Behind every successful independent automotive repair shop is a staff that not only provides expert repairs, but one that treats customers with the care and respect that keeps them coming back — and telling their family and friends.
Since founding Rad Air Complete Car Care in 1975, Shop Owner Andy Fiffick has expanded from his original Parma Heights, OH, location to three company-owned facilities and nine franchised operations throughout Northeast Ohio. Along the way, staffing has always been a critical component for success.
“At the Parma Heights facility, we employ four technicians and one apprentice,” Andy says. “Between all locations we have approximately 55 technicians and five apprentices. All technicians become ASE certified as their skills progress. We hire and bring many industry leaders in-house to hold training programs for our staff each year. We encourage, require and pay for our technicians to update their education annually.”
That education includes factory-level training available as part of the ACDelco TSS program and other parts manufacturer training clinics, as well as contract trainers, such as John Anello, Craig Van Battenburg, “G” Truglia and Sam Bell.
“Our general manager schedules regular in-house training programs and ensures Rad Air technicians receive the proper training required to perform the various repairs completed in Rad Air shops,” Andy explains. “We’ve found that lunch-and-learn events hosted by parts manufacturers have been a great way to keep our staff up to date on a regular basis.”
“We have a tremendous reputation in the local area for being a great place to work; so many of our technicians have reached out to us on their own,” he says. “We also work closely with many local vocational programs and colleges to introduce our company to young talent. Each year at the Cleveland Piston Powered Auto-Rama, we host a high school vocational automotive repair challenge and encourage student teams to enter a timed diagnostic and repair competition. This has also been an excellent way to meet talented young technicians who are just starting out in the industry.”
Number One in Customer Service
While word-of-mouth advertising still attracts the majority of the company’s clients, Andy says they also rely on direct mail programs, as well as traditional methods like magazine and newspaper ads. Rad Air is well represented on social networks such as Facebook, and the website is currently receiving a facelift. But no matter how much advertising a shop does, it won’t be successful without a commitment to fixing cars right the first time, every time.
“We take pride in our ability to service vehicles correctly the first time they visit the shop,” Andy says. “We also provide free loaner vehicles to our clients so they don’t have to be without a vehicle while theirs is in the shop. Finally, we offer a great warranty and stand behind our work.”
Every successful shop owner knows that an inviting facility can make a great first impression — and a less-than-appealing one can break it. Andy says every Rad Air location is clean and safe, including the reception and waiting areas, bathrooms and work areas.
“We want to be proud to take our clients into the shop if we need to show them something on their vehicle,” Andy explains.
Boosting Shop Productivity
With so many locations, the Rad Air business model differs from the competition in that the staff is paid fair hourly wages or salaries. Gone are the traditional commission, quota or incentive programs. Instead, employees work toward a monthly productivity rate of 85%.
“Rad Air’s primary focus is building relationships with clients who will become our brand ambassadors in their own communities,” Andy explains. “Therefore, we do not use sales or job quotas, productivity goals or SPIFF programs. Instead, we examine gross profit and employee productivity figures on a monthly basis.
“General Manager Tom Warmuth examines productivity and offers training to Rad Air shops and employees who need assistance reaching these goals,” Andy continues. “Most importantly, maintaining a client retention rate of 82% or better is the greatest indicator of our ability to successfully manage each shop.”
All Rad Air service managers are expected to run their shop as if it were their own business, while adhering to Rad Air’s business philosophy and company values of honesty and integrity. Andy says this business model “allows them to take the responsibility and authority for improving employee productivity rates and client retention rates.”
To say that Andy Fiffick is well known in his community would be an understatement, given his long list of local service, awards and affiliations. A member of MACS Worldwide since 1987, he has served as CEO and chairman of the board since 2005. He has also been on the Cleveland Better Business Bureau board of directors for the past eight years. All Rad Air locations participate in affiliate programs through ACDelco, AAA-Approved Auto Repair and ASE. Each shop maintains A or A+ ratings with the local BBB as well. And that’s not all.
“Employees attend numerous industry events each year, including the AAPEX/SEMA shows, the CARS training event and more,” Andy says. “The BBB has awarded Rad Air the Torch Award for Integrity and Outstanding Customer Service twice. Various local and national media outlets contact Rad Air for expert information on automotive issues.
“Additionally, our local reputation and positive relationships with area parts stores, car dealerships, service centers and other competitors is industry recognition we are proud to have earned. Among local shops and service centers, Rad Air is the shop you can rely on when you have a tough problem.”
Which leads Andy to share just what has made Rad Air successful: Not just one, but three “golden rules.”
“We fix the car right the first time, we charge a fair price, and we make sure every client is happy,” he says. “Our technicians take pride in fixing vehicles correctly so our clients’ problems are ultimately eliminated. With proper staff training and management, it’s easy to adhere to our first two golden rules. However, we understand we constantly need to go above and beyond to make sure our clients are beyond satisfied with their experience.”
Courtesy Shop Owner.