Five Questions: Larry Barrington and Matt Flintrop

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This is the continuation of an article that first appeared in the November 2010 print edition of Dealernews.

The service department is the one area of a dealership where ongoing training and education is absolutely vital for success. We handed this month's "Five Questions" over to Larry Barrington, the education director at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute and Matt Flintrop, the service manager at House of Harley-Davidson, a Top 100 dealer in Milwaukee. Both Barrington and Flintrop had a lot more to say, including more inquiries from Barrington, and a back-and-forth with Flintrop asking the questions.

Here's what they said:

Larry Barrington: What are the important character traits an entry-level motorcycle technician should have to become an effective team member?
Matt Flintrop: Attitude, work ethic, teamwork, tenacity, emotional maturity, resilience, and a sense of humor.

LB: One of your entry-level employees has become a chronic complainer. What will you do to address the situation?
MF: It’s a difficult answer to give as we just don’t have this concern. If the complaints have merit, use them as an opportunity to improve your operation. If they don’t, then I guess the advice that I would give is to hire tough, train and review often, and if you don’t get what you need after you have given your best effort is to prune as needed.

LB: What type of language is acceptable in your dealership?
MF: I would say that PG13 would best describe our atmosphere.

LB: How important is a positive entry level motorcycle technician’s attitude and why?
MF: Next to mechanical aptitude, attitude is the next most important component to a technician’s long term success. No matter how much training or experience a person has, they are who they are. A positive attitude affects everyone and everything in the shop and in life.

LB: What skills should an employee have, with No. 1 being the most important?
MF: Mechanical aptitude, attention to detail, problem solving skills and a systematic approach.

And now, Flintrop asks Barrington his own set of five questions.

Matt Flintrop: What changes have you seen in the demographics of your students over the last couple of years?
Larry Barrington: We have seen the age range of our students expand to include more people who are changing careers. We have also experienced an increase in enrollment of veterans.

MF: How has student enrollment and placement rates changed?
LB: Enrollment has increased and placement has been recently challenging, given the economy. As a company, we are adding more resources to dig deeper to find our graduates meaningful employment in the industry.

MF: What qualities do you see in students who are successful in school?
LB: The motorcycle industry is their passion. They have a strong work ethic, are open to learning and growing, and they enjoy working with motorcycles and other people.

MF: What skills and functions do you want every student to be proficient in when they graduate?
LB: For our students to qualify for the best opportunities in the motorcycle industry, it is important that our students graduate with a good attendance record, a positive attitude, a professional appearance and a strong fundamental technical skill set. This would include the ability to perform basic maintenance procedures, basic electrical diagnostics testing, basic chassis service and power train repair procedures.

MF: What skills do you cultivate in your students beyond repairing motorcycles?
LB: Respect, regard, dependability by way of attendance and professionalism grading. We have more than 100 professionally trained instructors who work with the students five hours a day, five days a week, coaching, teaching, demonstrating, walking the talk. By the time our students reach graduation, they have learned the soft skills that have been identified by our industry customers and are prepared to enter the motorcycle industry as an entry-level technician.

MF: If you could tell motorcycle dealers one thing about MMI, what would it be?
LB: We exist to meet your service needs and we do this by changing one life at a time every day of the workweek. MMI supplies the highest quality and quantity of entry-level technicians to the motorcycle industry. Our singleness of purpose in training is one of our best assets, and our motorcycle training is not a sideline, it is what we do, period. Sorry I had to say two things.

MF: How is MMI different from other schools that train motorcycle mechanics?
LB: Hard to say. We do not work there, so cannot judge. This is up to you and other dealerships to judge. However, I can say that MMI receives a high level of support from motorcycle manufacturers that provides us with the best possible resources in terms of product, curriculum, and alignment with OEM training expectations.

MF: If you could change one thing about MMI instantly, what would it be?
LB: We change the world one life at a time by helping people achieve their dreams. It is the underlying inspirational reason for our existence. I have been here for more then 30, so I have seen a lot of change and will continue to see change as the industry does the same.

MF: What is MMI's biggest challenge moving forward? What is the biggest area of opportunity?
LB: Our challenge and opportunity is our mission, which is to source and train and place people who love motorcycles and are passionate about making a contribution to our industry.

posted by Dennis Johnson