Tool renegade likes being in charge

West Branch, Mich.-based independent distributor Don Oestrike doesn’t like to tell his customers 'No.'

West Branch, Mich.-based independent distributor Don Oestrike doesn’t like to tell his customers 'No.' West Branch, Mich.-based independent distributor Don Oestrike (Renegade Tools) doesn’t like to tell his customers “No.” He’d rather put in some extra time with phone calls and research to find whatever has been requested. And that’s one of the reasons he said he likes to use Medco...

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For instance, he likes Milwaukee Electric’s cordless tools because his techs like the power and the price, and he has a nearby repair center in Midland, Mich., for any repairs/warranty service. He also offers Ingersoll Rand and Makita power tools to have multiple price points for customers, as well as expanded options for a customer who may not like a tool from one brand or another.

“Right now I’ve got about 85 percent of my customers on the book to the max I’m comfortable with for each of them,” Don said. He added that towards the holidays in November and December, new sales tend to dwindle a bit.

“To increase sales … or add new customers back onto books, then I’ll do a lot more promotionals, like take in spray guns to the body shops or stock more new-to-market items,” Don said. He also tends to do more toting into the shops when his accounts are down.

Though his sales have been on a decline for a few years, 2010 has kicked off to where he expects to finish up about 30 percent over last year.

One thing Don does to draw customers onto the truck on occasion, particularly when he falls behind on stocking tool shipments, is he’ll stack the boxes in the truck. He said the techs treat it like Christmas, as they tear into boxes to see what’s available.

“I even told my neighbor, a Snap-on dealer, about it,” Don said. “He said, ‘Holy cow, that really works!’ ”

Taking care of your customers is, point blank, the most important part of this job. That’s what they’re paying for. It’s the service … going that extra mile,” Don said. “Even when that means delivering a toolbox on Christmas Eve.

“I like to think my customers will always come to me first if I deal well with them, likewise I like to go to Medco to deal with them and expect them to take care of me.

“I enjoy my job. I’m not pushy … I learn from my customers,” Don said. “If I wake up some day and I’m not having fun, then it’s time to get out.”


Medco, the Philadelphia-based tool distribution warehouse, has focused on the mobile tool dealer for the past 40 years, supplying such brands as OTC, Ingersoll Rand, GearWrench, Chicago Pneumatic, SK and more. The company has grown to a 10-warehouse enterprise with coast-to-coast national and Canadian delivery.

“I would honestly say that we understand and respect the mobile tool dealer better than anyone in the industry,” said Andrew Keim, Medco president. “We understand the limitations of territories, the difficulty of financing every purchase, the increased competition created by the Internet, and the uncertainty of the current economy.”

Medco’s sales team is available from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Central time. The sales staff receives training from manufacturers on a weekly basis to make sure that they are fully versed about new products, features, benefits and application usage. A specialized customer service team is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and staffed by tool and equipment experts who can bring knowledge to the conversation, in addition to being able to take orders and provide solutions.

The company developed an online warehouse offering to give mobile distributors 24/7 access to the inventory in their primary warehouse and the ability to compile an order electronically throughout the day.

Medco developed an online electronic catalog with thousands of pages of product information, including parts breakdowns and manuals, organized by category and brand for ease-of-use, and is about to make the information available on DVD for those dealers without wireless internet access on their truck.

The review of new manufacturers and new products is an ongoing effort; Medco added more than a dozen new manufacturers and more than 500 new items in the past year.

“In order for us to carry a new product, it has to add value for our mobile tool professional and their customers. The last thing that this industry needs is more “me too” choices that take up valuable room on the truck without helping our mobile customers to actually sell more,” said Michael Rau, director of marketing/category management.

Medco also helps mobiles market what they sell:
• Six times per year, Medco develops a full-color flyer that is pre-priced with a 40-percent margin.
• Special promotions drive seasonal products.
• Special leasing options help sell high-ticket items.
• Special offers are available via fax or email on a bi-weekly basis.

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