A Like-Minded Online Community
In the ‘90s, finding answers online was not what it is today; there was dial-up internet, and as a mobile technician, Andy Byers says, the number of sites available was limited. However, what did exist then, was iATN, an online platform that allowed automotive repair workers to connect through the web and learn from one another. As the internet grew, iATN grew right with it, building an organization of helpful and passionate automotive users in the process.
According to iATN, the automotive networking group includes over 80,000 automotive professionals from a total of 179 countries. The platform is offered free of charge, but also allows users to enlist in a sponsorship profile if they have at least four years of experience or an ASE certification.
Every shop has its own way of tending to vehicles, but all shops share the same goal at the end of the day: to keep every customer safe. iATN virtually connects shop owners, workers, and those in the industry with tools to grow, try out new tools, and learn from one another.
Three iATN users discuss how the platform has given them new found confidence in their work, provided knowledge about different aspects in the industry, and offered networking opportunities that might not have happened without the site.
Build Automotive Confidence.
Before transitioning to owner at what is now Dikes-Thorton Automotive in 2001, Jamey Thorton was a staff member at the business for 15 years. With a handful of experience to back up his new role, Thorton found himself questioning whether or not his methods were “right,” he says.
“I always had an idea about what I wanted to do but I always felt that was too extreme,” Thorton says.
During Thorton’s career, he paid attention to the posts that were frequently made on the site’s forum section. As an iATN member since 1997, Thorton was able to watch as different members described situations where shops turned customers away or even insisted on fixing a car their way instead of the cheap route.
iATN ultimately reiterated that Thorton was in the right, and had the common mindset as an owner of an auto repair shop.
“It’s nice to know that other people think like you do,” Thorton says.
Discover Invaluable Resources.
In 2004, Dale McLaen, owner of McLaen Service Inc., encountered a difficult problem at his shop and sought help elsewhere. After stumbling across iATN, he decided to check it out and was impressed with what he saw.
“The main thing was the ability to look up problems that I was having and see if anybody else had them,” McLaen says.
For McLaen, iATN is like going to a college, he says; you can look around at all subjects at once and ask any questions that come to mind.
“You can dig through the archives and find out all kinds of information through a few keystrokes,” McLean says. “It’s a great asset.”
Even today, McLaen still makes time to check out the site daily and see what those in the industry are talking about.
“I go to the forums first and see what’s going on there and what people are encountering,” McLaen says. “Then I’ll go to the help request and read through a handful of those and see what people need help with.”
If McLaen has an answer to one of the problems, he’ll post it, and if not, he’ll continue to follow the thread to discover how the problem panned out.
“It’s made me a way better shop manager and owner,” McLaen says. “I’ve got to say, with as fast as things are changing, it’s made the difference between really scraping along or doing quite well.”
The amount of knowledge that’s available, paired with the ability to connect with other shops, has made the subscription a great add-on to McLaen’s business, he says.
“It’s the best tool in the box.”
Assemble Meaningful Connections.
Since 1998, Andy Byers, digital technician for asTech, has used iATN as a communication and educational tool. Byers has paid the sponsorship fee for over 10 years and says he will use the program until the day he dies, he says.
“I’ve learned more on iATN myself than any schooling,” Byers says.
Over the years, Byers says the site developed a “core group” who are typically seen replying to questions, talking among one another, and building friendships.
“It’s the intent for all of the technicians to share information,” Byers says.
Although some users might pop in from time to time, he’s found that the long-time users are willing to help by educating, rather than simply providing answers.
“If you want to learn, there are definitely people on there that know what you’re doing,” Byers says. “They’ll help you learn.”
To find success in using the program, in Byers opinion, make sure you follow the same steps you would take at your shop and not try to take a shortcut.
“Try to be extra polite and respectful,” Byers says. “If you were to write anything, please keep that in mind.”