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On-line Trade Show - Seminars

Rebuilders: the real deal

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the April 2001 issue of Transmission Digest.

If you have been recruiting rebuilders for your shop lately you might have noticed that there are a few guys out there that are presenting themselves as rebuilders but, when you hire them, you find out that they don't have a clue as to what it takes to be a professional transmission rebuilder. It's like going to the movies. You buy your ticket, get your popcorn, go sit down and there is no show. Where are these rebuilders coming from ?

We did it to ourselves. Installers are moving up to rebuilder status faster now than they ever have before. There are just not enough rebuilders to go around. It's been that way for at least 10 years now. As a result, we are seeing rebuilders that are not as prepared for the job as they should be. It's nobody's fault. Shortages create opportunities. When the installer learns the basics of how to build a transmission, if we get in a crunch, we throw them in the water and see if he can swim. The good news is that most of them can swim. However, shop owners must now take the responsibility of teaching these young builders the rest of what they need to know to be successful in our business. There is more to the job than just rebuilding a transmission. I will get the ball rolling by addressing what the rebuilders major responsibilities are and then talk about what the shop owners responsibilities are to his rebuilder.

Most importantly, a rebuilder needs to be able to take care of his warranty problems and build enough units to achieve the shops desired profit margin. He has to be a master at time management. He must be organized or he will not be able to meet the production demands of the job. The top builders are always two steps ahead of the game. They jump on the warranty work as soon as it comes in. They will make the time to dismantle and give you a parts report on all new work as soon as it hits his bench. They know a delay in sales causes delays on getting the parts they need to deliver the unit on time. As soon as it is sold, they put the unit in the cleaner so when the replacement parts arrive the unit is clean and ready to build. The good builders keep the cleaning machine going all day long. Their benches and tools are clean and organized. You will see them work on three or four transmissions at a time. If they are waiting on parts for one transmission then they go work on another one. They know that most of the time, the last two or three units at the end of the week is where the managers make their money and the owners make their profits. The top rebuilders superior work ethic makes this happen week after week. It's an amazing thing.

The rebuilder is the head tech in the shop and must be an expert at diagnostics. There is a trend going on now to create a special job category for diagnosticians. I think that has merit. It allows the builder to spend more time on the bench. However, the builder is, and always will be, the final word on technical problems facing the shop. He must be familiar with the latest diagnostic equipment and be able to deliver a diagnosis no mater what the problem is. He has to be able to perform consistently and handle the pressure. He is relied upon to make diagnostic calls all day long that will either fix the problem or not. He gets little credit when his call fixes the problem and all the blame when it doesn't.

The rebuilder needs to help keep the parts cost in line. If he has "Dealership Mentality" and thinks he can walk over to the parts counter and order whatever his little heart desires, he has to be aware that the shop owner will probably not be able to give him his next pay raise since he spent all the money at the parts house. He must keep up with the units and make responsible calls at the bench. In a busy shop, a builder that can do this will save enough money on parts to make sure he gets his next pay raise. That's the way it was in the old days and it remains true today.

Today's builder must present himself to the public as a highly skilled professional. Many times he will be asked to participate in the sale and he will also be asked to talk to customers in certain warranty situations. He will need to look clean cut and have acceptable people skills in order to represent the shop in these critical situations. The old saying " If you want to make a living, you have to put on a good show" is very true today in our business. Bottom line, the rebuilder when called upon, must be able to put the customer at ease regarding the technical issues facing the repair of his automobile.

The builder must have all the specialty tools he needs to meet his production responsibilities. It is not uncommon nowadays to see a builder with 50,000.00 worth of tools in his tool box. Without these tools, countless shop hours are lost in struggles with the transmission. Good builders have good credit with the Snap-On man. A rebuilder has to discipline himself to devote a large part of his salary to purchasing tools.

Our industry is constantly changing and today's builder needs to be committed to continuing education. He must make time to keep up with the changes in the industry. He should realize that seminar attendance and getting certified are a must if he is going to stay in the business long term. It would be to his benefit if he became familiar with the websites that have technical databases and discussion groups. These websites are fast becoming the training grounds of the future. Expose him to the trade magazines. They do a great job educating us all. One thing is for sure, if he does not educate himself he will never make top rebuilder money in this industry.

The top rebuilders in our industry are great team players. These guys lead by example. They bring a good attitude with them to the shop every day. They are clean, professional and fun people to work with. Most of them have a good sense of humor and they don't sweat the small stuff. They do not let their ego get in the way of production. They are as respectful to the clean up man as they are to the owner. If anyone on the team asks for their help, they give it if they can. They don't mind stepping out of their job category to help another team member because they are willing to do what ever it takes to help the team get the job done right and the car delivered to the customer on time. They feel responsible to the customer. The top rebuilders in our industry are someone the young prospective rebuilders can learn from and look up to.

I have covered only a portion of the rebuilders responsibilities in this article. It's a good start. There are a lot more. As we all know, the rebuilders job is no walk in the park if it is done right. And, if the shop owner doesn't do his part, it can turn into nightmare. So, what exactly is the shop owners part?

The shop owners part is consistent management and support. But, before you jump into that, it is important to understand that transmission rebuilders, young and old, are in a class of their own. You are dealing with very intelligent, highly skilled professional technicians that command respect. They know they are a cut above the rest and they also know that they are in short supply. So watch out. But hey, Babe Ruth had a coach.

As a shop owner you must accept your responsibility to step up to the plate and manage your rebuilder in a professional manner. Everyone benefits from good management. Don't forget, by promoting installers into building positions before they were ready, we helped create the rebuilders that are not as prepared for the job as they should be. So, we owe it to them to follow up on what we started and make a commitment to manage and support them.

You can start by complimenting your rebuilder on his strong points and identifying his weak points. Then, offer solutions to overcome his weak points. Explain exactly what you expect of him and give him realistic goals to reach. Take him to the seminars with you and encourage him to get his certifications. Ask him what you can do to help him. Listen to his suggestions. I repeat, listen to his suggestions and then implement them immediately. Reward him each time he reaches a goal you have set for him. It is important to understand that there are no two rebuilders alike. Each of them will possess different abilities and attitudes that change constantly. So, you have to follow up and give him job reviews on a regular basis. When your rebuilder does not know what you want, he has to guess at what it takes to make you happy. Then, nobody is happy.

The young rebulders in our industry show a lot of promise. I like them. They are interested in all the technical advances that are coming along and seem to have the drive it takes to acquire the knowledge. They just need someone to mentor them like someone mentored you. Remember? I know one thing, if we all help these young rebuilders, someday we can all go to the movies, buy our popcorn and see a show we can all be proud of. Until next time, take care of each other out there.

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