Industry Involvement Beyond the Shop
Wayne Russell, president of Russell Auto in Manchester, N.H., has built up quite an impressive list of accomplishments in his over 40 years of experience in the automotive repair industry.
In his Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award nomination, submitted by Jennifer Russell-Vana, human resources employee at Russell Auto and Russell’s daughter, she listed a number of different endeavours that he is involved in:
Russell was an integral part of starting the Northeast chapter of the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATRA) in the 80s. He served as the first director when the chapter was getting started and he currently serves as the vice president. In addition, Russell assisted in the design of an NTZ filter, serves on an advisory committee for his local community college and high school, and, to top it all off, guest hosts a local car talk show about once per month. And he does all of this while running a successful business, which took home the 2014 BBB Torch Award for Best Small Business in New Hampshire.
When asked why getting involved is so important, Russell recalls an instance when he attended the Torque Converter Rebuilders Association and stopped by an open forum. According to Russell, the converter people started blaming the transmission people and vice versa for various problems. Russell says he stood up and said, “We are all responsible.”
Russell has taken on this responsibility and hopes that others do the same. He does everything he can for the industry because, in the end, it benefits the customers and, ultimately, the industry as a whole.
Picking and choosing what to be involved in and the time commitment that goes along with it isn’t easy, but Russell has found that picking causes that help grow his professional experience have helped make it easier and more rewarding.
Follow Your Passion.
Russell has always cared a great deal about education. He also knows that the technician shortage is a huge problem in the industry today. By combining a passion for the subject matter and a need in the industry, Russell was able to identify a worthy cause in which to be involved.
“Getting involved with the school systems is important,” Russell says. “Finding quality people to address the employee shortage is a problem.”
In addition to the community boards, Russell also takes on apprentices at his shop. He usually takes one per year and has gone on to hire a number of them full time, a few of whom have even gone on to start their own shops.
Solve Industry Issues.
The creation of the NTZ filter did not happen by chance, like some inventions or solutions do. Russell has always felt that contamination is a big problem in the industry, but many people are unwilling to acknowledge this or simply don’t care. He wouldn’t accept that.
Instead, Russell went to the Society of Automotive Engineers with this problem and began doing research. When he came up with proof that it was indeed an issue, he began working with NTZ, a manufacturer of filters, to find a solution. Through this passion project, he helped design a filter, the Transprotector, that works to clean the transmission.
“Whatever you’re involved in, it has to have payback,” Russell says. “You need to help the industry or the customers. If it helps both, that’s great.”
Know Your Limits.
While working with ATRA, Russell developed an interest in Allison Transmission models, which are found in trucks and school buses. For nearly 30 years, ATRA has been involved with the company and answers questions that anyone may have about the transmissions. Russell, with his vast knowledge on the subject matter, became the go-to person for all of the phone calls related to Allision Transmissions.
“The tech department wasn’t really equipped to answer calls like that,” Russell says.
When Allision Transmissions became heavily involved with pickup trucks, Russell began receiving multiple phone calls per day. It got to be too much. He knew he needed to cut back.
The tech department became more familiar with the products and now ATRA handles most of the pickup truck transmission questions and saves the larger questions for Russell.
“I’m dealing with one or two calls per week now, which is more manageable,” Russell says.