Struggling to Find the Right Employees for Your Dealership?

Struggling to Find the Right Employees for Your Dealership?

Guest writer John Dowling has a timely blog post this week. We are always hearing about the difficulties employers face when trying to find quality employees. Read “Struggling to Find the Right Employees for Your Dealership?” to learn more.

Are Recruiting Firms a Good Investment? Well, it depends on the firm. Do they have an excellent reputation? Are they 5-star rated? Do they have a guarantee? Do they know your industry? Do they embrace technology to drive efficiency in their process? If the answers are “yes” to all the above questions, then there is a good chance the recruiting firm will positively impact your ROI. A better question is, “Do I need a recruiting firm to be successful?” We could also ask, “Why should I use a recruiting firm to staff my dealership?”

It doesn’t matter what business book you read or what successful owner you talk with; they will always indicate that what drove their success was their people: the company’s human resources. Having the right people is more important than having the right product or business plan. People drive your business’ success. The right people and culture fit is paramount to your dealership’s success. It doesn’t matter if a candidate is qualified, if they are not a good culture fit, they can harm your company.

I worked at a dealership that had explosive growth. When I started, we were about 110 employees; in less than six years, we were over 220. That’s adding over 100 employees, and that does not include recruiting for turnover. A couple of years into it, we realized we needed a full-time HR manager, and I was tasked, on top of all my other responsibilities, to recruit and hire the HR manager. I had taken some HR classes for my degree and was familiar with HR, but I had to do more research to determine precisely what qualities and skill sets are required for a successful HR manager. I posted the job on an online job board. I continued reading articles and HR blogs and reaching out to people I knew in the industry, trying to prepare myself to source, screen, and hire an HR manager.

Well, I was successful, at least at acquiring many resumes. I remember one day, I had over 60 resumes that I had to read and decide if I should set up a phone call or not. About halfway through the stack, I started having resume fatigue. Do you know when all the resumes start looking the same, and you don’t even remember the name of the person you just read? It all just becomes a blur. For the sake of time, I began looking for things to disqualify them versus asking whether they were qualified and would be a good fit for our company. I am sure I passed over some good candidates.

A good friend and successful businessman recommended a recruiting firm to find us an HR manager. After convincing the dealer’s owner that the placement fees would be an investment in our business, they sourced a great candidate within budget. We hired him, and he helped us get to the next level. The HR manager brought years of terrific value to the company, especially compared to the placement fee we had to pay the recruiting firm. It was some of the best money we ever invested in the company.

Recruiting is a full-time job; you will get sub-par results if you try to do it part-time. One of the most significant values of using a recruiting firm is freeing up capacity. Your managers only have so much mental capacity. When asking a busy sales manager, branch manager, or service manager to recruit employees, something will slip off their plate, usually customer service and profitability. It would be difficult to calculate the exact loss of potential income and customer satisfaction because the manager focuses on recruiting rather than their primary responsibility.

You may say, “We have an HR manager,” or “We have a full-time recruiting staff.” That might be true, but Jay Lucas, President of JSA, always says, “Recruiting is like a pineapple.” HR managers are juggling compliance, compensation, and employee satisfaction, similar-sized fruit. Then the company president throws in a pineapple, recruiting; it just doesn’t fit. What usually ends up happening is that the pineapple hits the ground, or the HR manager tries to juggle the pineapple, and everything else stops. Recruiting is a full-time job, and a company should always continue recruiting. Would your sales associates be recruiting or working in the shop? No, the sales associates must keep their sales activity funnels full, and I say the same for recruiting: you must keep the recruiting activity funnel full. There is not an on/off switch. Recruiting is a process.

I know some companies have a whole department of full-time recruiters. If you’re large enough, this may be a workable model. However, I would challenge you to determine your actual payroll cost, benefits, oversite, and additional office space for a service that could be outsourced and performed more efficiently. We must focus on what we’re good at.

Heavy equipment dealerships are skilled at selling and servicing equipment. However, recruiting employees for an equipment dealership is different from selling and servicing equipment. Focus on what you’re good at, managing a heavy equipment dealership. Partner with a trusted recruiting firm that specializes in recruiting top talent for the heavy equipment industry. This will be a win-win scenario that will return an excellent ROI for all parties involved.

At Jordan-Sitter Associates, we have an excellent reputation and literally hundreds of five-star reviews to prove it. We have been in the heavy equipment industry since 1978, and we are so confident that we can find top talent that we have a money-back guarantee. We have dedicated recruiters who specialize in different subsets of our industry, be it Dealer, OEM, Sales, Product Support, Operations, or Technicians. Our sophisticated technology stack allows us to source passive job seekers, ensuring we deliver you a qualified candidate who is the “right fit” for your company! To learn more about JSA, visit our website at

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Aged Work Orders

Aged Work Orders

Guest writer John Dowling is back this week to cover the topic of timing and timelines in your dealership in “Aged Work Orders.”

