there was like 2,500 technicians in Milwaukee market alone.
I only need like four. So give me the four best that want to be aligned with us and let’s engage them differently. So that has been our approach and there’s a lot more details and meat into that we can discuss, but we really decided we were going to focus on this. This is why we brought Krista on to focus on this and this only, this is a big part of her role at Silver Lake Auto and it is a full-time role because they aren’t running to us. They used to, they’re happy where they’re at, they’re pretty well taken care of. Organizations have figured out that culture is very important, so they don’t really move a lot, but every once in a while there’s somebody looking for something different and we want to be able to be there in front of them when they are.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (05:55):
So trial and error you’re saying was the process?
Dan Garlock (05:59):
Well, I mean over the years, I mean we used to look for technicians on Craigslist and that worked for a while and we did that and it worked for a while. It got us to a point, we started growing our own technicians. It worked for a while. Got us to a point, and it’s not maybe an error, but we’ve fished that pond dry indeed, some of the other larger recruiting companies out there. We’ve tried those things and they’ve worked with limited success. So we’ve gotten as much out of ’em as we can and we need to start going in other places. So I think it was a constant measuring or just kind of stepping outside of it and looking, is this still work? Is this still a whole water or not? Do we need to try to find other places? And if it’s not like we were feeling earlier this year that we had some gaps in our organization, we need to go engage that and find it and set a new target on our radar.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (06:55):
So what were the symptoms for those gaps? When did the flag go up? We have to do something different.
Dan Garlock (07:06):
Well, when we were booked out two, three weeks this year, we were always an organization that was drop it off, we’ll get it back to you today. We always call it EOD end of day. We had a smart tile that was EOD end of day and now the customers are calling us and I’m sorry, I can’t get you in for a couple of weeks. And that doesn’t work today. And everybody else out there, I mean a lot of people are out there are like that right now because of their production capacity is at its limit. And we were getting some reviews, some Google reviews that were saying that you used to be able to get in the same day. Now I can’t now I got a call three weeks. I didn’t want our customers to go through that pain. And we started seeing some plateaus in our business from a revenue standpoint.
Our O’Connell location was plateauing out, it was stuck. And every technician is basically responsible for minimally $15,000 worth of revenue a week. And you start doing the math on that when you start having a couple spots open, when the business is there, the car count is there. It doesn’t take a lot of math for you to determine that, hey, we need to probably hire somebody to solve this problem costing us every day. It’s costing us every week, it’s costing us a heck of a lot of money. We need to solve this now. And with four locations and hopefully growing into more, we have to have this process down if we want to grow.
Bill Connor (08:28):
So Dan, you mentioned your dollar rate per technician. So what you’ve done is you’ve maximized your current staff, so they’re at their maximum production. So when you’re bringing somebody else in, it’s no threat to them either?
Dan Garlock (08:42):
A hundred percent. Yeah. I mean, we’re running the high nineties for technician productivity inside of here. There’s nowhere to go. And when you have a backlog of two, three weeks, there’s tons of opportunity that we can add onto. So we have to start looking at our organization and the capacity of our buildings is the capacity of our building at the same level as the capacity of our production team and the production and the capacity of our sales team. All three of those have to be at a hundred percent. And once we get to that building capacity, then we got to start looking at being more creative and how do we use that resource of the building more creatively, having different shifts or overlapping shifts to get more production time available out of our building. Those are some of the things that we’re talking about right now for 2023 and beyond. But right now we’re trying to match this building capacity with our technician capacity and our sales capacity and meet the demand that our customers are expecting of us, which is, I don’t want to wait two, three weeks. I would like to get in there in the next day or two and get my car back.
Bill Connor (09:52):
Does the fact that you’re actually managing your shop using the data and helping maximize your crew you already have there, does that mindset help you when you’re actually recruiting additional staff members?
Dan Garlock (10:05):
Well, yeah, I mean, yeah, I’m a data guy. I mean, I like looking at the data. I don’t want to get stuck in it too much. I mean, I don’t mind making some seat of the pants decisions too along the way, but it’s always nice to have some of that data when I’m seeing our revenue plateauing and I’m seeing running some of those capacity drills, I see where the opportunity is and then now I’ve created something to focus on to try to solve it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (10:31):
Dan, before we go more into detail, would you mind sharing some metrics for shops, maybe number of techs, number of salespeople, just so everybody gets kind of a,
Dan Garlock (10:46):
Oh boy, we should have prepared for this meeting, I guess. So we have four shops. We’re going to do roughly around 10 million in revenue. We’re right under 50 employees and boy, I think we’re up to 20 something techs and probably 10 advisors, a bunch of support staff from Krista marketing, recruiting to HR now and operations. Matt Krista’s husband, Matt is our operations. He’s been on here before and some general managers. So yeah, it’s becoming an animal. It’s a big small business right now. Anyway.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (11:29):
Thank you. So Krista, Dan approached you and said what?
