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Jones: A Decade of Ratchet+Wrench

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It was a five-minute timed exercise. Write down what you were doing professionally today (2020) and then go back and jot down what you were doing in five-year increments from 2015 to 2000. My list included: editor, web and graphic designer, and sports writer.

Man, I’ve done a lot in 20 years, I thought, reflecting on the nuances of each position. And a lot has changed.

The goal of the exercise was to help you see and appreciate your evolution. Time has a way of making progress feel nonexistent. It’s only when you retrace your steps that you can see how far you’ve come. What’s even more fun is thinking back on the industry tools you had available then. 

In 2000, I was storing my digital work on Zip disks, which could hold 100 or 250 megabytes, a lot for that time. In today’s storage capabilities, it’s the equivalent of having a 1 TB USB flash drive. 

In 2005, Adobe released its groundbreaking—and pocket-breaking—Creative Suite 2. It featured Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign within its Design Bundle. Today, I use Adobe Creative Cloud, which remains forever updated on an evergreen license and includes nearly all of Adobe’s software. 

In 2010, I was storing my work in the mysterious cloud through Dropbox. It was a technology many people feared because they didn’t know what the cloud was and where their work was living. (In 2012, I lost all of my laptop in an apartment fire. Had I not backed up into the cloud, I would have lost all of my client’s work!)

In 2015, I was working from an Apple ecosystem and my iPhone and computer could sync. This meant when I was on a writing assignment, I could take notes on my phone and when I cracked open my Macbook later, they’d be there waiting for me. 

Today, I dictate some of my stories and use transcription services. Time and technology have changed my industry, and I have aimed to always keep in step with those changes. 

The same holds true for the auto industry. In the past two decades, repairing vehicles has gone from mechanical to electrical, with sensors, motors, and ADAS. Vehicles have shifted from internal combustion engines to hybrid to fully electric. The speed at which work has been performed has increased with the use of power tools and computer assistance. And the digital age has made it possible to not only discuss repairs with a customer but show them in real time. 

There’s an old saying that goes, “Reflection is the better part of a champion.” It’s true. You don’t know how far you’ve come until you look back and see the breadcrumb trail. And that brings us here, to the 10th-anniversary issue of Ratchet+Wrench magazine. Join us as we revisit some of the shop owners featured in the inaugural edition launched in July 2012. 

  • Ratchet+Wrench caught up with Brian Sump, who was on the first cover, to get his wisdom on what it takes for a shop to go from average to awesome. Sump went from a single shop in 2012 to becoming an industry-leading multi-shop owner.
  • You’ll hear from Brent Wells, who after adding a second shop, decided he preferred single shop ownership—and you’ll read why he loves it. 
  • Keith Benline returns to talk about how shops can learn to embrace digital-savvy customers equipped with smartphones and why fighting against technology is futile.
  • If you’ve ever felt like you have to upgrade your shop all at once, Ratchet+Wrench’s interview with Nick Modesti will calm your anxiety. He talks about how his shop adopted some digital practices while also staying in step with the basic best practices that benefit his customers and the environment. 
  • Last, we look at Superior Auto’s Apple Valley, Minnesota, location in Shop View. Ten years ago, Dan Sjolseth’s single location in Eagan, Minnesota, was featured. Today, with two locations, he’s using primitive but proven systems to maximize efficiency. 

As you enjoy the stories, columns, and quotes dispersed within the issue, I invite you to email me your thoughts about Ratchet+Wrench and how the magazine helped you in your business. Let’s enjoy the view together, and if you’re feeling nostalgic, do the exercise I did to see just how far your shop has come in the past decade. You may be surprised by your progress.

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