How long or how many days should it take to complete a repair on a customer’s machine? How many days does it take for your service department to close out a service work order? I have been asked the ideal number of days or average days to close a work order. The answer to that question is less than what it is now. However, many days it takes your service department to close out a work order, it’s too many! Unless you’re running a perfect service department. If that’s the case, stop reading and forward this to somebody else to read.

An aged work order is a work order over 30 days old. Depending on your location and industry, this number may go up or down, but 30 days is a good rule of thumb. Aged work orders should be a concern at every level of management within a dealership. The dealership that aged work orders are not a concern at every level of management, that dealership will struggle with cash flow, profitability, and customer satisfaction. These are all the symptoms of aged work orders.

How do we address or correct an aged work order problem? One way we should not address it is by criticizing the service manager, making many threats, shouting, screaming, and telling them to fix the problem. That rarely works. Most service and branch managers need a better understanding of the service process. They believe that service managers’ job is to fix equipment, and that’s partially true. It’s a technician’s job to fix equipment. It is the service manager’s job to manage the process of repairing the customers’ equipment—similar roles or jobs but not the same.

We must break down the service process to discover where the bottlenecks and issues are causing our prolonged work order lifecycle. A prolonged lifecycle will lead to an aged work order. How have I broken down the service process? Well, I’ve broken it down into ten steps or stages. In my book Service by the Boxes, I refer to these steps as boxes. We are looking for how many days it takes to move the work order through each step or box.

We need to know how many days it takes from the day the customer drops off his piece of equipment at your dealership to open a work order. If it takes more than 24 hours, that is too long. All work orders should be opened the same day the equipment is dropped off.

Once the work order is opened, how many days does it take to have that work order assigned to a technician and the technician to start the diagnostics process? This must occur within 24 hours to be best in class.

After the technician has diagnosed the equipment and created a parts list, how long does it take your parts department to estimate the parts? Parts estimates should be completed daily.

How many hours does it take for the service department to complete the service estimate and get the customer’s approval? This should occur within 24 hours of the parts estimate being created.

When the estimate has been approved, the required parts should be ordered on the same day. How long does it take your parts department to order approved parts? If it is days or weeks, you have a problem.

Once the parts have been received, do you have an assigned location to stage them for the technician? What is the process of informing the technician or the service manager that their ordered parts have been received? How long does it take? I hope the parts were staged the same day they were received.

This next stage of the work order process usually kills most service departments, especially those struggling with aged work orders. Once the technician receives the parts and completes the repair, how many days, if not weeks, does it take your technician to turn in a completed service report? Technicians should complete and turn in service reports the same day they complete the repair without exception.

Once the service report is turned in to the service manager or office, how long does it take them to process, i.e., close the work order? I have seen service managers hold on to completed work orders until the last week of the month before they even start processing them. Completely asinine. Completed work orders should be closed within 24 hours if not on the same day the service report is turned in. All the work has been done; we need to close the work order. That’s cash just sitting in your service office. 

After the work has been completed and the work order has been closed, how long does it take to collect payment for the repair? This may be the most crucial step in the entire process. It does not matter how efficient your technicians are, how many turns your parts department has, or even if your service manager keeps all his work orders up to date. It is all for not until you collect the money. The transaction is complete once you get paid. 

So, how many days should a work order’s life cycle be? Run a report to find the average age of your work orders. Your work order life cycle should be less than that number. Review the steps we discussed and record how long your service department takes to get from step to step or box to box. Ask why it takes so long and find ways to decrease the time. It is challenging work, but it will pay dividends in cash flow, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

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The Little Things Do Matter

The Little Things Do Matter

Learning Without Scars’ new guest writer John Dowling is a United States Marine veteran who has had a successful 25-year career in the Product Support Industry. He started as an equipment mechanic and worked his way up to be a field service mechanic. John was promoted to service manager and eventually to branch manager of a heavy equipment dealership. Then he accepted a position as a field service representative for a major heavy equipment manufacturer. In his last role before entering the recruiting and consulting industries, John was Director of Product Support at a 9-location heavy equipment dealership.  John is also the author of the book Service by the Boxes, a manual on how to run and develop a best-in-class service department. “The Little Things Do Matter” is his debut blog post for us.