Krista Oldenburg (11:38):
Well, it was more of a side conversation that we had at the company. The company get together for the end of the year awards and I just said, I’ve noticed that your social media presence isn’t that well. And so from there, that has really grown into, first I was brought on to primarily do social media and then Dan noticed something that was happening for metrics and connecting with people and then being the professional extrovert that I am and that he needed on his team. He said, well, would you be interested in taking on the recruiting piece as well? So those side conversations always lead to something great with Dan.
Dan Garlock (12:18):
And you
Uwe Kleinschmidt (12:20):
Were embracing it from the very first minute.
Krista Oldenburg (12:23):
Yeah, you know what, I grew up on a family farm, and so my husband’s been involved with Silver Lake for almost 10 years now. And so being able to have some certain skills that could benefit them, I saw it as a natural fit and having that knowledge of the company and kind of the players who are in the organization, our current team members with their personalities and the fit and things like that. So yeah, it’s been a fun little, not project because it’s what I get to do, but it’s been a fun new chapter of my life for sure.
Dan Garlock (12:59):
And then
Uwe Kleinschmidt (13:00):
Dan said, we need four new technicians by next week.
Krista Oldenburg (13:03):
Dan did not say that, but I am very ambitious. So I said, where’s your strongest need and let’s go after these guys.
Dan Garlock (13:14):
So Krista has always been very good at telling me do better. And I was hearing her, I was listening to her say, do better. And we were also watching some of our team members get stressed too, and I think we were through some of our surveying. I saw them getting stressed out and Krista experienced it firsthand and we started digging into why are they stressed too? And they had a lot on their plate. Our service advisors don’t like telling customers three weeks. Technicians don’t like being that stack behind. They like being busy, but they don’t like being behind. It creates that anxiety and that stress for ’em. And we had to solve before we could go out and we can just go and just recruit all these people out there, we had to make sure our culture was strong inside of our organization. And that’s where Krista was really challenging me to be better at that area too, because not only is she that professional extrovert, but she engages in those conversations.
She’s also kind of like the shop mom. So she gets involved in a lot of those conversations where they are comfortable saying, Hey, we should look at doing some of these things and then we can actually put it to a real process in place. So I think that that was part of the nexus of it too. And then I was looking into LinkedIn talent solutions and I realized that if we were going to do this right, that I couldn’t just do this as when it fit into my schedule and I needed somebody to really focus on the talent solutions side of our organization. And that’s when I engaged her with, Hey, I need help with this and you’re really good at reaching out to people. What do you think? And she said, only if we do bagels with the boss every other week. So we go from bagels only if you buy me a bagel every other week. I said, alright, fine.
Krista Oldenburg (15:12):
If you watch Ted Lasso, it’s always biscuits with the bus. So we just put a spin on it for America.
Dan Garlock (15:18):
I don’t like biscuits, I need bagels.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (15:20):
Oh, I see. So Issa, I mean LinkedIn is an animal. I don’t think a lot of shop owners think of first. I would not, but I’m not running a shop. I would look for software engineers on LinkedIn. So how did that come about and what steps have you guys taken?
Krista Oldenburg (15:45):
Sure, sure, sure. Well, I think backing up a little bit, even just thinking about maybe LinkedIn is a new beast, which we will certainly get into, but with LinkedIn or with Facebook and Instagram and TikTok and YouTube, really thinking about your workplace and your company as an organization, as a product and your consumer are those potential employees out there. And so whenever you put on that marketing hat of your workplace, of your culture of your organization, it really allows you to start connecting through a human aspect with those potential people. Because in this day and age, people are looking for something different. They do want to be a part of something bigger and better and they do want that quality of life. And so really using those hot points through your social media campaigns is going to be a really great way to connect with the audience.
And maybe it’s not a technician that is watching your customer page on social media. But a perfect example is our new technician, Kyle, his family, his wife’s family has been customers forever from the Oconomowoc area, which is where our flagship store is. And he said he’s always known about Silver Lake Auto and then he found us on Indeed. And so it’s those people who are out in the community. They may be customers, they may know us from a chamber, but then when they see that we have a job opening, they may be referring people to us as well. So always thinking of your workplace and your organization as a product itself and showcasing it that way. Cool.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (17:29):
And did you tap into technician networks? I mean either social media or IATN comes to mind?
