Ancira Ford in Floresville, Texas, has a predicament.
Floresville is a rural town of about 7,600 people that's about a 35-minute drive to San Antonio. So most qualified service technicians from San Antonio don't want to commute to Floresville.
To make matters worse, right outside Floresville is an oil field that pays mechanics a high wage.
"It's an inconvenient rural area, but close enough to San Antonio that it's obnoxious," says April Ancira, vice president of operations for Ancira Auto Group in San Antonio. "You're fighting with their business and the ability of people to get jobs in San Antonio. But you're not close enough for people to come out and do business with you."
Yet the store has been able to attract and keep technicians because of an innovative pay plan devised several years ago.
The store sells about 350 new and 200 used vehicles a year and has a steady service business. But because of its location, Ancira and her Floresville general manager knew they had to be proactive to compete for talent. So in 2005 they tweaked their pay and benefits plan.
Ancira now pays service technicians $3 to $4 an hour above the going rate for city mechanics. Ancira guarantees them 40-hour workweeks for the first six months and even helps pay relocation expenses if the employee moves to Floresville. Ancira does not require service techs to sign a contract to get those perks.
"Just because we have this program in place, they don't beat our door down," says Andy Horny, general manager of Ancira Ford in Floresville. "Once we explain this program though, it works out. I haven't lost a tech in seven years."
So far two of Horny's eight service technicians have moved to Floresville. A third is planning to move. Floresville is a rural farming and ranching community that has one Walmart and one grocery store, Horny says.
Horny's top service technicians earn an hourly wage in the "upper $20s." That's $3 to $4 above the going rate, Horny says. And he gives them a raise each time they complete a level of certification. He says the good pay and benefits also keep the local mechanics from going to work for the oil field.
"That solution does make our profit margins smaller than a city dealer's would be, but we're still close enough to the city where customers are comparing our prices to the city dealer," Ancira says. "Yet, we're paying more for our staff, so it's not without penalty."
But it has kept the dealership's service department fully staffed with some top service technicians, Horny says.
Ancira Ford hired two technicians from St. Phillip's College in San Antonio a few years ago. Each came with an associate degree and certification. Ancira works with the college regularly to recruit students, Horny says.
"It's not easy. It's a struggle every day to get them in the door," Horny says. "Once we get them in the door, we keep them because we take care of them."