Dennis Madden
Dennis is ATRA’s CEO, the publisher of GEARS Magazine, and one of its most prolific writers. In fact, he had a byline in the very first issue of GEARS. Dennis got his start over 40 years ago, first as an R&R technician and later as a rebuilder. Later, he went to work for an AAMCO center, where his employer recognized his talent and recommended him for a position on the AAMCO technical hotline. From that, Dennis quickly realized how much he enjoyed helping technicians and shop owners improve their business skills. He joined ATRA in 1989, first as a technical specialist, working the phones and writing bulletins, and later as technical director. He took over as CEO in 2001. Over the years, Dennis has written five books — available through the ATRA BookStore — and has won 15 IAMA awards for technical and business writing. And he was instrumental in creating ATRA’s What’s Working program, designed to help shops become profitable in today’s changing business climate.
Over The Hill and Far Away - I'd Like To Sell My Business
I’ve visited hundreds of shops during my career, and not much has changed over the decades. Years ago, you could find shops filled with work while another shop down the street struggled to make ends meet. Today, shops are busier than ever, but profitability is still an issue, and there’s worry on the horizon. We […]

AMPS - A New Approach to Creating Processes and Systems
Welcome to this new column, “Hi-Rev.” The name comes from a book Jim Cathcart and I co-authored, “Hi-Rev For Small Business.” Jim has written over 100 articles for Gears magazine, so you’re familiar with his work. Our history goes back over ten years when Jim began working as a business coach and consultant for me […]

The Long Pass
So far, it’s been a great year for ATRA, and I see a bright future ahead. But before I get into why the future of ATRA and the industry looks so bright, let me acknowledge a few things. Like everyone else, ATRA struggled these past two years, and we still haven’t fully recovered. Many of […]

The Madden Method - Let's Get That 8L90 Out the Door!
I recently received a call from a friend, Pat, who runs a transmission remanufacturing company. He was frustrated as he said, “Man, Dennis, we have got these 8L90s that we can’t get to work. It’s like the pump isn’t working. They’ll work fine if they go into gear; otherwise, they’ll just sit there.” He went […]

A Look Beyond The Horizon
As time flies, so do the needs of the industry and the projects for the ATRA team. Most recently, we’ve worked on providing training for students at technical schools through ATRA’s VTS (Virtual Training Solutions) platform. We’ll continue increasing ATRA’s reach to people interested in starting a career in the transmission repair industry. But while […]

Welcome to Advanced Basics
The term “Advanced Basics” may seem like an oxymoron (which it is), but it’s no odder than statements like fully empty, only choice, liquid gas, or even open secret. They all have their meanings, but I like Advanced Basics above the others. Before I get into what it means and future work for ATRA, let’s […]

Beyond Normal
For two years, you’ve had reminders for social distancing and felt the sense of panic after realizing you had forgotten your mask as you approached the local grocery store. You’ve created tasks for sanitizing the counters, the steering wheels of your customer’s cars, and a range of other cleaning duties as you go about your […]

The Sun is Shinning
After a long, hard, day it’s nice to relax and enjoy a beautiful sunset. The sunsets here in Oxnard, California, are stunning, and watching them is a great way to reflect on your day and think about what’s to come tomorrow. It’s even better if you’re sharing that moment with your special someone. The sunset […]

New Beginning, Old Ideas
Last July , I shared the news about ATRA moving to san Antonio, Texas. Actually, and more specifically, China Grove. Never heard of it? Sure you have. It’s the title of a 1973 Doobie Brothers song. As a teenager back then, I had no idea they were singing about a real place. Now, almost 50 […]

We YOU Did It!
There we were, Wednesday, October 13th, 2021. By all accounts, it felt about the same as any other Powertrain Expo setup morning, although we knew it wasn’t. We had known for weeks that attendance would be low. The hassle of traveling, mask mandates, and a general reluctance over COVID fears kept about 70% of our […]

Home is Where the Heart is.
My wife, Jenn, and I, recently sold our home of over twenty years. It was a tough decision because just about everything of meaning happened in that house. It was the place for family gatherings, birthday parties (and Jenn always does those in a big way), and even a few ATRA Christmas parties happened in […]

Can You Keep a Secret?
ATRA’s Powertrain Expo is only two months away, and I can’t wait to see my friends and colleagues. Each year, we hold a Member meeting, where we share ideas, new projects, and work from the previous year. We get a lot of feedback from members on what they’d like to see ATRA work on and […]

Resist Normal
For over a year now, we’ve all clamored for normality. We’ve either secluded ourselves in our homes (including working from home), had to wait in orchestrated stanchions and line configurations to avoid any level of closeness to another person, and waited outside of stores to not exceed the store capacity (reduced to about 25% of […]

Turning Full Circle
If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve notice trends and styles that fade away only to change back years later. Fashion is a good example. If you keep a wardrobe for about 30 years, it’ll come back in style. The 70s may be an exception, but you get the idea. We see this with car […]

Put Your Mask on First, Before Helping Others.
Like so many, perhaps including you, I dabble on social media and chat with friends and colleagues. Even more so during the COVID pandemic, since seeing friends in person wasn’t an option. I generally keep it light and fun with family and travel topics. For the most part, I avoid political discussions. But sometimes, I […]

Beyond the Next Level
If you’ve ever studied business management or have gone to any type of business or motivational training, you’ve most likely heard some of these tired, old clichés. Think outside the box. Give it 110 percent! Or one that’s really worn out, Take your business to the next level. The phrase, think outside the box has […]

Learning Something New in a New Way
Here we are, almost a year from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wearing a mask to a grocery store is commonplace, and we see many other examples of the changes we’re learning to live with every day. For instance, I had some tires changed the other day. The new protocol was for me to […]

It's Just Different
We’ve all heard the old adage, “The only thing constant is change.” We’ve heard it so much that many of us have stopped listening to it. Or we might think of everything the world has gone through as, “The new norm.” We use these thoughts (or at least I’ll speak for myself), so we don’t […]

A New Way of Doing Things
You don’t need me to tell you about the struggles and challenges we’ve faced with the COVID-19 pandemic; its front and center and apparent to everyone. But there is something else that’s apparent – the transmission repair industry isn’t comprised of a bunch of quitters. We take adversity and challenges head-on. I’ve seen this over […]

The Best of Times... The Worst of Times
2020 is a year that most of us will never forget. It reminds me of the opening paragraph from Charles Dickens’ classic historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was […]