Krista Oldenburg (17:40):
No, probably because I don’t know about that stuff. I see
Uwe Kleinschmidt (17:44):
Dan Garlock (17:45):
Purposely doesn’t know about that stuff,
Krista Oldenburg (17:47):
Purposely, dunno about those things. My goal is to be a human and so my background is higher education, corporate and direct sales. So Dan hired me for human to be a human in that regard. I don’t speak like automotive. So with that changing gears now I’m looking at LinkedIn, that’s where really we saw an opportunity to go after the automotive professionals that are progressive. Dan, we all know that Silverlake Auto loves to be progressive and an industry disruptor. So we wanted to go with those people who are like-minded in terms of potential employees for service advisors and technicians. So I personally was surprised at how many were out there. Again, with my background being in more of higher education and corporate. But it’s really cool to see how much automotive industry is growing on LinkedIn and what’s available out there as well.
Dan Garlock (18:46):
Yeah, so let me add that a little bit, Eva. So LinkedIn’s a professional network, it’s made for professionals, right? Yep. We’re in a professional industry, which I think we’ve been talking about how it’s been shifting over the last 10 to 15 years of being the grease monkey. We’re in a professional industry. So those professionals that we’re all looking for, that’s where they’re all communicating now. They’re hanging out on LinkedIn and they’re engaging in conversation through LinkedIn. Now we need to be able to reach them somehow. I mean just because there now how do you engage them and how do you reach them is the question. So that’s where we reached out to LinkedIn Talent Solutions and we met with their team there to talk about what’s possible, how does LinkedIn envision that their platform should work? And LinkedIn typically you can only get to people within your chain of three, right?
It’s a link right? Through the subscription based stuff that we have through the talent solutions, we can actually break that link and go beyond that. So we can just start doing some searches in the greater Milwaukee area for technicians and we can connect with them and we can send them messages and invite them to engage with us in a conversation, whether that’s through a direct conversation. We actually, Krista took and built what’s called a life page on our LinkedIn page. Life page is there, it’s to it’s that ZO, that zero moment of truth where people do their research about your organization before they make that decision. And the life page is there to talk about Silver Lake Auto near culture and for us to introduce our culture of our organization, not just from what Dan says it is, but also all of our team members that are on LinkedIn.
So from our general manager and operations guys, the technicians to the concierge people, porters, everybody has, Chris Krista has worked with every single one of them to help them build up their LinkedIn page, not so that they can go and get chased after by the other auto shop. It’s so that they can build themselves up and have a professional being part of the professional network. And through that life page, you can then connect with all of our people and you can see our people and see what they’re talking about and see what they’re posting about. And you can really quickly see from that candidate that we’re engaging in, this is a community at Silverlake Auto is a community and the culture is that we’re growing and we care about each other and that we are a disruptor in the industry. We don’t do the things that normal auto shops make the mistakes of with crappy comp plans and horrible hours and treating people like their worker bees.
We can start engaging ’em that way. So they start doing that and then they start dreaming about what it would be like to work there, why this seems like a really great opportunity. And then we can actually engage ’em in a face-to-face conversation and start talking about what’s possible. So they’re actually, if we doing it right, they’re actually self screening for us because we’re so vocal about what our culture is. We’re not getting the person who’s just looking to come in and get a paycheck because they’re going to quickly realize that I’m not going to fit here if I’m a flat rate tech and I just want to work on my bay with my head down and bill out 60 hours, I’m not going to work at several. I’m not going to fit at Silver Lake Auto. So it helps us with our hiring towards our culture and our core values by being able to share that message strongly and get the right candidate in here. And there’s a lot of nuts and bolts to that as far as how we do that through engaging them. But that’s the main goal, is to share what we’re really about and have them self screen and dream a little bit about what it could be like. And then if this is a dream that we could possibly facilitate for ’em, then let’s talk.
Bill Connor (22:36):
So for a shop owner that’s listening today, you’re asking them to go ahead and build a life page for their employees. If they have a fear to have their employees to do that, it sounds like they need to go ahead and get their house in order first.
