We all know that finding and retaining top technicians is not as easy as it used to be.
In fact, in some parts of the country, they're calling the shortage of qualified people an epidemic. Shops are working hard to bring in cars to fix, but what do they do when there is no one to do the job?
The idea of job sharing isn't anything new. In fact, in 1972 the New Ways to Work Foundation was created to "establish a work world that responds to the changing needs of individuals and organizations,” according to the San Francisco Business Times. It became even more prevalent two decades later when more and more people began looking for alternative work arrangements.
Two important factors that began to push the job sharing movement were the birth of the World Wide Web, which made it easier for both companies and job share participants to share information through web tools. These web tools enabled employees to share work in a more collaborative environment in an asynchronous manner, while the ever-changing demographics also drove the job-sharing arrangement even further.
So, here comes a company called Skill-Loan LLC, based in San Carlos, CA, that operates Mechanics and Body Shops Marketplace, a website accompanied with a mobile application. The owner and founder is Elie Massabki, who has extensive experience working for Silicon Valley high-tech startups.
"Our idea originated from the fact that small businesses are in constant need of help, and auto repair shops, both mechanical and collision, do not have a local marketplace that addresses their daily need for skills, services, equipment and parts," he said. "The brick and mortar business is cyclical, which makes it very difficult for a small business to balance its changing demand for personnel with the ups and downs of the business on a weekly basis. Employers don't want to lose their best employees, but if there is no business, profitability suffers."
The biggest question is this---will competing body shops be willing to share their employees?
"If you look at any company, especially startups, their success really happens when they partner with other companies," Massabki said. "By collaborating and creating a network of peers or partners, small companies become bigger and more successful, and I believe that this will be the same case with auto repair and body shops. The key to a successful partnership is to find a win-win formula and viable means to execute the partnership.
"The auto repair industry is plagued with mistrust and risk-averse small business owners with limited resources to figure out how to make an employee-sharing transaction work in a legal, efficient and risk-free manner. This is the big value that our app brings. We don’t simply connect shops together. The app and legal agreement that our members agree to formalize the transaction between the shops to avoid misunderstandings. It sets rules for ethical behavior and employee safety; provides step-by-step guidance to shop managers on what they need to do to conduct a transaction; goes through a process to ensure best fit between what the job requires and the employee’s skills; and provides an efficient and real-time way of communicating between the shops."
It's job sharing taken to a whole new level, Massabki said.
"Borrowing and loaning employees is a new concept in this industry that addresses the ups and downs of the business and helps business owners optimize their operations to the market demand,” he said. “This is where the skill loan concept originated, and that's why we filed a patent on it. We are building regional trusted networks for auto repair shops to collaborate formally, ethically and efficiently. In order for shop owners to feel comfortable loaning their best employees, every shop that borrows an employee has to agree to our terms and conditions, which state that they can't hire a borrowed employee for a period of 12 months. If they need a full-time employee, we help them find one. This is the peace of mind and legal protection we help provide every shop owner, because we know that poaching has become a problem in this industry."
With the collision repair industry being like a roller coaster, Skill-Loan is making the concept of employee sharing a viable solution. By providing convenient alternatives for shops of all sizes, they can call plug in technicians when they need them the most.
"We are enabling shops to fill in the gaps, so that it won't impact their production or cycle time,” Massabki said. “If they need a tech to cover for one of their permanent employees while they go on vacation or are out on leave, we can help them. Or if a shop does not have enough work, they can loan out their employees for a pre-determined period."
In addition to the employee marketplace, Massabki and his team have designed a portal where shops can resell parts they're not using for repairs.