A recurring theme plays out in the job interviews Nick Lenhart conducts with potential young employees at Lenhart's Service Center Tire Pros LLC. Lenhart, 32, hears lots of dissatisfied people complaining about the long hours they're working elsewhere. Case in point is Fausto Astudillo, the 25-year-old service advisor Lenhart recently hired. He's married, has a young son and was working in sales at a local car dealership. During the interview Lenhart asked, "Why do you want to leave your job now?" His response: He works nights, Saturdays and holidays, and felt like he was missing his son grow up. Astudillo was making good money and was one of the top salesmen at his dealership, but told Lenhart "it's not worth me sacrificing my family life for a job."
Lucky for him, Lenhart's Service Center Tire Pros in Irwin, Pa., is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Lenhart is among the young leaders Modern Tire Dealer has recognized as On the Rise. (Check out this impressive lot of 54 leaders here. And introduce MTD to a stellar young leader in your business here.)
In separate interviews, our On the Rise members identified a clear priority issue for our industry — recruiting and retaining smart, hard-working technicians. So we decided to ask them for their suggestions on how to make it happen.
Lenhart was the first to suggest closing on Saturdays. His family did it 17 years ago, after a suggestion over lunch from a friend who operates an automotive repair shop in Colorado. But the change didn't come without hesitation. Saturdays were one of their most profitable work days. At the time Lenhart was a high school employee and the fourth generation in the family business east of Pittsburgh. He was excited about the prospect of spending Saturdays hunting with his dad, Ken.
Now, as an owner and partner in the business, Lenhart sees the full picture, and admits it's "sort of a double-edged sword." On one hand he needs workers like Astudillo, which means he has to offer something to make his workplace stand out from others. On the other hand, his business needs to attract millennial customers. Those millennials are accustomed to having everything at their fingertips, Lenhart says, which means they expect tire buying and auto repairs to be convenient, too. Some businesses, including national chains, have responded by extending service hours during the week and on the weekends. But then that means millennial employees behind the counter and in the service bays are unhappy.
So Lenhart has sought other options. His business has free loaner cars for customers. They offer free pick-up and delivery. Customers can shop for tires on the business' website and an employee follows up the next day. "We're in touch with our clients even when we're not open."
In Orlando, Fla., C&G Auto Center Inc. made the switch to a five-day work week last year. Manager Carlos Ramirez says initially sales dropped, but "the quality of life of the employees has changed dramatically.
"I'm a huge advocate of treating the employees like family and not like numbers," Ramirez says. He keeps that in mind while hiring new workers, but also as he tries to keep employees happy. "Knowing when to give them space is also important. You earn their respect and loyalty, and very often they will stay with you simply because of the environment."
Searching for a long-term plan
Some in our On the Rise crowd think millennials need a wakeup call.
Josh Wright is the owner and operator of The Tire Shop in Lewistown, Mont. He's 31, and admits he often finds himself feeling overworked and underpaid. "Every person we have tried to hire wants a five-day work week and no overtime.
"Without our extended hours I feel our business would suffer. Living in a rural community we are depended upon. Maybe I hold too much pride in always being available. I think the problem lies in millennials' self-entitlement and lack of desire to build a skill from the low man up."
Ray Turner Jr. recently left a job in part because the company couldn't identify how he fit into their future. He loved his previous job, until the small, family-owned business was bought out by a larger corporation.
"In both cases I asked for career paths five, 10 and 15 years down the road. The inability of both companies to forecast the growth path of an experienced and proven individual pushed me to find a company that could tell me where I can go and how they can take me there." Turner is now a general manager for Southern Indiana Tire Inc.
Tell us about your young leaders
MTD is continuining its search for young leaders in the industry. Whether they work behind the counter or in the bay of a tire dealership or on a sales team or in a lab for a manufacturer, MTD wants to meet them. Direct those On the Rise — and under age 40 — to our signup form. (Questions? Contact Senior Editor and Digital Projects Editor Joy Kopcha.)