2021 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award Winner: Matt Lachowitzer
For Matt Lachowitzer, a full-fledged auto repair group wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but he’s no stranger to rolling with the punches. He’s always had faith that trusting his gut to do what he knows is right would lead him in the best direction.
The Herman, Minn., native was set to attend the University of Minnesota to study law on a football scholarship when a crushing knee injury set him on a new path. Soon after, with just one semester in diesel mechanics under his belt, his sister discovered a grapefruit-sized brain tumor. As the oldest of his six, he left school to help out as she underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and recovery. “There was no question about it. It was just the right thing to do,” he says.
Years later, he was working at a Chevy dealership when the 2008 recession hit and he watched as five experienced, hardworking, loyal technicians were let go to make way for twice as many auto school grads on much smaller salaries.
“That’s the moment I got a bad taste in my mouth and I just couldn’t buy into what was happening,” he says. “I didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to do next, but I knew I had to leave.”
The scrappy entrepreneur launched his own operation with just one lift, a toolbox, and $5,000 in the bank. As business picked up, he tapped his network for help and learned of a local Meineke technician who’d been fired after telling his manager he was hoping to go back to school.
“Why would you turn away someone who wants to keep learning and growing? That just didn’t sit with me. He started with me the next day as my first employee,” says Lachowitzer.
That technician not only helped Lachowitzer grow the business in those early days (expanding from a two-bay rental shop to a four-bay full building buyout in just eight months), he later became a trusted manager as Lachowitzer added store after store.
Today, Lachowitzer shows no sign of slowing down. Guided by that innate drive to do what’s right, he’s built his operation to five repair shops and a loyal team of 47. “When we expanded that first shop I thought I’d made it. I never thought I’d be here, but now that we have this full Matt’s Auto family that’s helping people every day, the more we grow the more we can make an impact.”