Charter Matco distributor Doug Broom says he got into the business backwards. He started as an independent before joining the brand, whereas many independents get their start under a flag before branching off. The former Ford mechanic bought his business in 1972 from an independent looking to...
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Charter Matco distributor Doug Broom says he got into the business backwards. He started as an independent before joining the brand, whereas many independents get their start under a flag before branching off.
The former Ford mechanic bought his business in 1972 from an independent looking to retire. When he asked for advice, his father said to investigate it and “work for yourself.” Doug bought the entire business, Ford Econoline van, inventory, accounts receivable, etc. for $10,000.
“That wouldn’t buy half of a quarter of a shelf today,” Doug said.
He took that business and grew it, and after several years he saw a Matco Tools truck on the road and inquired with the company and has been with them since.
“I don’t rely on Matco to carry me, but it’s nice to be associated with a company rather than by yourself,” he said. Doug doesn’t just use the company for support, he’s served on the Matco Distributor Advisory Council for 14 years where he said distributors can give feedback, good and bad, and things can change for the better. Doug said ordering processes, feedback and R&D on new tools, returns and more are places the MDAC board has sought improvements.
Doug’s route covers more than 500 tool customers in the greater Springfield, Mass., area; the customers are Doug’s favorite part of the job. “I like seeing my guys every day,” Doug said. “Most of them are good guys; [the business] is like having 500 friends all over the city.”
Doug tries to see all those friends every week, even when it’s hard on his schedule.
“On Friday mornings, I’m up and out by 5 a.m. to see third shift customers before they go home,” he said. “My competitors don’t hit any of these third shift stops.
“I go there and I own the shops, because I’m the only guy who will take the time to show up at 5:30 in the morning, rain, snow, sleet or whatever,” Doug said. “They’re loyal to me and I’m loyal to them.”
That kind of loyalty extends to all his shops, regardless of situation.
“I have some shops that only get paid every other week. I stop there every week,” Doug said. “You can’t just come when the checks are out.” Techs are smart, he said. If you only show up on payday weeks, they’ll figure you care more about their money than servicing them, he said.
A full truck
The Realtor’s key sales mantra “location, location, location,” becomes “inventory, inventory, inventory,” in Doug’s business. This top tenet of Doug’s business is immediately obvious when boarding his truck.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff ... there’s not much room in here,” he said.
Inventory is key to me,” Doug said. “If a guy comes on the truck, and he’s got to wait to get a tool, 50 percent of the time he’s not going to wait,” and that’s a lost sale. “When they’ve got to have it, your inventory is important.
“There’s no wasted space anywhere in this truck.”
You’ve got to keep your inventory varied as well, Doug said, because the business is changing.
“Years ago we were running around with socket sets and wrench sets—it’s not flying anymore. You need to carry new stuff [to make a profit].”
It’s tough finding what will continually sell, he said.
Doug has additional storage shelves filled in his basement, and a 10’ by 30’ storage shed with bigger stuff, shop equipment machines, toolboxes, etc.
As a mobile since 1972, Doug tends not to tote-and-promote anymore. Over his time as a distributor, Doug has built rapport with his customers that they don’t need him to bring extras into the shop to entice them out the truck. They already know they should be out there every week.
“It’s OK for young guys getting started, but my tote bag is out in the parking lot,” Doug said.
Doug also advises newer distributors to take lunch every day. Sort of.
“For new guys building their routes, I advise them to stop at McDonald’s every day, even if they pack a lunch. Stop at a fast food spot during lunchtime each day and guys will come to the truck and ask, ‘Hey, can you stop at my shop?’ “