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As you might expect, Bob describes himself as a “people person” who likes being out and about. His normal day on the truck is ten hours, “but it goes by like,” Bob snaps his fingers, “that, because I’m always busy and I really like what I do. Meeting characters like (his customer), Mike (a very colorful character indeed) is entertaining, and if you can make a living dealing with people like that all day, why not?”
When asked about his accounts receivable, Bob said he doesn’t measure his business that way. “Some guys pay cash in full, so knowing a guy doesn’t have a balance with me is not an indication of how much business he does with me. I look at activity, not balance. This (other) guy consistently has a bill. When his bill gets low, I know he’s going to buy soon.” Bob also has customers who pay him the same amount every week even if they don’t owe anything, “like a lay-away,” Bob said, “because they know they’ll buy something big somewhere down the road.”
Several of his customers are in a large industrial shop that’s been steadily laying people off for months, which makes them reluctant to go into debt for tools that, very soon, they might not need. Bob still stops there right on schedule; “Some of the other dealers don’t stop here anymore. (But) when things turn around, I’m the guy who’s here. Just like I want them to be loyal to me, I have to be loyal in return. That means sticking around when things aren’t going so well.”
When asked about skips, Bob noted that as an independent, he has no network of dealers to help him collect from someone who moves out of the territory. The only option is to make the effort to stay in touch with the customer. However, Bob says he suffers far fewer skips here than he did in Boston, and considers it a non-issue in Bow, N.H.
In the end, it’s hard to tell if there’s a greater difference between being a distributor in the big city versus small town, than there is between being a flag distributor versus an independent. Either way, it seems Bob Covert has found his own answer, and he’s having fun making money. What’s not to like?
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