Have you ever thought about why a shop is against you doing work outside of normal business hours?

Not every shop has this policy but there are a good majority of shops who don’t like or understand why a technician would do side work.

This is obviously a hot topic of discussion. Technicians want the ability to use their talents and tools to do cash jobs. It can be lucrative and help you buy that boat you’ve been eyeing up.

So, why in the hell do shop managers seem to be so against it? How do they have the right to tell you what you can and cannot do in your own time? Why is it against the rules to use your own tools, at your own place, to do work that can drive some additional income for you?

Why Don’t All Shops Let Techs Perform Side Work?

In my opinion, I think it stems from distrust at some level. I worked at a shop while I was attending trade school down near Chicago. Growing up in a small independent shop, I didn’t think anything of it. However working at a shop with questionable ethics while going through school opened my eyes to this.

While working at the shop, I was somewhat surprised to see that their lead tech would give estimates to customers directly. While relaying the problems with the vehicle, the tech would mention in passing that the customer could save money by him doing the job on the side for cash. He even had business cards ready to hand out to the customer. So, ultimately, the tech was doing estimates on cars, and then selling the work at home.

To me, that was crossing the line. While it probably doesn’t happen to that extent everywhere, it definitely does still happen. If you’re a shop owner that has been burned by something like this, or have heard horror stories about people that have, then I’m guessing that you’re less likely to allow your techs to do side work.

How Does Side Work Affect the Industry?

To take it a step further, let’s take a look at what side work does for the industry. If you’re doing a side job for cash, you’re essentially cheapening the value of your skills. Every time you take a quarter of the retail price on service work, it makes it much harder for a shop to charge what they are worth. When that happens, it makes it extremely difficult to pay techs what their worth.

On the other hand, if you’re a tech that’s invested years of experience and tens of thousands of dollars into your craft, much more than most other professions, I totally get it. Hard workers want to make the money that they are due. Sometimes it’s nice to work on cars in your own shop, too. I find it much more enjoyable to fix a car at home than when I was being judged on how many hours I was producing.

Shops: Create a Policy and Explain It to Techs

To the shop owners and managers: State your position on side work up front. I’ve seen too many times where a manager becomes aggravated with a tech for doing side work, but doesn’t have a formal policy stated or doesn’t approach the tech about the concern.

I think the best thing you can do is to set a policy in place that shows what you allow. Can techs work on their friends and families cars? Great! How close of friends and family? Immediate family only? It feels like a lot of long lost cousins come out of the woodwork to get cheaper car repair.

The other piece of this is something that I think is even more important than stating the policy. Tell them why you have a policy on side work. Have a firm understanding of why you don’t allow side work, or why you have restrictions on it. Don’t make it a “you versus me” type of conversation, either. If you’ve been burned in the past, tell them. If you’re worried about unethical things happening as a result of side work, go into a bit of detail about what you mean.

At the end of the day, techs should work for somebody that cares for their well-being. It sticks out like a sore thumb when a manager doesn’t truly care about a tech as an individual. Those conversations around “elephant in the room” type topics can go a long way toward gaining trust in a category that not a lot of people do.