How to Hire and Retain Employees

“We can’t predict the future or when we will need to bring someone on. When that day comes, it is nice to go right to a small group of people you have already been communicating with rather than starting from scratch every time.” – Travis Sallee of Loren’s Auto Repair


Travis Sallee

As a shop owner, you know the importance of working with the best team possible. The employees you have can be the difference between dysfunction and record profits. So, the question is, how do you draw in the employees that are best for your business? How do you keep them on your staff? The first thing you need to know is where to look. Then you must remember that recruiting never stops, even when fully staffed. Once you’ve got a team that works, you must show them you value them. Travis Sallee, the 2nd generation owner of Loren’s Auto Repair, has been in business for 38 years. With an entire team of 11 employees, he has advice on building your dream team and reaching record success.

The first step in hiring is knowing where to look for employees. If you’re only using one avenue to find potential hires, you limit yourself to a small pool of people. As someone who grew up in a shop and has owned a shop for over a decade, Travis says, “a simple Craigslist ad would have been more than sufficient in the past, but not anymore.” In 2023 however, neither Craigslist nor Facebook was turning out the talent he wanted. So, he added Indeed. He says, “it was a pond I hadn’t fished in yet, and it produced more than a dozen qualified candidates.” When you open up your hiring avenues, you can find the top talent you wouldn’t encounter otherwise.

Once you’ve found a team you can trust, don’t close that recruiting door. If someone comes into your shop asking about open positions, you can tell them you’re not currently hiring, but you’ll save their resume in case a position opens up. This way, you’re looking at people genuinely interested in working for you first. These people see how you run things and want to be a part of your team. As a DRIVE client, Travis knows recruiting never stops. “Recruit more than you think you need to,” says Travis. “We can’t predict the future or when we will need to bring someone on. When that day comes, it is nice to go right to a small group of people you have already been communicating with rather than starting from scratch every time.”

When you’ve narrowed down the best potential candidates for a position, it’s time to bring them in for an interview. Make sure you’re honest about the role they’re applying for. By being upfront about the position, your shop’s strong points, and where your shop could do better, you can create an honest communication channel between you and the candidate. When the potential hire is aware of what they’re getting into, they’re more likely to stay in the position they applied for.

One thing to remember during the interview is that a job is more than just the daily functions the employee will need to perform. While someone may be able to run an inspection on a car fully, what is their mindset regarding completing tasks? Do they take a positive approach to every situation, or are they defensive from the start? Travis applies this during interviews by handing the interviewee a full write-up of the position. This write-up not only contains the job’s functions but how the candidate should approach the role and how to succeed in it. He says, “this gives them specific insight into the role and a vision for themselves within our business.” If an interviewee is able to identify any potential issues right off the bat, they can potentially be resolved then and there. By opening this discussion up front, you’re alleviating any problems that would make them upset and otherwise pop up months into a new job.

Loren’s Auto Repair of Kalispell, Montana

Now that your hiring process is over, how do you keep your chosen employees? Travis has retained his employees by putting them in a position to win. He has done this by creating policies that address every section of a role. By having clear standards and procedures set in place, employees are able to refer to something in writing when they are lost. It also outlines precisely what their role includes, which lessens confusion and overlap between roles. “When everyone knows what their job is and how to do it,” he says, “the number of headaches and pain points associated with doing their job at a high level is reduced.” Travis also compensates his team based on production. This allows each individual to have control over their own income, “they can directly affect their own paycheck.”

Travis also works hard to treat his employees like people, with empathy and kindness. Loren’s Auto Repair has incredible employee retention. The shop has a talented team with employees that do their job well enough that they can work wherever they want. They choose to work at Travis’s shop. He makes sure they know he appreciates them, has similar values to them, and wants to help them win. To prove this, he holds a weekly meeting where he buys everyone lunch and opens up the floor for discussion. This is where people can bring up any issues they’ve been having. The goal? “Figuring out where the issue is coming from, how to handle them, reduce them, or, hopefully, eliminate them entirely.” He also encourages his employees to give him feedback. He says, “listening to the employees has helped shape our overall policy within the company, but also with our customers and even the vehicles we work on.”

Employee retention is key to building the shop you dream of. If you’re constantly losing employees and having to start from scratch, you lose the ability to develop consistency. As Travis says, “it keeps you from establishing a great culture or creating a rhythm with your operations.” Travis was able to identify underlying issues with his shop by becoming a DRIVE client. DRIVE was able to help him figure out not only what needed to change but how to change. “Every accomplished sports team has a coach. A great shop operation is not that much different. If we want our shops to be exceptional, then we need help and that outside perspective is invaluable.”

Through these methods and with some help from DRIVE, Travis was able to create a exemplary team of professionals. And you can too! Explore every avenue when looking for new employees and remember to always be recruiting. When you do have candidates to interview, be honest with them about the position and your expectations. Once you’ve got a solid team make sure to let them know you value and appreciate them. By cultivating a culture built on trust and respect your employees will want to stick with your shop. If you don’t know where your pain points are, DRIVE can help you identify them and tell you the steps you can start taking to build your dream team.




Prepared by Chase Clough

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