Tech of the Month
Jody grew up in South Dakota alongside the Missouri River dreaming of getting out and seeing the world. He never would have thought he would be able to have a career where he gets to travel and see places while doing what he loves to do. Jody lives in Rapid City, SD with his wife and 3 children.
Jody started his PDR career in 1996 while working in Phoenix, AZ as a Honda tech. The dealership he was working at decided to train someone and they hounded Jody to give it a shot. Jody is thankful that he decided to take that opportunity as it was the beginning of the journey to where he is today. Jody has 3 different retail locations in 3 cities in SD with 3 techs. Although he has retail shops year round, Jody has been chasing hail since 2001. Jody chases all over North America and Australia working alongside some of his closest friends.
Jody believes one of the changes needed in the industry is for techs to stop selling themselves short. He says they need to realize why they got into business and to be their own boss, not someone’s pawn. Jody has a motto, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
Jody’s words on the future of the industry, “The future of the industry is all in how you look at it. There are a lot of great things ahead if we all come together and take the bull by the horns. This is why I became a part of PDR Nation!”
Inside the Industry
I spoke with the creators of PDR College, Keith Cosentino and Shane Jacks to find out about PDR College and what they have to offer. Keith is located in Sacramento, CA and Shane is located in Greenville, SC. Two guys across the country from each other who have become good friends and started this project together intrigued me to find out more.
The two meet on Doording.com first and respected each other’s technical skills and comments. That led to them forming a friendship beyond the forums. Keith and Shane eventually got to meet face to face at MTE and have become good friends ever since.
PDR College is a place where people, who want to perform at the highest level of Paintless Dent Repair, can find the tools and a roadmap to get them to the next level. Right now they have a few videos and eleven hour long podcasts on their site www.pdrcollege.com.
I’ve listened to their podcasts and must say they are great, full of good information and free! I asked the guys what was it that made them decide to do the podcasts, “Being very active in the online PDR community we were both constantly getting asked by techs and prospective techs “can you show me how to do…?” So after a few years of the same questions we thought it would be really cool to put this info in a place where people could access anytime they wanted. We are both very passionate about the retail side of PDR and both have extensive knowledge about that market. Many techs do not and we are happy to share what we know.”
I wanted to know who PDR College was geared toward and meant to serve. Is it for veteran techs, new techs, people wanting to train? This is what I found out, “Honestly, anyone who is interested in PDR will find PDR College informative and fun. That being said, you can get a LOT more out of knowledge we share if you already possess the basic technical skills of PDR. We focus a LOT on the business side of things.”
The PDR College podcasts are totally free which is great! These guys are sharing their tips and tricks that have made their businesses successful. So what’s the catch? What is the goal? What are they wanting to accomplish? “We hope to bring the skill level and ultimately the income of every tech who listens UP to the highest level possible. I PROMISE if you listen with an open mind and take some action, you will make more money. Promise. We would guarantee it, but it’s FREE, so we don’t have to!”
You can listen to the PDR College podcasts in several ways. You can subscribe in iTunes or you can subscribe in apps like Stitcher Radio, which is free and you’ll get every new episode automatically downloaded to your phone to listen to while you’re working. You can also just stream it from their website www.pdrcollege.com. For more information visit their website or contact Keith or Shane and, if you haven’t already, go listen to the podcasts!
Working Abroad: Part 2
I have been chasing hail since 2003 and have gone overseas many times for work and I would like to share with you what I have learned. The chances are that if you have been chasing hail for as long as I have you have had opportunities to work overseas or you may know someone that has. You probably have heard some horrible stories about techs not getting paid or even deported, and you may also have heard stories of hail techs working internationally and doing very well. I will share with you what I have experienced working internationally and hopefully provide a little information that will help you if you’re ever considering working internationally.
