New Event to Give Repair Shop Owners Tools to Attract, Develop, Retain Top Talent

The inaugural Repair Shop Growth Systems LIVE 2024 workshop is scheduled for May 31-June 2 in Mt. Arlington, NJ.


A new live event aims to empower repair shop owners and managers to find the right employees, develop them into a high-performing, self-managing team, and retain them.

The inaugural Repair Shop Growth Systems LIVE 2024 workshop is scheduled for May 31-June 2 at the Guttman Development Strategies headquarters in Mt. Arlington, NJ. Over three days, attendees from collision repair, diesel, transmission and general auto repair shops will participate in a series of educational sessions and breakout groups. Event organizers aim to hold similar workshops around the country going forward.

Chris Lawson is the founder of Technician Find, a leader in automotive technician sourcing, which is co-hosting the event with Magical Solutions and Shop Management Alliance.

Lawson said one of the scheduled presenters, Eddie Lawrence, a shop owner, has a quote that sums up the main focus of the event: “With the right staff in place, you gain freedom, and you can’t place a price on that.”

"He tells the story about how it took him 10 years to figure it out, and he could’ve saved himself a lot of pain if he’d had a workshop like this to address those items," Lawson said.

Each of the three days zeroes in on a different piece of the staffing puzzle many shops are currently facing: the first day is about attracting employees, the second is about growing those employees into teams, and the third is about retaining them.

Main Issues in Repair Shop Staffing

Lawson said the automotive repair industry is facing many of the same problems as other trades. Older technicians are leaving at a higher rate than new technicians are coming in, partly due to a stigma attached to the idea of working in a trade.

But he said the other issue, which he sees personally through his work with Technician Find, is that shops don't know how to market themselves to attract top talent.

"They don’t know how to package and communicate what they offer, their unique culture," Lawson said. "All their job ads look exactly the same."

In addition, Lawson said, job boards are not the best place to look for new employees.

"If someone is a good tech and they want to work, they’re already working, so they're not typically trawling job boards," Lawson said. "So you have to go outside job boards to social media to find them."

How This Workshop Will Help

"All shops seem to have a sticking place," Lawson said. "Some have problems attracting talent. Some have problems developing it, some have trouble retaining it."

There will be several breakout sessions to focus on individual "sticking places," and attendees will receive workbooks so they leave with a plan to address theirs.

"There will be certain key action items within each of those areas, so they can pick which ones they want to implement when they go back to their shop, to help them get unstuck," Lawson said.

Speakers and Presentation Topics

Lawson said he will present his “technician attraction blueprint” that has helped Technician Find generate more than 80,000 applications for repair shops over the last six years.

Lawrence will share his “life calibration” strategy, which uses gears, knobs and dials to help people gain clarity and make progress in their lives, which he developed after he realized he wasn't ensuring his shop's 20 employees "felt their life worked inside and outside of the shop," Lawson said.

"He started something called the 'life calibration,' born out of a near tragedy in his life, which he shares with his employees," Lawson said. "He uses it as a retention tool."

Leigh Anne Best and Laura Frank are the co-founders of Brakes for Breasts, which organizes auto repair shops to raise money every October for the Cleveland Clinic, which is working on a vaccine for breast cancer. Their nonprofit has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2011. Best and Frank will talk about how to get employees behind causes, to increase retention and attract top quality talent.

Howard Guttman is a management consultant and trainer who works with Fortune 500 companies to develop highly productive, self-managed teams. He will present a session on how to do that in repair shops.

Shawn Gilfillan is Guttman’s nephew and owner of two auto repair shops. He will talk about how implementing his uncle's strategies helped him step out of the daily operations of his shops, because his employees are now capable of managing those tasks.

Gilfillan will also give a presentation on how to structure pay and create a profit-sharing plan to retain top talent.

"I speak with a lot of shop owners and general managers, and it surprises me how a lot of them aren’t really clear on what they should be paying their staff," Lawson said. "When I fill them in based on prevailing rates in their area, they’re not sure how to back into that number. Shawn will teach a class on how much you should be paying and how to calculate that, by looking at your numbers."

Carm Capriotto will share “The Rise of the Mechanical and Technology Specialist,” about rethinking techs' job titles to make them more specific to the role they play in their shop.

Lawson said that gives the technicians clarity on their own role and boosts morale, while showing the public they have certain specialties that make them critical to auto care and maintenance.

For more information and to register, visit the website.

Abby Andrews

Abby Andrews is the editor and regular columnist of Autobody News.

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