04 September 2015
We’ve all experienced the audible sigh that sweeps throughout a room when management says there’s some required training to be done. You can expect to be in a mind-numbing lecture or sat in front of a computer watching painful informational skits, and then answering multiple choice questions afterwards to “test your knowledge.”
By those standards, the installer staff at Visions (a Canadian chain of electronics stores specializing in 12-volt) have it pretty good. Usual fare for the 40 or so guys from regions all over western Canada is to sit in a classroom and learn from notable members of the industry, like Bryan Schmitt of Mobile solutions, or the madman himself, David “Fishman” Rivera. Ryan White, Visions Regional Manager of Car Audio in Northern Alberta, takes feedback on the course every year and decided to switch up the pace this year after some complaints.
“The installers always complain that they don’t want to sit in a classroom,” White explains. “So, this year, when planning started for this thing, we had this crazy idea: ‘Why don’t we have a build-off with all of our installers?’ Of course, none of the installers knew what was going on. When they showed up, they were basically put to work. They wanted hands-on, so they got hands-on!”
Imagine showing up for a classroom lecture, only to be handed tools and told to give it what you got! I think we can all say that’s a class we wouldn’t skip. Visions’ installers weren’t just told to have at it though; this was a challenge with rules and guidelines to be followed. Split up into four teams of 11, the installers were to work on specially selected Visions employees' vehicles.
“Each team was given a list of rules to treat those vehicles exactly as they would a customer vehicle,” says White. “One guy, for his truck, couldn’t lose a certain amount of space under the rear seat because he had a fold-out thing and he had to put a dog in there. The other guy still needed to fit his kid’s stroller in the trunk. It wasn’t like a free-for-all where they could do what they wanted.”
This provided the eager installers with real-world scenarios, some of which they may not have even come across before. They also had a chance to tackle some installs that aren’t very popular given their different regions, so just in case they need to, they have that experience to draw from in case someone needs an alarm, heated seats, back up camera or even headrest video displays.
The best thing was that the installers, whether a rookie or not, didn’t have to go it alone with unanswered questions. Instead of a special guest to give a lecture, Visions asked its partners, like GEM-SEN and Gentec, to provide factory techies that are versed in the brands that would be going into the vehicles.
“They got right in there and installed just like us,” smiles White. “The nice thing was that the guys were able to ask them questions one-on-one, where before if we had a guy speaking to a classroom of 40 guys, they might not have had actual time to talk to him or have him answer their questions accordingly. Now, they’re working alongside him for two days straight and he’s able to show them install techniques.”
When all was said and done, the fortunate victims of the installer training – a 2013 Jeep Patriot, 2015 Chevy Malibu and two 2013 Dodge Rams – had tasteful installs, built around the owners’ needs, done with premium brands like Kicker, JL Audio, Alpine, Hertz, Pioneer and JVC. There was no first prize however; it just wasn’t that kind of exercise.
“The whole idea was to promote teamwork within the company,” White says. “We didn’t want to have Calgary against Edmonton or something like that. The nice thing was that each team had a person on it from each of our markets, so one team had a guy from Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg – all of our stores.”
White says they’re already planning a bigger and better surprise for next year. Looks like mandatory training won’t ever be seen the same way again at Visions! This 32 store, 12-volt specialty chain is training its staff to not just slap in a head unit and a couple speakers all day, it’s promoting them to fabricate and build really cool stuff.
For more information, go to http://www.visions.ca.
Contributor: Jamie Kembel, (Lacie Lou Photography)