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Herman Olds was a longtime top Honda technician before he finally “took the plunge to become a tool man.” The talkative San Antonio-area Cornwell Tools dealer is less than five years in, but looked into selling tools as far back as 1980.
“I had a Mac man that I loved dearly in Texas where I started. Ever since then I’ve always toyed with the idea of becoming a tool man,” Herman said. “I backed out I don’t know how many times.”
He investigated all the flags, but liked Cornwell’s small family-owned model best, and that he would get a geographic territory to cultivate rather than a number count. Since signing on, he’s found that sales and self-ownership work for him.
“I’d rather be an owner of a little business than to be an employee and making good money,” Herman said. “I’d rather make $500 a week with Cornwell than $2,000 a week working for a Honda dealer again. It’s just nicer being an owner,” and having control of the business, he said.
“It’s a people business,” Herman said. “You’ve got to sell yourself. Then the product line will sell itself, no matter what you’re selling.”
“The only reason a tool man’s in business is because of service. If it wasn’t for his service and coming around, everybody would go to Harbor Freight, or Northern, or Sears and buy their tools a whole lot cheaper than from a tool man.”
Herman’s got something figured out about the selling, because he’s repeatedly finished in the top 100 for Cornwell.
From the start, he focused on beating his competitors. To become top in his district would lead to more and better things.
“The number two dog eats pretty good; number one eats even better,” he said.
“I’m trying really hard to be a Top 10 dealer, but I haven’t made it yet,” he said. From his first year, when he started in summer, he cracked the top 100 and landed in the 90s. His first full year selling he finished 11th, the next year he was 13th, followed by 24th in a year he wasn’t able to work for a few months due to illness.
“I considered myself lucky just to make the top 30 last year,” Herman said. “I think I did like $480,000 with being out sick part of last year. The year before, I think I did like $579,000.”
Herman said there was some good that came out of being ill.
“My wife went around and collected for me … and she had an easier manner about it,” he said. “She’d try to work with them, and she turned a lot of them around.” Many of Herman’s problem customers became good customers.
But he did lose some customers that needed tools, since his wife could not drive the truck.
“After I got back, it took about six months to get my people back,” Herman said. “When I went back to work, I taught her how to drive the truck and run the route. Now, if I were to get sick again, she and my son could run the route if they needed to.
“But I hope I don’t get meningitis again.”
Before the illness struck, Herman’s route was already a family business.
“My wife is as much a part of the business as me. She takes care of the books. I don’t spend as much time researching tools, I just write notes and give them to her.
“I pay my youngest son to help stock my truck and wash my truck. … Every night when I come home, he’s bringing the tools out and putting it on the truck.” His son also assembles the tool carts.
“We are a family doing a business together.”
Herman is grateful for the help, because when he’s on the route until 7 each night, he is “hustling the whole day.”
He tries to make contact with every customer every week, and counts more than 800 that he calls on. He said about 400 have active truck accounts at any given time.
“I run a small territory, but I have a lot of stops,” he said. “I just keep plugging away. I work my territory very hard, and I’m always looking to grow more customers; so the cycle never ends.”