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Marconi: Reflecting on 10 Years of Ratchet+Wrench

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As a young technician, reading monthly trade publications became a ritual for me back in the 1970s. I remember flipping through my first trade magazine, captivated by the articles, tips, and images. I read that magazine from cover to cover. In fact, I read it a few times. Today, over 40 years later, this monthly routine continues, and I am sure I share this ritual with fellow shop owners. 

While most trade magazines included business-related content, their focus was primarily on the technical side of an auto repair shop. There always seemed to be a void; something was missing. That is, until 10 years ago when Ratchet + Wrench was founded. It launched a fresh focus on business challenges, strategies, and sharing the success stories of auto shop owners—a publication dedicated to the business side of the independent automotive repair shops.   

When R+W began, we were still recovering from the great recession of 2008/2009, the most challenging economic time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Tesla was coming of age and showing the world that the electric vehicle was not just a fad but a viable means of transportation that appears destined to become mainstream. More shop owners considered multiple locations, showing a growth in their mindset. And, of course, the technician shortage intensified to a point where continuous recruiting and apprenticeship programs are now standard strategies for nearly every auto repair shop in the nation.

More recently, COVID has affected our lives like nothing before it. The lessons learned from the pandemic will undoubtedly influence shop owners in their future decision-making process. I, like so many others at R+W, felt an obligation to bring hope, solutions, and different strategies during a time when the uncertainties of our future overwhelmed us. Today, most auto repair shops are experiencing a surge in business, with a bright future ahead. I believe the sharing of ideas, struggles, and successes within the pages of R+W played a part in this. 

Another noteworthy thing within the past decade is the progress of the typical auto repair shop. Shop owners placed a stronger emphasis on business and management, combining the right balance between technological advancements and the complexities of running a modern-day business. R+W has become a resource for real-world, relevant information that has helped shop owners run their companies. It has also helped to bring us closer together. We realized we weren’t alone in the challenges of running an auto repair shop. We learned the names of our fellow shop owners across the country through feature articles, met them at industry events and on social media, and became friends.

Today, more shop owners than ever are looking to further advance their businesses. They have signed up with coaching companies, attended trade shows, brought their employees to training events, and listened to podcasts like Carm Capriotto’s Remarkable Results Radio. In 2015, Carm pioneered the podcast concept for the automotive aftermarket in much the same way R+W had, by featuring industry people in an engaging, entertaining, informative, and sometimes controversial format. This craving for information tells me that the automotive aftermarket is stronger than ever.  

As R+W celebrates its tenth anniversary, it’s still very young compared to the automotive industry. I have no doubt that R+W will feature content that continues to raise the bar and helps our industry grow and thrive. Taking no credit away from Ratchet + Wrench, I believe its achievement, in part, is because of the incredible shop owners it features each month. Shop owners are among the hardest-working people on the planet. They have repeatedly demonstrated that, as a group, no other industry can match their stories, successes, and their willingness to tackle tough problems and help each other across the finish line. Let’s take this time to celebrate our past accomplishments and look with great anticipation to our future triumphs.

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