Years ago, when I was a Director of Product Support at a dealership we had much success early on, but at one point we plateaued and became complacent. This happens sometimes when success comes too easily or too quickly for an organization. So, I put together a training campaign for my parts and service managers to get back to basics. I was trying to communicate to them that being best-in-class in product support is a game of inches, not yards. Doing the little things right is what matters. I was reminded of this in B.J. Frogg’s book Tiny Habits. Doing the little things right and completing the small tasks drives momentum and creates motivation to continue to push on to do the bigger things. Jesus of Nazareth quoted in Luke 16:10 said “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.”     


Creating habits or processes in the parts and service departments is key to creating and developing a best-in-class dealership. If you’ve been in this industry for any length of time you’ve heard the statement, “The sales department sells the first machine and parts and service sells the rest.”  Which is a true statement. Ironically enough when a dealership is struggling with market share, they never focus on the real driving force. Which is the product support side of the business. Now you can use discretionary money, cut your margins, run a sales campaign, and increase marketing spend to try to recapture market share but all these activities will be short-lived. At some point, the other manufacturers or dealerships will discount their prices more and produce a cleverer marketing slogan or campaign. Eventually, the dealerships are just spending a lot of money and enter the never-ending cycle of who can get to the bottom first.


When I say focus on product support, I do not mean that the sales department or executive management blames all the dealership’s shortcomings on parts and service. What is meant here is that to maintain market share and sales revenue you must have a robust and effective parts and service departments. And yes, this means having the right people leading these departments, but being best-in-class is more than having the right people on your product support team. You must have a process, and everybody must know and follow that process.

Now let’s get back to our main point. We must create a culture of building “tiny habits” or doing the little things right. A good well defined documented process ensures that we do the little things right. In my new book Service by the Boxes, I break down the service process into ten individual steps or boxes. At the end of each chapter, we discuss each of the boxes or steps and I give examples and show how being best-in-class at each stage of the work order process is just doing the little things right.


What are some of these little things that any dealership can do to drive customer service? Remember customer service will help you maintain your market share. Chick-fil-A dominates the fast-food industry and one of the little things that they do well is saying, “My pleasure.” 

Here is one for the service department. Confirm machine hours and serial numbers on every machine that is dropped off for service. The top two reasons warranty claims are denied or delayed processing are because of incorrect hour readings and incorrect serial numbers. 

Here’s another one for service, open a work order the same day the machine is brought in for service. If you review your RIP (Repairs in Progress) report daily this will ensure that a machine is not lost or forgotten. I have seen service departments cut two to five days from their total repair time just by opening the work order the same day the machine came in.

One more little thing about service. Technicians complete their service report the same day they complete the repairs on the machine and turn it in. All the hard work has been done. If the technician does not do the little thing right and does not turn in a completed service report the same day he completes the repair, he can prolong the “work order life cycle” time, which decreases customer satisfaction and trust in the dealership. Not to mention this has a major negative impact on the dealership’s cash flow. 


Now to parts. Pull all in-stock parts. If a part goes on a counter ticket or a work order it should be physically removed from the parts inventory. It should be placed on a will-call shelf or given to the service department. If this little thing does not occur, there is a good possibility the part in question will be sold to another customer. This can prolong a service repair in the shop. This can also negatively affect customer satisfaction of the one who drove an hour to buy the part from you just to discover it was sold to someone else. 

Call the customer when their part does not show up. Parts go on back-order and parts get lost in transit. This happens every day. The dealerships have zero control over it, but if we can control the narrative, we can still be best-in-class. How, you ask? We call the customer before they call us. If the customer calls us to ask about their part that did not show up, they lose trust in us, they will doubt we have their best interest at heart. If we call the customer first, let them know that the part did not show up, and inform them what is being done to rectify the situation; the customer will not lose trust in us and will perceive this as great customer service. Oddly enough, the situation is exactly the same. We might even gain additional trust from them. The customers still will not be happy, but they will not be upset with us. They will know that we are working hard for them to resolve the problem of the lost part.


Being best-in-class and delivering great customer service is not about doing the big and remarkable things but about doing the unimportant things. Creating a culture of “tiny habits” by developing a well-documented process that ensures the little things are being accomplished will drive your success. Not to mention increasing your bottom line. 


LWS Note: John’s Book is something that should be read by everyone.


Service by the Boxes.


Want to take your service department to the next level? This book provides a practical approach to service management, addressing real-world issues that dealerships face every day. With its clear and concise best-in-class practices, Service by the Boxes empowers you to drive success in your service department from day one. Increase customer satisfaction and market share with the principles in this must-read book.

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