Working internationally can be a way for a Hail Tech to create more work opportunities for themselves and have the chance to travel to different parts of the world. When you work in a foreign country you are exposed to many different things. You’re living in a place where there are cultural differences, different foods, different languages, different laws, different cars, different estimating methods, different pricing, and just about everything in daily life is different. If you decide to accept the invite to work internationally make sure that you spend some time learning about the place you will be working in. Read about the laws, who to contact if there are any legal issues such as a car accident, learn about the culture, and find out if there are English speaking people there. It’s a good idea to find out the contact information or location of the closest U.S. Embassy. Anything you can learn about the people and the city you’re working in will only help you. Try and familiarize yourself where the dangerous parts of town are and where it is safe. It can be very difficult to know without researching it beforehand.
Before accepting an invitation to work internationally know exactly who it is you’re working for and do as much research as you can. My rule has typically been I don’t work for anyone overseas that I don’t know personally or someone I know and trust knows them and tells me that they are a solid trustworthy contact. Even with this I still ask many questions, some which may seem redundant such as all the standard questions like how much a day will I make?, How long?, and When will I be paid? (Which I get into more detail below.) I may even ask to speak with a technician that is working where I will be working. If they seem bothered or annoyed by the questions it may be a sign that the deal may not be as described. If I’m lucky when they tell me the names of the guys who are already working where I will be, I may know one of the technicians and I can call them to get some more details on the deal. This may seem a bit over cautious to some but the few times deals have turned out poorly for me was when I did not ask enough questions and had not been diligent about finding out as much as I could about the deal. It’s much better to find out that a deal is not as good as described before you rack up all the expenses and make the trip over. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance with logistics, after all your traveling to a foreign country and probably know very little about the area you will be living and working in. Your contact, if they are a solid one, will understand that you may need some assistance and will likely have some suggestions for you. I have been fortunate enough for every trip I have made internationally my contact helped me tremendously with logistics and has greeted me at the airport. It helps you mentally to be greeted by someone you know when you arrive in a foreign country especially if it’s a location that you have never been before. Driving in a foreign country can be stressful and it has always helped me to have the chance to be a passenger first before getting behind the wheel. Road signs are different and often in another language.
The number one question I’m always asked is, “Do you make more or less money working internationally?” The answer is both. I will try and explain. It’s been my personal approach that working overseas is always a second option to me. In other words if there was work in the states there’s no reason to go overseas to work. So anytime I went overseas to work I made more money so to speak because I had no other option for work. Now if I was to compare the bottom dollar month by month between working in the states and working overseas I would say that it’s very close. You may actually bill more working overseas but there are many added expenses to consider that you don’t have when you work in the states. There are often fees you have to pay in order to get a legal work Visa that can cost thousands of dollars. You know that story you’ve heard, about the techs that were deported because they did not have a legal work Visa. I strongly suggest not working internationally without getting a legal work Visa. Working abroad illegally can get you deported, banned from a country, or even fined thousands of dollars! Not only that, you may never be paid for the work you completed before you were caught. So do your research on what legal documents and/or Visa you need to work legally in the country you’re being asked to work in and make sure you get it done properly. To me it’s not worth the stress and potential trouble to go work illegally.
Some other added expenses you may need are purchasing power inverters and plug adapters to be able to use your American electronics, internet, phone upgrade or even a foreign phone to be able to stay in contact with family and friends. You’ll have to ship your tools or pack them into golf cases and keep them within the weight and size parameters that the airlines set. The typical bag and weight breakdown is 1 bag under 50 lbs is free and there is an up charge for any extra bag and also an up charge for anything over 50 lbs. I typically had my basic luggage with my clothes under 50 lbs and then my golf case loaded with my tools about 70 lbs. More often than not I had $500.00 or more in baggage fees by the time I returned home. Flights depending, on where you are going, can run several thousands of dollars, then you have your rental car expense, and hotel expense which are typically much more expensive overseas. You can’t pack batteries and 91% alcohol because airlines don’t allow them. Your battery charger will not work overseas because the power outlets are a different voltage. Your cart will more than likely be too big and heavy. So you will have to purchase these things when you arrive and may cost as much as $5 -$700 dollars or more.
A tip on booking rental cars is to book one from home that you can pick up and drop off at the airport you are flying in and out from. Doing this helps you two ways; 1. You’re picking up and dropping off the car at the airport. You won’t have to pay a cab to take you to where you’re working and back to the airport when you’re done working, which could be hundreds of miles away at times. This can result in a very expensive cab fare. 2. When you book the rental car from home the charge is in U.S. dollars and you’re allowed unlimited mileage. When you make arrangements after you land, you will have to pay extra for unlimited mileage and the charges will be in the currency of whatever country you are in.