Dan Garlock (22:47):
Well, you can’t hire until your culture’s right? So it’s like going out and throwing a bunch of money at marketing, but you’re three, four weeks behind what a waste of money. It’s the same thing. You have to have your house order a hundred percent bill. You have to have your culture down and because what actually happens is your people become your biggest advocate and your biggest voice out online and that could be good and that could be bad. So you want to make sure that they’re representing your company and it is legitimate and they really, really love working for your company because a lot of those connections come through their connections that they may have had when they went to tactical college or somebody else that they worked with or somebody they met at a car show. And when they’re sharing about the opportunities and the things that are going on in their day, that’s a much more powerful voice than, Hey, check out this ad Silverlake autos hiring today. They’re already promoting you from within and then you can start getting the momentum behind you for doing a lot of interviews, which Matt’s been doing a ton of interviews and it’s been wearing ’em out, but it’s a good problem to have and because your people become your best promoter, so a hundred percent Bill, do not spend any money or do not do this until you’re ready. And that life page is actually, it’s our life page. So auto has life page, but the people have their own LinkedIn profiles.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (24:21):
And can you Krista, how many people had a LinkedIn profile before
Krista Oldenburg (24:28):
It was limited? I would say maybe 25% would be a generous number or maybe they’ve had it, but they had their junior year prom picture as a profile picture, some of those. So it’s been fun working with them and to get the team members to realize that there is this professional space of networking and that they can really help to connect with other people and follow the companies that they care about. Maybe they’re going to learn about a new piece of equipment or can we do have some female service advisors? So being able to connect them with the women in automotive groups, they’re finding that connection piece. And with that LinkedIn, the subscription that we have, we have something that’s called my company tab where only Silverlake auto employees can go in there and start communicating. And so really looking forward in the next frontier, the next phase of LinkedIn is utilizing that so people can start sharing, Hey, I learned this from this company that’s launching this new product. Or hey, there’s a conference out that is being promoted that they want to attend and really showcase the value of putting yourself on there.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (25:45):
And your leverage made everybody do that easily or was there,
Krista Oldenburg (25:54):
There’s some slow adapters, but I’ve been really pleasantly surprised. I mean Robert is a great example or Dave who is not on any social media platforms, whatever, and then he was the first one to be like, Hey, this is great. He’s like, I’d love to connect with some people from my old shops or whatever. So just explaining it in terms of everybody’s favorite radio station is WIFM, what’s in it for me? So really speaking it in their terms and showcasing the value. And I say don’t just put work stuff. Put your other interests on there so that you get excited to go on there.
Bill Connor (26:37):
What is the shop culture that you can define that actually helps attract unicorns? So what are the things that a shop should be thinking about in their own operations before they start trying to attract these key people in?
Dan Garlock (26:54):
All right, so I can’t define that, right? That’s not mine to define. That’s my people’s define. I can tell you what my people like. My people like to have luxury of focus where they’re focusing on where they’re going. They don’t like being pulled in many directions. So I saw one of the questions earlier is having your master technicians groom young technicians, they don’t necessarily like that unless that’s their focus and their focus only. So that’s my people want luxury of focus. So we have a singular foreman who is not responsible for production, but he is responsible to grow and develop the technical team in their technical knowledge and their proficiencies. So our people like luxury of focus. They also really like opportunity to grow. So they want to see a long runway in front of them where they can grow from all the steps and potentially be a foreman or be a location manager, whatever it may be.
Our people love work-life balance. I think that that’s kind of universal these days. Work-life balance is very, very important to people and we have to figure that out and make sure that that’s constantly a moving target and what that may look like and that we’re meeting ’em where they need to be met. Our people also love communication, internal communication inside of our organization, meaning regular one-on-ones talking about what is on their agenda, not what’s on my agenda. They want to be heard and then we have to be able to communicate back to ’em what we heard and what we’re going to do. So I think that’s a great question. I would think that it would be one thing, what I would want, just let me work and leave me alone and get out of my way, right? uva, I think you’ve experienced that, but that doesn’t mean that your culture is necessarily your team that necessarily values the exact same thing.
So it’s really about engaging them with what they value. What are your organizational values that are not negotiable for your organization and talk to the team about that to figure out what that is and let them establish the culture and communicate it to you and then you facilitate that culture as long as it’s in line with ultimately where you want to go, which I would be careful of that because there are some people that can steer your company and in a way that just doesn’t work. But then you got to maybe work on your herring and get some alignment there, but don’t dictate it. Facilitate it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (29:42):
I have three questions going into some details. If your techs have a LinkedIn profile that opens up to competition. No fear, I assume on your end because culture dominates,
Dan Garlock (29:57):
Right? We
Uwe Kleinschmidt (29:58):
Want, if they want to leave, let them go, right?
Dan Garlock (30:01):
Well, yeah, I mean maybe let ’em go. It depends on who they are and it’s a great opportunity for me to learn if there’s something out there that engages them or reaches them in a deeper level than what I can provide. I don’t ever want to stand in the way of that. Go run it as fast as you can. But if there’s something that I’m missing and I have not delivered on, that’s something that I promised on and now somebody has promised that to them, I would love to have that brought to the table and to figure out is that something that I want to deliver on or So yeah, we talked about this when Krista was building everybody’s LinkedIn pages. It was like, well, all right, let them know we’re not doing this so that you can just bail ship. We still want to communicate and we have that conversation with them, but we have a great team right now. There’s nobody in this organization. I want to see leave and we are making them more desirable to the market. But isn’t it our job?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (30:58):
Dan Garlock (30:59):
It’s our job to make them more proficient in the market. That’s that saying of what if I invest ’em, they leave. What if you don’t? Then they stay. We’re going to invest in ’em until that next opportunity arises for each of us. But don’t leave. Don’t leave now
Uwe Kleinschmidt (31:19):
And thank you. Next question, payment structure, a foreman, is he salary? Do you go to that extreme or how do you do it?
