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Finding (and keeping) good people: If nothing else works, try hanging a sign in your window!

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Finding (and keeping) good people: If nothing else works, try hanging a sign in your window!

Mike Lofstedt Jr. of Lake Region Discount Tire and Repair says a “Help Wanted” sign has brought him good prospective employees.

Finding and keeping good staff is very difficult. Just ask Mike Lofstedt Jr. of Lake Region Discount Tire and Repair.

He says advertising sometimes works. But his secret to searching out new employees -- the tip he calls his most successful when hiring -- is very simple: He places a big "Help Wanted" sign on the street in front of his store.

"With the average young home-taught mechanic needing a lot of training and technical school graduates thinking they know it all before they start, it takes patience," says Lofstedt Jr. "We teach everyone we hire our way, and if that is different than what they learned elsewhere, they must un-learn those bad habits and do it the Lake Region way or they will not last.

"Our way has proven successful, and we don't plan on doing anything different. If a tech has ASE-certification, fine, but we don't demand it or pay extra for it. Good work will earn them a higher hourly rate, not a certification that they can pass just by studying."

The hourly rate is backed by a strong benefits package. Lake Region Discount Tire and Repair gives employees complete health benefits after six months. They include dental, eyeglasses, a 401k plan, paid vacations after six months and profit sharing. "We've had profit sharing every year since we bought the business," he says.

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Ed Perry has some very specific thoughts on finding and keeping good people. The owner of Dolson Auto & Tire says it all starts with commitment.

"Finding staff members that will make a commitment to your business is difficult. Most young technicians coming out of technical school or the military do not want to make that commitment. Once I find a good member for the team, I make working here a fun and rewarding experience.

Perry says it is difficult to make recent graduates understand they have to start at the bottom and work their way up. “But if they are willing to learn, we make it worth their while."

Every staff member at Dolson Auto must become ASE-certified, either as a service writer/parts specialist or technician. They are paid to study and paid during testing nights.

Perry also believes keeping a team member's family happy is key to keeping them. He gives every employee full benefits after 120 days, including paid vacation. There is no co-pay and no fee for children visiting doctors. Employees get full maternity benefits, eye care/glasses coverage and a dental plan. It is expensive, but the wives of the staff really appreciate the child care without fees.

"It is so expensive to find good people, train them and then have them leave to work at another shop that offers them $1.50 more an hour," he says. "The total package I give employees cannot be matched by any competitor in this area."

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Best Practices Tips: Benefits breed loyalty

To employees of Lake Region Discount Tire and Repair, there is such a thing as a free lunch.

"We provide a lot of benefits to our employees, plus a lot of things that build loyalty," says General Manager Mike Lofstedt Jr. "Everyone gets a free continental breakfast of coffee, fruit juice, bagels and muffins, plus a free lunch -- every day.

"By providing their food, we know they will eat well and not skip meals because they might have overspent over the weekend. In a way, this also takes excuses away for leaving the shop."

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