The 2018 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Awards: Joseph Hearn
There’s a technician that has started every morning of his 18-year career in the automotive industry thinking about what’s next. Whether it’s gaining more responsibility at the shop or researching the latest diagnostic procedures or bringing rookie technicians to his level, it’s all about moving upward for him.
Every day, Joseph Hearn climbs that proverbial ladder.
“I knew I’d have a future here,” says Hearn, the top-performing technician at the five-facility AutoStream Car Care operation in the Baltimore area, during his lunch break at the shop. “During my interview with Dave, that's what we talked about. I told him I want to work somewhere I can move up.”
He is referring to David Askwith, the director of operations for AutoStream that nominated Hearn for the 2018 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Awards. As Askwith rattles off Hearn’s seemingly endless skills and certification (his seven ASE certifications, his Maryland vehicle safety inspector title, his expertise with diagnostic equipment, his ability to navigate Identifix and Mitchell and ALLDATA with ease), it becomes clear that Askwith didn’t nominate his star tech just because he’s motivated to improve—it’s because Hearn motivates everyone around him to keep up. Hearn co-founded AutoStream’s Technician Improvement Forum, which gathers each facility’s top technician every three months to discuss improving processes and efficiency for all techs on staff.
That forum, known as TIF at AutoStream, captures everything toward which Hearn has been building. With a career full of moments where employers failed to challenge him, Hearn now exists in a realm where his desire to climb the ladder is not only appreciated, but also encouraged on a day-to-day basis.
“He is a team player and a tremendous resource for the company,” Askwith says. “We have five locations and he is our most dependable, capable technician.”
From a young age, the mechanically inclined future technician knew he’d end up in a hands-on profession and started out repairing limousines, boats and race cars at various odd jobs. Back then (and to this day), Hearn was the go-to for electrical jobs and gladly took any opportunity to learn a new tactic or process during his repairs.
That interest fueled a passion for advancing vehicle technology as he stepped into an independent shop. Let go by a dealership after just six months (due to the economy), he moved into a Maryland shop and became proficient at diesel repairs. Hearn continually sought further and further diesel training to pair with his electrical expertise, pushing for training on the GM Duramax V8 and Ford Power Stroke engines.
A failure to be challenged and invested in persisted at his next stint at an Acura facility, where he handled nothing but brakes and general maintenance on roughly 40 used cars per month. There were glimpses of a brighter future with the shop’s diagnostic work, but, for Hearn, nothing pointed toward a lasting, concrete, demanding role.
“I would only do diagnostics when the other guys in shop couldn’t figure that stuff out,” he says. “I was getting bored. I wanted a challenge. I wanted a place where I could move up.”
That’s where AutoStream Car Care comes in. After impressing Askwith with his desire to grow and develop his skills, Hearn was hired at the MSO’s Ellicott City location, where his diagnostic, electronic and diesel skills immediately made him a leader on the three-technician team.
In fact, Hearn was so impressive that it led to the idea for TIF, where Hearn would be able to converse with other facilities about how to up productivity (Hearn’s sits at 96 percent), improve diagnostic procedures (Hearn currently co-teaches a “top-level diagnostic course”), and coach newcomers on the company’s process-focused mentality (Hearn participates in the company’s interview process and oversees all new technicians’ work). Leading quarterly meetings on all those topics and more, Hearn has become the five-shop operation’s leading resource for skills training, process improvement and KPI growth.
“We had a big problem with scan tools,” says Hearn, describing a recent meeting. Different shops had different scanners that were, “not all on the same level, so we all have gotten new Launch scan tools.”
And now, as the operation’s lead technician, Hearn mentors apprentices that come through the shop, becoming adept in helping newcomers find their own rhythms while at the same time following the shop’s regimented procedures. Mimicking his growing personal responsibilities as a father of two who coaches his son’s basketball team, Hearn has finally found a home where he can not only challenge himself, but empower those around him, as well.
So, now he’s not moving upward by himself—Hearn helps others climb the ladder.
“You won’t succeed as well as you could without keeping up with changes in industry,” he says. “That’s the mentality I instill in the team.”