Dan Garlock (31:32):
So we’re in a redesign of our compensation plans right now and we had a long meeting on it this morning. Our foreman will be paid very similar to service advisors and in our organization, service advisors are 80% of their salary, 80% of their compensation is a base, right? It doesn’t move. This is what it is. This is where you go 20% or 15%, somewhere around there can vary depending on performance. And it’s a team based performance. It’s not an individual performance, it’s a team performance. We do this for a lot of reasons
Uwe Kleinschmidt (32:14):
In addition to the base.
Dan Garlock (32:16):
In addition to the base. So their total W2 80% of it is salary base, 20% of it is variable based off of performance team performance team
Uwe Kleinschmidt (32:27):
Dan Garlock (32:29):
So our technicians are almost the same way. They’re paid hourly, like a traditional hourly that you get back in the seventies, not flat rate but an hourly and 80% of their compensation is based off their off of that. And then the other 20% is based off of their labor dollar production, not their hours, but how much labor dollars they produce and they get bonused off of that. Don’t a lot of things I could talk about. This would be a whole conversation, but I don’t ever want the compensation plan to be the motivator or the authority. I want the compensation plan to be just not even a thought. I want them to get to their W2 that they want to get to at the end of the year and have them looking long-term, not looking at what is this job going to pay? How can I break this labor time to make it fast and I’m going to do whatever shortcuts or whatever I need to do.
I don’t want that to be the manager of my organization. That’s what we have people for. And ultimately at the end of the day, you’re going to manage performance anyway. You shouldn’t let the comp plan manage performance. Secondly, I don’t want them to have big fluxes and big movements in their compensation. I want them to be pretty consistent paycheck to paycheck because we know technicians when they have big swings in their compensation and advisors that they become very moody very, very quickly. And that disrupts the organizational culture that we’re trying to build. And that’s one of those things that we said, if it’s going to get in the way of organizational structure, organizational culture, we’re going to abolish it. We’re not going to have it. But we still want to have a performance side of it to reward when things are going really well, which is what they’re doing right now. But really what we focus on Uwe is where does your W2 need to be? Does the market support it? And then we target their W2 and their compensation plan through that. And we don’t build a compensation plan that can facilitate nasty culture or too much of a focus on the comp plan. We don’t want people making decisions based on their comp plan, make the right decision.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (34:37):
So how often do you do reviews then with each individual
Dan Garlock (34:42):
Compensation reviews?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (34:43):
Dan Garlock (34:44):
Well, trial and error, right? We were doing annual, that doesn’t work anymore. So now we’re doing quarterly reviews and every individual gets one-on-one time every week. And they bring three things. They bring three things of their agenda to meet with the manager. So if one of their things is compensation, let’s talk about it. But typically it’s not compensation, it’s something else. So that’s their opportunity to bring that up. But we go through ‘EM quarterly. We do larger compensation adjustments, probably semi-annually right now. But on the other hand, if we’re going to hire somebody off of LinkedIn that’s coming in here and we have to pay them market value, I’m not going to keep my other people below market value. We’re going to make an adjustment in real time and adjust that with them. So if we have to hire a new service advisor tomorrow and that service advisor is 10% higher than where my other service advisors that have been here for a long time, I have a responsibility to go back and adjust my compensation plans with everybody else. So thank
Uwe Kleinschmidt (35:54):
You. Chris, how did you approach LinkedIn? Were they surprised to talk to a shop operation manager for recruiting?
Krista Oldenburg (36:06):
Yeah. Well, so with LinkedIn with Talent Solutions, we got one of their features called what’s called LinkedIn recruiter. And with that, that is something where you can actually go in and search for experience for job title, for geographic location. And then they also with LinkedIn now have something that’s called Open to Work. And so that’s where when people create their LinkedIn profile page, they can say like, Hey, you know what? I am open to work. I may not be actively seeking, but if somebody comes to me, I may be interested in talking. I’ve seen
Uwe Kleinschmidt (36:43):
Krista Oldenburg (36:45):
That has been a tremendous feature. And if we can give the contact for talent solutions to reach out to, and if you’re interested in setting up a demo, we can do that. But those conversations, when you take a personalized approach and I take the time to look over their profile and to pick out something that is outstanding or, and I reach out with that first message to them with that piece of information. So it’s not just a, Hey, we’re hiring. Do you want a new job? It’s a, Hey, first of all, thank you for your 18 years of service in the automotive industry. That’s absolutely outstanding. I noticed you were open to work. Would you be open to having a conversation about a possible opportunity and going that approach? Because everybody was it, nobody likes to be sold, but everybody likes to buy
Uwe Kleinschmidt (37:40):
One of Bill’s favorite statements.
