A good mechanic has a lot of skills that most people wish we could have. You will notice in my list of the 4 traits shared by good mechanics that skills didn’t make the list. It is a lot more about the attitude and drive of the human being than the skills they have developed actually working on the car. Of course, you must have a fairly high mechanical ability to be a successful mechanic, but those skills will go to waste if you do not have the social skills required to help a shop be successful.
In the span of my career, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of great mechanics and unfortunately, a lot of not so great ones. Thinking back over the years, I have identified four character traits that every good mechanic has shared.
The four key traits of a good mechanic are: a positive attitude, quick decision making, a desire to be better each day, and time management.
#1. Positive Attitude
I spent many years as a mechanic. I started out as an auto body mechanic and painter, then transitioned more to the mechanical repair side of the auto repair industry. When things are going smoothly, being a mechanic is an absolute blast and very rewarding. When things go wrong – which they often do – being a mechanic can be a long and frustrating day.
What I have noticed in the top mechanics I have worked with is their ability to keep a good attitude even when things go a little sideways. Though even the best of the best have their moments, our best mechanics have the ability to step away for a quick minute, regain their composure, and get back after it without a huge explosion.
Now, for some of my least favorite mechanics I have worked with, they are easily irritated, throw tools, come up with amazing swear words, and often take it out on coworkers. This only makes the problem worse, and before you know it, the attitude of the whole shop is down.
I now own two shops in Utah and, thankfully, have eleven amazing mechanics working on my teams. As I am growing my team and searching for the next mechanic to hire, attitude is a high factor on someone making it through the interview process. I am a firm believer in energy and focus. If a mechanic is always going to be negative, I know it is going to kill the energy of my shop and attract more negativity. You may be the highest skilled mechanic that can fix anything, but if your attitude sucks, you can not join my team.
#2. Decision Making
Diagnosing and repairing vehicles is not always a cut and dry process. There are curveballs thrown at mechanics all day long. Good mechanics have the ability to make a decision in a fairly quick manner of what needs to be done.
A bolt is hard to get to, so they make a decision to remove a bracket for access. A vehicle is not currently duplicating the customer’s concern, so they make the decision to take on a longer test drive. A bolt breaks off, and they make the decision to weld a nut on it to remove rather than trying to drill. Whatever the decision may be, a good mechanic has the confidence to make a decision in a timely manner and trust that decision.
I have a good mechanic (great, actually) on my team currently that used to struggle a little bit in his decision making. It was mostly when diagnosing customers’ concerns with their vehicle. He would follow the process and perform testing to narrow down the problem, but then he would second guess the results and often retest everything. Almost every time he would do this, the end result of the diagnosis ended up being the same.
What is the problem with this? The problem was properly diagnosed, right? Well, the problem is that if you have to do everything twice to be able to make a decision, you will fall way behind on the amount of work you need to produce for the day to be successful as a mechanic and help the success of the shop.
#3. Desire To Be Better Each Day
The auto repair industry is constantly changing. Auto manufacturers are coming out with new technology every year. A good mechanic is able to see the changes being made and be willing to keep up with change.
I love tradition, but I also embrace change. I purchased my second auto repair shop in 2020. This shop has been around since the 1930’s in the same family and was known as a top shop for many years. Unfortunately, the shop owner and most of the team found a lot of success all the way into the 90’s – and then stopped keeping up with change.
What you are doing to be successful today will likely not be what you need to do to be successful in a few years. You must be willing to keep up with change. Doing the exact same things year over year will likely lead to failure. All good mechanics on my team are great at what they do everyday, but they are constantly attending seminars to keep up with the latest technology.
#4. Time Management
Time management is a huge part of being a good mechanic. We only have so many hours a day to get our work done so we better use those hours wisely.
As a shop owner, I must hold certain profit margins in order to have a successful and sustainable business. When it comes to labor, an ideal profit margin is 65%. So, for every $100.00 in labor I am able to bill a customer for, I can afford to pay a mechanic 35% of that ($35.00). This includes vacation time, uniforms, payroll taxes, insurance, etc.
Every minute of every day as a mechanic, you should be improving your process to allow you to produce as much quality work as possible. If you work for me and produce 6 billable hours for the day x $100.00 rate, that is $600.00 in labor I can bill to the customer. I can then afford to pay you 35% of that labor which amounts to $210.00 for the day.
Now, if you work for me and produce 12 billable hours for the day x $100.00 rate, that is $1200.00 in labor I can bill to the customer. I can then afford to pay you $420.00 for the day. On top of you making way more money, the shop is also able to be successful with higher sales of labor and parts.
Now, as the shop owner, it is my responsibility to give you the environment needed to be successful and productive. A good scheduling process, a good sales process, a good parts ordering process, and many other things lead to the success of a good mechanic, but you must be able to manage your time properly as well to be successful.