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Retaining Talent

I’ve written extensively about how important hiring is and yet what a challenge it can be. Just as important is retaining quality employees. While I’ve made my fair share of hiring mistakes, when I find good people I do everything I can to keep them. I have one employee who has been on my staff for 18 years – nearly as long as I’ve been in the automotive repair business. I also have employees who have worked for my shops since they opened. I am not in the habit of retaining people who don’t contribute to my company, so the employees that have long track records at my shops truly are outstanding performers.

When it comes to retention, the first step is to determine which employees are worth fighting for. I never set goals or quotas for the number of employees I’d like to retain because I believe that approach can result in keeping underperformers simply to maintain a low-turnover rate.

I run a performance-based company, so those employees that are exceeding goals are the ones that really capture my attention and retention efforts. Managers, for example, are evaluated based on sales, gross profit and the number of complaints received. Technicians are judged on the hours flagged and the quality of their work. These measurement tools make it easy to assess how valuable each employee is to the operation. 

So, how do you keep the staff members who are having a positive impact on your business? Here are a few strategies that have worked for me:


Communicate: Employees need to know where they stand in order to feel confident in their jobs.  Unfortunately, in many businesses, employees don’t have any sense of how they’re doing until they receive their annual evaluations. Instead, I encourage checking in with employees through more frequent and informal one-on-one meetings. Use these conversations to not only reiterate expectations about an individual’s performance goals, but to also communicate your goals as a business owner.Employees want to know what your vision is and how they fit into the larger picture.

Reward good work: Most employees will tell you they are motivated by money. While the idea of getting a bonus sounds great, the employee tends to forget about the cash as soon as it’s spent. If you incentivize employees with money they’ll also tie any future rewards to cash. I prefer to reward employees through smaller items that will last longer, such as plaques or actual awards that display their accomplishments and serve as long-term reminders of their achievements. Contests also resonate with employees because it gives them a chance to shine among their co-workers.  Even taking an employee and his or her spouse out to dinner can make a tremendous impact because it gives you the opportunity to praise the employee publicly. Those are the little things that people remember and value.

Offer growth opportunities: Even the most loyal employee will leave if they can’t see a future with your business. If you’re expanding and adding sites, give employees the potential to grow with your company. An assistant manager in an existing store could be GM someday in a new store.  If you have no plans to open multiple locations, focus on growing sales and allowing employees to share in that success through their performance. Giving employees more responsibility will also help them feel like they are building their skills.


With nearly two decades of automotive industry experience, Greg Sands is one of the most successful auto repair operators in the United States. Greg started his auto repair career in 1993 as a manager for an auto repair chain in Houston, TX. In his early 30’s, Greg rose to become president and minority owner of the chain. He helped grow the company from three to 38 locations with over $45 million in sales, across four major metropolitan areas. In 2001, Greg launched SRSANDCO LLC to develop and operate full service automotive repair facilities.

Today, along with his managers and partners, Greg owns and operates 29 auto repair shops in four states. Greg also serves as founder and CEO of Mudlick Mail, which provides strategically targeted direct mail campaigns for auto repair shops nationally.


  • I agree, I have had a huge sense of loyalty to employers who just simply treat me right and appriciate my hard work. It is really worth a lot to me just to know I'm valued. My current employer will criticize me for staying late to get a car done so our customer can have their car for work the next day. I know that bad morale brings a shop down, just simple negative comments that are totaly inappropriate can ruin your attitude. I have friends and family that want to bring their cars to the shop and have me work on them but I won't let them because if my boss treats me bad, what will he do to them? I just recommend other people I know I trust. By the way I gave my notice today because of these issues. My phone has been quite busy with job offers. I had a working interview the other day and it felt so good to have the new boss so enthusiastic about my work. What a difference that makes!  

    primus, 2 years ago | Flag
  •  A simple pat on the back and "good job" go a long, long way.  Tossing a few bucks to take the family out for an outing is also a nice gesture as well. 

    adtmatt, 2 years ago | Flag

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