Krista Oldenburg (37:42):
Oh, is it really
Dan Garlock (37:46):
This LinkedIn tool? This is a huge investment. I mean, it was a $30,000 annual subscription for us to be able to do that. It’s a big number, right? Remember when I said it costs every week for not having one position? And actually when you break it down week by week and what it costs, it’s actually super affordable, especially for an organization our size. But again, it’s only affordable is if you leverage it and you use it correctly and you focus on it, if you’re just going to buy it and ignore it and not do anything with it, then yeah, you’re going to have major sticker shock and run away from that super fast. But inside of that LinkedIn tool, there’s also an AdWords type mechanism where it’s got an ad where if you’re scrolling through your LinkedIn, you’ll see stuff like autos, hiring technicians so that we can set up ads, internet target the right demographic, just like in AdWords, very similar to how AdWords works. And then, I dunno, if you get emails at, so-and-so’s looking for a new blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah from LinkedIn, they’ll send, those are targeted ads like AdWords too. So you start getting much more exposure. Obviously when you start spending some money, they like to promote you. It’s not quite like Yelp, but it’s a lot more effective tool. It really works well, but it’s expensive.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (39:09):
Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. I made the mistake to put one of my jobs as angel investor, you know what happened, right? My inbox just was overflowing because people wanted my money.
Dan Garlock (39:25):
Bill Connor (39:26):
Are you actually placing ads or are you contacting based on the list and starting a conversation?
Krista Oldenburg (39:36):
So it’s twofold. So the ads, LinkedIn algorithm runs all of that. So the biggest thing is that we get our job description at posted and then they’ll start paying attention to who I have in our candidate pool or our talent pipeline. And from there, the LinkedIn algorithm will take our job posting and put it in front of the profiles, like our talent pool or directly in front of that talent pool if they have not responded to my message already. So LinkedIn runs that part, and then I personally reach out and start establishing conversations and connections with people and do it through a layering process too, where maybe they didn’t respond to my first message. Then I’ll try and add them as a personal connection with a message, invite them to follow the silver auto page, things like that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (40:34):
I bet a lot of listeners are now going to ask, is there a trial product where I can try this for free?
Dan Garlock (40:42):
Not for free, but if you’re a good negotiator, you might be able to negotiate a discount. And that was my concern too. I asked that same exact question. This is great if it works and if we use it and I would like to try it, and I think that this is going to be a six month trial period and LinkedIn agreed. So we were able to get a reduced reduction on that six month trial period. But look, hindsight, hindsight, yeah, it was worth paying for it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (41:14):
You have to have skin in the game. Free is exactly that free.
Bill Connor (41:18):
So when you think about this a little bit differently though, let’s say that you formed an app auto care group and you’ve got 20 people in it. Would this be something that you could look into using your funds that have accrued from that group to go ahead and do something like that where it’s a shared cost?
Dan Garlock (41:36):
That sounds messy, but I mean potentially if there’s a group, I mean, it sounds like you might create some fighting over talent. You figure that one out. Bill, good luck.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (41:52):
Yeah, I think it’s just with everything disruptive, you try and do your best. So you don’t tell your afterwards, I never try it,
Krista Oldenburg (42:02):
Dan Garlock (42:04):
It’s $2,500 a month.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (42:06):
Dan Garlock (42:06):
Again, it’s $2,500 a month. At the end of the day, if you look at it that we can all grow our capacity. If I could say I can solve your talent problem for $2,500 a month, who the hell wouldn’t run it that? Right.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (42:23):
And Chris, can you talk about, or Dan, were there iterations where you noticed certain things you tried didn’t work and others work better? Or are you still in the process of figuring it out?
Krista Oldenburg (42:37):
For me, I am still in the process. I mean, right, we’re all learning, but I will say we’ve probably really, we’ve had the subscription since the beginning of May, really started working with it towards the end of May. It’s now July 6th. And we’ve gotten two really stud service advisors from that pool that come with many years of experience with some great knowledge and wisdom. And so I would say, if anything, just take the time to make that personal connection first as a human with all of your recruiting efforts because we are in an era where everybody’s overstimulated with messages coming up and trying to buy them or to buy them. And so really having that personal connection goes a long way in this talent market
Dan Garlock (43:32):
We’ve made. I think since we’ve had this focus, correct me if I’m wrong, we’ve hired what, seven people in the last couple of weeks, Krista. Now we’ve got some traction on this and we can’t directly say that they’ve all come from LinkedIn, but I mean it’s a piece of the puzzle. I’m sure they’ve connected with us. I mean, you look at our page stats on LinkedIn and how our viewers and our engagements have grown. It’s a piece of the puzzle that we put on top of our going to being involved in the trade schools and
Krista Oldenburg (44:06):
Dan Garlock (44:07):
All the traditional things that we’ve done for a long time. This is just a little bit more frosting on the top of that cake that is helping us solve this problem.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (44:17):
And the two service advisors you hired, was there anything out of the ordinary that said why they joined based on their experience on LinkedIn? Were they surprised to see so much openness about your culture because that’s not something an auto repair shop does, right?
