Working together for success

Rick Hodges, of Watkinsville, Ga., has been a mobile tool distributor for nearly 20 years, the last nine as an independent covering Athens and the surrounding area. He went independent in order to grow his business, and with sales last year near...

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Rick Hodges, of Watkinsville, Ga., has been a mobile tool distributor for nearly 20 years, the last nine as an independent covering Athens and the surrounding area. He went independent in order to grow his business, and with sales last year near $700,000 it's clear he has.

Not that he’s doing it all on his own. Rick is quick to credit his wife, Krissi (or “Ms. Rick” to some techs), for her assistance on the route.

“My wife is a huge part of my business,” Rick said. “Between UPS, collections and all the little [stuff] that I don't have to do, she's worth of a lot of money every week. … I haven't been to UPS in 15 years.

“She keeps me out here, turning the money.”

One of the big things for Rick is that Krissi does a collections run for the business every Friday, calling on all the customers that he misses one way or another during the week.

“You're either going to pay me—I can take checks, credit cards, winning lottery tickets, cash—and if you don't, my wife will look you in the face on Friday.” During the week, Rick marks his sheets next to customers that miss payments. “I don't even speak to her about it … she goes through the list every Friday morning, and she'll go visit the guys I've got marked. They know her … they know she’s coming.

“And a lot of guys have a whole different attitude in front of a woman,” Rick said.

“A lot of times, I’ll get a $100 bill,” even from some of the customers who would only pay Rick $15 each week, Krissi said.

“I kind of grew on them,” she said. “At first they were a little apprehensive. Not anymore. Actually, my name and number is on the business cards too, so if they can't get him they can call me.”

Where collections can be the hardest part of the job, Rick feels lucky to have Krissi working on accounts every week.

“Everything else is a cakewalk,” Rick said.

Krissi said she also helps out by doing all the “menial tasks,” including building roll carts and welding carts, checking inventory, doing computer updates, going to the bank and more, “like a secretary-plus.”

She also makes deliveries of needed tools and special orders.

“If something comes in on an off-day and they need it, I'll take it out there. … I think that's when [the techs] started liking me, when they realized I wasn't just there to get their money.”

Both Rick and Krissi like the freedom of adapting the business to their needs, whether it is an occasional impromptu day off or modifying the route days like Rick did when he took Mondays off to care for his ailing father.

“I guess because we've been out here, and we service them so well, that's not a problem,” Krissi said.

Rick’s Tuesday through Friday schedule wound up a regular thing and both are enjoying it. Krissi likes the extra time they get together and Rick said his “burn-out factor” has gone way down.

Rick found an added benefit: with Fridays being big high school sports days, he was prepared for time away for his son’s wrestling tournaments.

“I worked Fridays up to a certain point, and I’d tell everybody ahead of time, ‘When I miss you Friday, I'll be there Monday morning.’ So I'd zip out Monday morning for a couple hours and be home by lunch … without missing anything in my week.”


Working with ISN

With numbers like Rick’s, it’s apparent his approach to a “shortened” work week (he’s still doing 12-14 hour days Tuesday through Friday) is not a hindrance. In fact, he said he is among ISN’s top distributors.

A big part of his sales is his ability to stay on top of new tools, which he credits to reading Professional Tool & Equipment News and regular updates from ISN by fax and from his ISN regional sales manager, Greg Gann.

Rick has always keyed on stocking a variety of tools and a lot of new product on his truck, which led him to start using a warehouse (later bought by ISN) in addition to his flag.

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