There is also the exchange rate to consider when you are looking at expenses. A good example would be the Euro. Let’s say that your hotel room cost 85.00 € Euros a night. The exchange rate of 1.00 € Euro equaling $1.37 US dollars (which is a pretty close average to where it is) the hotel room cost you $118.17 US dollars a night plus any foreign transaction fees that your bank charges you. As you can see the expenses increased 30% just on the currency exchange alone. The good news is your pay also increases if you are paid in Euros. Pay attention to the currency exchange rate when deciding whether or not to work internationally because it does affect your expenses and your pay. In a typical overseas job I may have $5 – $7000 US dollars spent before I fixed my first hail car, and sometimes even more spent before I see any pay which will bring me to my next topic of discussion and second most asked question, “How do you know you will be paid”?
This is an excellent question and in my opinion is something that should be discussed in great detail with the company and/or person that invited you to come work for them abroad. Make sure you have a full and complete understanding of how you will be paid and EXACTLY when you will be paid. Some questions that should be asked are: Will I be paid through wire transfer or check?, How frequently will I be paid?, Do I have any tax liabilities outside the U.S.?, and What is the administrative process (paperwork) that I must follow to make sure that I get paid? Again, make sure there is a full and complete understanding on how the pay works, so if you get an answer like this, “We pay you when we get paid,” make sure you know when it is they expect to get paid and what happens if they don’t get paid. After all you’re working for them and if you complete the job as promised it is then my opinion they are the ones that are responsible for compensating you. Getting a full understanding and agreement on pay details is extremely important. Make sure to find out if there are authorization signatures required on invoices, quality sign off requirements, any and all information that you need to know to see to it that you are paid for all work completed. There have been technicians that have traveled internationally that didn’t ask enough questions about the pay and found themselves in financial trouble. There are situations when pay may take up to 60 days, and if a tech didn’t know this and flew over to work with only enough capital to last them a month it could be a problem.
There are many things that can stress out a technician. Such as, a language barrier or an unfamiliar way of writing up an estimate for approval, pricing being so different because of the exchange rate and a completely different matrix, and time differences can make it difficult to communicate with family and friends. Being in an unfamiliar place can stress a person in more ways than I ever knew until I started working abroad. Driving to work some mornings can be a bit of an adventure if your GPS quits working and you’re in an area where no one speaks English. In 2008 I had been working in Germany for about a month and I had got to the point that I knew my way around pretty well so I no longer brought my GPS with me to work. Normally this wasn’t a problem because it was always light out when I left but I stayed late one night, it was dark when I left, and the area I was in looked completely different in the dark and I ended up getting lost. Being lost in the dark in a foreign country where very few, if any, people speak English can be problem. I just pulled over and started thinking what my options were. The only thing I came up with was to go to a gas station and request the attendant call me a cab so I can hand the cab driver the card with the address to my hotel and I could follow the cab back to my hotel. The idea worked and I was able to get back to my hotel okay. Feeling a bit silly, yet my plan worked and my crisis was over. So remember to always keep the hotel card you’re staying at and your passport with you at all times.
It’s important to keep a “go with flow” attitude when working abroad and try not to get worked up when things go wrong. Chances are more than a few things will go wrong. Keep in mind when you are an American in a foreign country you are now an Ambassador of the American people so it’s always best to try and be polite and respectful to the people you’re working with and meet. It’s always best in my opinion to try and avoid conversations about religion and politics as well.
I’ll finish up by telling you that working internationally is not for everybody, for some it may be too stressful and the constant feeling of being so out of place is too much. For me it has been a very rewarding experience, I truly enjoy the opportunity to live and work abroad and interacting with people that are so different from me. I have always enjoyed travel and sightseeing so this was also something I enjoyed very much. There were several long term jobs I was on and I flew my wife out to stay with me and we had a wonderful time taking in all the sights and experiencing the culture of a country first hand. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and I hope you found it informative and useful.