Krista Oldenburg (44:42):
I can speak for one candidate. He just really enjoyed that. It was a personal connection that as soon as he was interested, I passed him off to the general manager to do the interviewing and just to have a really open and honest conversation and say, let’s see if we’re a fit for each other and have that open openly because there are sometimes where the candidate’s not a right fit for us and we are not a right fit for that candidate. And that’s okay. That’s still a winning conversation.
Dan Garlock (45:17):
The whole process that we go through from the initial conversation all the way through our six month onboarding of our people, it’s very, I don’t want to use the word intense, but we focus on, we spend a lot of time on it. So I
Uwe Kleinschmidt (45:35):
Like intense.
Dan Garlock (45:36):
Yeah, I know you do. Not everybody likes intense though. But even part of our onboarding, I went out with one of our foreman for lunch last week. I took ’em out to lunch just to spend some time to get to know ’em. There’s not many organizations with CEOs that are taking the time with their staff. They’re plugging ’em in their bay, they’re plugging ’em in their role and they’re saying, all right, here’s your job description. It looks very corporate. Here’s your comp plan. Uniforms will be over there. We’ll see you later. And you can’t do that anymore. You have to spend time with them. You have to get to know them, build relationships with them. It’s harder as you’re trying to scale it with a large organization. So you need to have some layers in there of doing that. But the whole thing has to feel very different. Even a couple of the two young technicians that we just hired in Oconomowoc, they didn’t come directly from LinkedIn, but they did have a social media experience that I know facilitated them coming to Silver Lake Auto.
And then when they got here, the way that they were welcome from our welcome lunches to they spend the first day not even working in their bay. They spend the first day just getting onboarded and meeting the team and seeing the organization and understanding the Silver Lake Auto DNA. We take a lot of time to purposely make sure they have that before we just inject them into a bay. So that’s the other piece of the recruiting that just to make it stick, we have to invest some time in it, not just from having the culture down with our people. But then afterwards, we did some surveying this year. We found out that employees with less than 18 months of tenure weren’t as engaged as our employees that have been here for 2, 3, 5, 10 years. And that was a result of not a really good onboarding process.
And we were seeing high turnover rates in those tenured employees. And we just nailed it down to we need to be better at onboarding and spend more time with them and build those relationships so that they understand where they fit, how they’re supported in our organization so that they can flourish. And we spent a lot of time on that this year, and we haven’t gotten it perfect yet. And it’s going to be a moving target and living and breathing thing that we’re going to evolve. But it’s all that from your existing culture to recruiting and hiring and interviewing practices to how do you onboard them so that they can get back into the life circle of the culture of the organization and contribute to the culture. It’s kind of an ecosystem of sorts.
Bill Connor (48:18):
I never thought of going over the years that we’d ever be talking about the employee experience in this industry, but it’s very common these days.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (48:27):
I have one more question. I think we have to wrap up to Dan. Dan in the pre-talk. If I was understanding that correctly, you were bringing up that there might be super highly qualified technicians and in your, what’s the world workflow management, they might have to do an oil change, although there are a diagnostic guru or maybe not. That’s maybe a bad example, but how, because LinkedIn is really a high level, high class kind of environment, although lately it’s fighting with Facebook about the whatever was the most useless post. But that’s a different question. Yeah. So back to that question. Did you run into that? I mean that people then say, that’s not what I want to do.
Dan Garlock (49:36):
So I mean, we all share. If you’re that technician who’s got all the experience in it, we all do oil changes, those oil changes, inspections lead into mechanical work. We know that, right? We’ve proven this for way too long now since we were throwing tablets on the concrete. So that’s part of our organization values is that we all support each other and we share. And that’s where that weeding out is if you have an ego and oil changes beneath you, then this isn’t the place for you. But I also think that a lot of that UVA was facilitated by comp plans and they were motivated by comp plans because how do you make time on an oil change when here, do you charge for inspections or do you give technicians time for inspections? Do they do oil change or come back? All that garbage goes out of the window because guiding and steering you on how that customer’s ultimately going to feel their experience when is by crappy comp plans and culture.
So we can communicate that as part of our onboarding is talking about the Silver Lake Auto DNA and how that works is because from a lot of people, it’s very different. They come from a assembly line production based model where all that matters is how many hours can I bill out? And that stuff comes with good culture and everybody contributing. And so yeah, during the interviewing, if we find somebody who that’s beneath them, they’re probably not getting a second interview and they’re definitely not getting an offer. We hired a Lexus master technician who started this week at our Brookfield location, and that independent contractor mindset that he experienced in the past isn’t something that he wants anymore. He doesn’t want to go to try to find somebody to help him with his diagnostics and come back and help you with that transmission later. And they just want to just thrive. And the independent contractor, everybody’s fighting over the same jobs and posturing for position in their organization that’s getting old.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (51:52):
Very cool.
