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.
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 […]

The Calm Side of Chaos
Each year around January, we begin to arrange the speaker lineup and seminar topics for the upcoming Powertrain Expo. Sure, we have a general idea before the end of the previous year, but when January comes, it’s time to get serious. For Lance Wiggins and the Tech team, it’s a matter of following the trends […]

And in The End
I’m writing this from my office at ATRA, a complex that was once bustling with activity. I say, once bustling because to comply with the order imposed by California Governor, Gavin Newsom, on March 19th, the rest of the team is working from home. It’s now been a month and work just isn’t the same. […]

It Takes More Than Just One
Over the past couple of years, we’ve looked into ways to get new people into the industry. There are technical services, organizations, and automotive schools, all working to raise the level of training and expertise throughout the transmission repair industry. Many of these entities, including ATRA, have been working at this for years. But we’re […]

Chapter Chatter - Who's Who
The problem is clear and the solutions are getting there. ATRA chapters are regaining their relevance as we enter this new stage of industry development. For so many years the “tech” was in the forefront, where it belonged, and still does in many ways. Management is in the mix, too. Shop owners have received information […]

What's In It For You? Your ATRA Local Chapter
Every industry has a trade association. If you had a directory of associations you might find it interesting to find things like: The At-sea Processors Association for fishing b oats t hat process their catch while at sea. Or there’s the Correspondence Chess League of America for chess enthusiasts and tournament participants. Or how about […]

It's a Big Step
Each January we set out to make some new goals or reflect on the previous year or just think about a few changes and improvements we’d like to work toward. Some are personal and some are related to our businesses. And like most people, I do the same thing: lots of reflection, an assessment of […]

Touch Your Nose with Your Tongue and Wiggle Your Ears
Math problems can be a challenge for many. You know the ones: Mr. Jones is traveling north on the Pike express traveling at 60 mph. Mrs. Smith is traveling south on the Fargo Flyer traveling at 70 mph. They’ve both been traveling 20 minutes on their 200 mile journey. How long before they can wave […]

Go To The Show - Any Show
So much of what we do is by habit. Each morning we jump into our car and head to work. We don’t think about turning onto Main Street then going three blocks west and turning left; we just do it. You’ve probably been surprised when you’ve found yourself somewhere, but you don’t remember driving there. […]