Auto Service World
Feature   November 17, 2014   by CARS Magazine

No flash in the pan

Chris Kennedy of Moncton N.B. is our Canadian Technician of the Year. The Mister Transmission franchisee says the independent auto repair industry needs to embrace flash reprogramming in order to survive.

Chris Kennedy of Moncton, N.B., has been getting used to being in the spotlight lately.

Not only has he been leading quite a few training sessions on J2534, but he’s also been getting calls of support as a finalist for our Canadian Technician of the Year award.

He’s received congratulations from shop owners and technicians, and a few of his customers have heard about the competition and have stopped him in the street to talk about it.

And at a recent workshop put on by the Automotive Transmission Rebuilders Association in the United States, they flashed his picture on the screen along with a message of support.

“It has been a very humbling experience to say the least,” he says. “I read the stories about the other two finalists, and I’ve really been biting my fingernails, because I obviously had strong competition! I like both of them.”

Those other two finalists are Jason Mancinelli of Regina, Sask., and Aaran Van de Kemp in Invermere, B.C., who have probably received similar attention in recent weeks. And while all three of them should be very proud of how well they’ve done, there can be only one winner.

… and this year, that honour goes to Chris.

After two rounds of judging, the Mister Transmission franchisee won the award for his ability to use automotive technology to expand his business and build trust with customers.

“I can’t thank you people enough for allowing me to have this honour,” he said, when told of the judges’ decision. “That’s absolutely fantastic!”

Nominations for the Canadian Technician of the Year award, sponsored by Snap-on Tools of Canada and Total Lubricants, were adjudicated first by a panel of trade magazine editors. The three finalists were then scrutinized by a panel of automotive repair shop owners and technicians from across the country.

The judges were:

  * Allan Haberman of ACA Mobile Diagnostics and ACA Training in Winnipeg, Man.;

  * Bev Kaltenbruner of Harold’s Auto Service in Lethbridge, Alta.;

  * Tom Hines, a licensed technician and service advisor with Fountain Tire in Vancouver, B.C.;

  * James Hack of Terry’s Auto Repair in Waldheim, Sask.;

  * Roy McNeill of McNeill’s Service, in Elmsdale, N.S.;

  * Matt Armstrong, a licensed technician at Sussex Corner Service Center in Sussex Corner, N.B.; and

  * Alan Beech of Beech Motorworks in Hamilton, Ont.

“Mr. Kennedy has done, in my opinion, what most great technicians do when they get frustrated – he decided to find the answers for himself,” Roy said after reviewing the nominations. “Once they start, it keeps on rolling, and it’s great that he’s now a trainer for Mister Transmission.”

Bev also commended Chris on his drive to “forge ahead on new pathways” when he started researching the latest automotive technologies.

“His insatiable curiosity, foresight, and skills not only attracted Mister Transmission’s top brass but his very impressive commitment to learning heavily influenced a national corporation to invest in new technology,” she said. “That in itself is an impressive accomplishment.”

For Chris Kennedy, learning the ins and outs of J2534 flash reprogramming was not just a matter of professional development. It was a means of expanding his business and forging new business relationships. He described it as a technology he could not afford to ignore.

“We were rebuilding a Volvo and I had two choices. It was either embrace J2534 or tow it all the way to Fredericton and get the dealer to reflash it,” he says. “That began a journey, about 18 or 19 months ago, to understand this technology and to get on top of it.”

The effort he made not only transformed his business, but had a huge impact on the entire chain of Mister Transmission shops across the country.

“This guy never misses a seminar,” says Mister Transmission president and CEO Randy Moore. “Chris goes above and beyond when it comes to training.”

As the Moncton shop became known as a place to get that kind of work done quickly and properly, Mister Transmission head office took notice and was very supportive.

“Randy even came to the shop to see how this all works. And when he saw the potential, he was even more impressed,” Chris says. “With the new owner, Paul Craven, having come from the technology side of things, well, they have embraced it even more.”

Randy jokingly refers to Chris as “our first guinea pig” in the world of flash reprogramming.

“As transmission shops, our franchisees have many automotive friends. And we want to get a message to those service providers that we’re not in competition with them,” says Randy. “In this respect, Chris is on the cutting edge. He gets it. He understands the technology and he’s very good at learning and adapting. But he’s also very good at communicating it to others.”

Chris has addressed audiences large and small about the importance of understanding flash reprogramming, telling them the benefits his own shop has seen. And he wants to continue spreading that message over the next 12 months as the Canadian Technician of the Year.

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