Bill Connor (51:53):
Your techs work their entire repair order from start to finish or there’s no need for specialty areas in that case.
Dan Garlock (52:01):
Yeah, we just got to get it done. Let’s all help each other out. We don’t really have a cradle to grave mentality like we used to in the past where you work on the car. I mean, through the automobiles technology and digital technology, it’s pretty easy to assign jobs and make sure that there’s processes in place that everybody can contribute. So our teams are pretty dynamic that way to solve the problem in the now and just to sign a job. And some guy may be doing the brakes on the left side of the car while a guy’s doing the brakes on the right side of the car. And it’s a world where we have to learn how to do more with less. And the old mindsets of the auto repair world are keeping us from doing more with less, and it’s causing us to lose profitability and to lose market share, we have to do things differently. We have to get all that crap out of our way and move forward.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (52:57):
You wanted just say something?
Krista Oldenburg (52:59):
Yeah. I think with knowing that the Silverlake ATO and how it’s evolved over the past couple of years and what they’re doing now in terms of the team compensation plans and the five day work week workweek, I think the brilliance is that it’s created that sense of safety, security, and stability with having those base compensation plans, that’s really allowed the culture, the people, the organization and community to really thrive from there because it’s taken that stress of a variable paycheck long hours out of the window.
Bill Connor (53:35):
We’re getting down to the end here. So Uwe, what I’d like to do is see if we can get a top three lists from each of our fine panelists here of things that they would encourage a shop owner to do when it comes to their quest for finding unicorns.
Krista Oldenburg (53:51):
Dan can go first.
Dan Garlock (53:52):
Oh gosh, oh my gosh, bill minutes of that top five, top
Bill Connor (54:03):
Dan Garlock (54:05):
Get better. Number one, get better. Number two, don’t stop getting better. And number three, talk to your team. Figure out what it is that they need to be supported. Support your team. Sorry, those are kind of cheesy, but it’s really about the team get better.
Bill Connor (54:26):
So fix your culture. If you that
Uwe Kleinschmidt (54:27):
In your mindset, then you are highly task oriented and not culture oriented because get better is continuous improvement constantly. You just don’t think about it anymore. You’re curious and want to improve. So thank you.
Dan Garlock (54:44):
Your turn, Krista?
Krista Oldenburg (54:45):
Bill Connor (54:47):
We want a little bit more.
Krista Oldenburg (54:51):
Oh, great. I would say one, view your culture and your organization as a product, as a service, and go through it as a marketing it as a product to the potential consumer of those potential employees. Two is really use social media to celebrate your employees and your culture and your organization. I think that’s a big thing is nobody, the average American human does not like going to the car repair shop for anything. So they’re not going to care about a dirty engine or anything like that. They want to know, oh, they’re out in the community. They’re at this event, they’re doing this organization for a charity drive or whatever. Hey, they really treat their employees well and we all know that happy employees create happy customers. And so really showcasing, using social media as a platform to showcase your organization and then, oh, I don’t know, explore something new that would be explore a new recruiting avenue that maybe you’ve been resisting. So that for us, that was LinkedIn. Maybe for you, it is having a conversation about what would be a referral bonus for employees that bring talent in or posting on Indeed. It could be anything, but try something new that you’ve been resisting to do.
Bill Connor (56:21):
The most important thing is don’t be afraid to invest in recruiting employees knowing full well what the opportunity cost of not having them is
Krista Oldenburg (56:31):
Very true. Yes, absolutely.
Dan Garlock (56:33):
Know the cost. Know the cost. Know what it’s costing you. Yeah, it’s expensive. So
Bill Connor (56:40):
We’re down to the end here. I’d like to thank both of you for joining us here today. Dan, thanks for joining us again. It’s always great to have you here sharing your wisdom. You have a unique way of looking at things and it actually is very helpful to others. I’d like to encourage those of you that are listening to invite other shop owners to maybe find some of our prior podcasts by going to Maybe even join us live and ask your questions as we come in. So again, thank you guys. I’d like to go ahead and tell everybody that’s listening to go out there and make some money while your customers and work on your employee experience too.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:16):
Thank you, Chris. Thank you Dan. It was awesome.
Dan Garlock (57:19):
Yeah, thank you guys. It was fun
Bill Connor (57:21):
Always. And we got you on the calendar for next year to review your success.
Dan Garlock (57:28):
I’ll be checking my invites.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:30):
Did you say next week or next month?
Dan Garlock (57:34):
Next year.
Bill Connor (57:35):
He’s going to be on there the next year for this particular topic. So we’ll find an open spot between now and then.
Dan Garlock (57:42):
Yeah, we can talk.
Bill Connor (57:43):
Thank you. Alright, thank you guys. Bye.

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