Need pros in your Parts, Service areas? You have to pay to play

Publish Date: 
Aug 26, 2012
By Dave Koshollek

IT'S BEEN A LONG, ROUGH ROAD through this stinking recession, and you know what? We’ve all suffered. All of us, including the poor working stiffs in parts and service. Their expenses have increased like the rest of us, and their discretionary funds are slim to none because the effects of inflation are a greater percentage of their income.

This is an important consideration when setting wages for frontline workers — if you want to attract and keep great Parts and Service professionals, you’ve got to pay well to perform well.

This reminds me of a conversation I had a year ago with a very sharp Service manager who told me he weeded through 350 applications just to hire two techs. He was alarmed that so many of those who answered the ad had insufficient talent and experience, and some just a lousy attitude.

When these things happen, and it’s happening all over the country, we should ask ourselves, “Is it me or is it them?” The ratio of 350 to two tells me it might be us.

If you want to create a crack team of Parts and Service professionals, you will have to pay for performance. Yes, it’s true that as motorcycle maniacs we are driven by more than just the almighty dollar; management appreciation, an exciting work environment and spiffs like discounted parts come to mind. But at the end of the day, if worker bees can’t pay to live in a safe neighborhood, have enough cash to take the family out to a nice restaurant once in a while, or can’t afford to buy a new vehicle every few years, they start looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Think about this: In 2008 when the Great Recession hit, most motorcycle shops froze the wages of their Parts and Service staff. Most have not increased wages since the turnaround started, and some have even reduced wages further. According to a major technical school, today’s average starting pay for an entry-level motorcycle mechanic with formal training is about $11 per hour. Four years ago it was $12.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2011 report, the median hourly rate for motorcycle mechanics nationwide is $15.58. That doesn’t create a lot of motivation to make a career out of turning wrenches, especially when you’re expected to personally own at least $10,000 in tools and cabinets.