The Profitability of Non-Tangibles
The Profitability of Non-Tangibles  
Written by Aaron Marion
I’d like to interrupt your normally scheduled Blog reading to discuss something that we have, as an industry failed to recognize.  At least usually.  We often find ourselves discussing tech pay, shop labor rates, money money money.  Awesome right? Yep, it’s awesome.  We need this sort of discussion to happen all the time.  We need different opinions, we need to learn to hear each other’s differing point of views and respect the process of what we do and understand that it’s going to continue to change and change.  

So, what makes a tech great? What makes a shop great? What makes an advisor great?  Opinions please, I want to hear them all in the comments.  

It’s skills, it’s always skills. Sometimes those skills are based in a depth of knowledge only attainable through decades of experience. Sometimes there’s a natural knack for something like mechanical or electrical objects, or sales, or leadership. We’re quick to call someone who can flag 150% efficiency a top performer. Justifiably so. We’re quick to call an advisor who can sell every single thing every single time a Rock Star. Justifiably so. But what makes a truly great shop experience? Are you contributing to a great shop experience or are you the reason a shop isn’t great or less than great? It's not a specific job requirement. I know some real profitable, skilled, talented people that nobody likes to work with. They have job security forever. Defined work related skills, will alone, allow you to have a good career in most workplaces. Are you looking for great? Do you want the phrase “have a great day” to be how you describe your day? We need to talk about non-tangibles.  

Am I the only one who’s been chasing the “Glory Days'' for way too long? I always default to a time in my career and my life when things were just so damn good. Years and years I’ve been wishing I was back in that place. What made it better? I made quite literally half the money I do now. So why did it feel better? Let's look at the tangibles.  

    Less money

    Less benefits

    Less PTO

    Nicer Facility

So it’s just the building? Nope. What made that place so great? It’s something that I’ve had a hard time putting my fingers on but it’s real. The first thing that comes to mind is that everyone in that place was GOOD at their job. So we’re back to paragraph 1.  Skills. But it was more than that. Those guys were all great techs, any one of them could work on my wife’s car and I wouldn’t even be slightly concerned. I don’t think that I have an answer but I want you guys to speculate with me. The fact that I was working with quality management, advisors, techs, parts people, etc etc really made life easier. We operated as a true Team. I’ve said it before, if you wanna have a good time at work, be good at your job. But lots of techs out there are great at their jobs and have a miserable time at work. Why? Are they appreciated? Are they valued beyond a dollar amount? What about your colleagues? Are you in a dog eat dog shop?  You don’t have fun in a place like that. Do you appreciate that your customers spent their hard earned money for YOU to fix their car. That’s one that I struggle with a lot. My background was HIGH end Euro.  Our customers didn’t typically care about money. Now working independent, I’ve gotten really familiar with the working class budget and it’s still hard for me to be grateful for work sometimes. I catch myself feeling entitled to make repairs. It’s absurd but I feel like that sometimes. In my head, every customer should be grateful that some hack parts cannon slinger isn’t working on their car and that I am. I took the time, I made the diagnosis, I caught the part that could have left them stranded. And after all that, they still have a budget. It’s not personal, but if I take it personal, am I contributing to a great shop atmosphere? Am I giving away some of MY non-tangibles to an ego? Possibly. Likely. Yep. Did I do those things back then? Nope. I was grateful for my job, my peers, my customers, my pay. We helped each other. We appreciated each other. We laughed at the unshakable Texan that was Jim “Max” Maxwell RIP.
What about the true Master Techs?  Who are you guys? What defines a Master? That’s a series of blogs for another day. But if you’ve been around this business for more than a few minutes you understand that those hero techs some of us have in our memory banks, or hopefully work with now, had some skills that they didn’t define with an ASE Certificate. You owner/manager types know exactly what I’m talking about. They guys you have or have had, or want that keep the wheels turning physically and metaphorically. Their non-tangible skills, and I keep saying Non-Tangible but they are very tangible.  They just aren’t in the typical Tech or Mechanic Job description. So what’s the point, Aaron? This is getting kind of wordy. The point is that this is a difficult job, we focus so much of our energy on being fast, being efficient, being knowledgeable, GETTING PAID,  and we all still love to bitch about our jobs. I’m not saying abandon your skills. (Take my lab scope class) I’m just saying that, at least in my case,  I could focus some energy on creating the environment I WANT to work in, and not reacting to the environment I currently work in. Don’t get me wrong, I like my job, but I want to LOVE my job. We aren’t going to turn shops upside down, at least not overnight. But we ARE going to turn this industry on its head if we all stick together. I challenge all of you to just simply think about it this upcoming work week. Think about the non mechanical things that you’re doing in the shop. Your body language, your vocabulary, your attitude towards brand new techs, your attitude towards customers and service advisors. When you find that truly great shop that actually values shop culture, they’re going to look for these things. Maybe even placing a comparable value on them to your car fixin’ skills. If you haven’t diagnosed a CEL in three years, but you “would if the shop was right for it” you’re not getting hired. If you use the environment that you’re in to define how you operate, when that dream shop comes along, you’re not going to be prepared. They’re gonna hire someone less qualified with a better attitude. I’ve seen it guys. 

So what happened to that glory shop, Aaron? It grew, and grew, we made more and more money, and somewhere along the way we lost that Team feeling, we replaced it with money, and you can never go back from there. Incredible techs, some of the worlds finest. Great advisors, great management, some of the worlds most successful. Just not the special place I remember. I’m embarrassed to admit that I contributed to some of that loss.  

Mechanic Alliance is here for you, the mechanic, the tech. We all want to elevate our craft.  We want this industry to be better than it is. We won’t get there on diag and electrical skill alone, or on 200% flat rate efficiency. Those are key players, but we can’t miss the rest of the puzzle if we want to be great  I know I can do better, can you? What are you waiting for? 


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