You’re Responsible for Training, Culture at Your Dealership 

March 7, 2024

Though long overdue, there's been a solid push throughout our industry to step up to the plate as it pertains to compensating the team members who deliver our customers’ service.

Whether by intentional design or market necessity, the industry has finally recognized the fact that some staffing struggles are self-imposed.

While fairly compensating our team members has always — and likely will always be — a significant determinant of each dealership’s success or lack thereof, there are two significant topics that technicians find to be just as, if not more, important than compensation: training and culture. 

But let's address compensation first. It wasn't so long ago that a $100,000 job was a really big thing. That was when college graduates were entering the market at $35,000 to $40,000 a year.  

Today, meeting basic human needs exceeds the four-year degree, entry-level salary of just a decade or so ago. Take that big step to a six figure income and add another couple flights of stairs to get there. That benchmark is now more like $125,000, if not more.

To be brief, the bare minimum take-home pay necessary to survive, in most areas, is $3,000 per month. That puts bare minimum, annual gross pay at just over $40,000. Hopefully your entry level, full-time compensation at least meets that threshold, with the ability to earn 10% plus more on a production basis.

So back to the two heavy-hitting topics previously mentioned. When we think about both training and culture, we tend to think of programs.

What's your technician training program like? Is your sales program effective? What programs do you have in place to improve workplace satisfaction? Which employee benefit programs do your employees like the most?

What I find interesting and notable here is that dealers with mature training programs and healthy/supportive culture almost always do both well.

It's rare that we find a business that has great culture, but lousy training, and vice versa. Why is that? It's because both are dependent on the other.

That said, just because you have a solid training program does not mean you have healthy culture. So what's the difference? 

Training doesn't necessarily satisfy the need for learning. In other words, just because you have training programs available to vehicle service and customer service team members doesn't mean you have a learning culture.

A learning culture encourages, celebrates and rewards consistent learning. A learning culture facilitates learning both within and outside the workplace and the entire organization is engaged.

In these cultures, team members feel valued, engaged and will stay with you longer because they know leadership is genuinely interested in their growth and development. 

Culture, said simply, is complex. It’s the way of life that is shared within and among your organization and teams. This comes from your business’ stated mission, leadership, goals, core values and collaboration, as well as the inclusivity that exists both within and as an extension of your workplace, among other things. 

A positive work culture doesn’t happen by chance.

It takes thoughtful and careful planning over a significant period of time. If you aren't regularly thinking about your company’s culture as an owner, chances are your culture isn't where it needs to be. And there's a large price to pay for falling culturally short.  

On the flip side, a healthy culture leads to a growth mentality with increased productivity and financial success for both your organization and team members.

Let's be honest with each other. The tire and auto service industry, as a whole, could do a much better job of investing in training and culture.

If you were to ask 100 shop owners what their training budget is and what specific steps they have planned to improve workplace culture in 2024, I'd bet less than 10% can give you a solid response.

And those who give a response are likely not budgeting nearly enough to have cultures that are adolescent, let alone mature. It's time we get real and really serious about both. 

The responsibility for developing training and culture is squarely on your shoulders. Neither are simple, easy nor cheap to develop.

Though training and culture are extremely complex, they're the basic building blocks foundational to every organization. They have been - and will always be - one of the leading indicators of your current and future success.

About the Author

Randy O'Connor

Tire and auto industry veteran Randy O’Connor is the Owner/Principal of D2D Development Group (Dealer to Dealer Development Group.) He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, please visit