Doing something different

Former techs find success as independent distributors just outside Atlanta.


Former techs find success as independent distributors just outside Atlanta. Many shops east of Atlanta are being called on by Thompson Tools trucks, two independent distributors who both started out turning wrenches before selling them. Glenn Thompson has been an independent tool distributor for 19 years and started Thompson Tools. “I was young, looking for something...


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Many shops east of Atlanta are being called on by Thompson Tools trucks, two independent distributors who both started out turning wrenches before selling them. Glenn Thompson has been an independent tool distributor for 19 years and started Thompson Tools.

“I was young, looking for something else,” Glenn said of his few years as a tech. “I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. … I was wondering how I’d support a family.”

Glenn said one of the mobile distributors who was calling on his shop knew he was dissatisfied and started talking to him about tool sales. As he investigated that company, an independent distributor also talked to him about tool sales.

“Two or three weeks later, I was driving a truck,” Glenn said.

Glenn covers rural and suburban areas just east of Atlanta, driving his tool truck more than 350 miles each week.

Mark Allen was a body man and customer of Glenn’s for about 12 years, and has been selling now as Thompson Tools for two years. More than tool sales, Mark wanted to have a positive impact on customers and to evangelize.

“I had been thinking about doing something different,” Mark said. “I’m getting older; my back was hurting a lot from leaning over hoods. … It was a crazy time to start it,” with the way the economy has gone.

Mark started out by calling on shops that Glenn couldn’t get to anymore and built his route up from that; he also had the benefit of using the Thompson Tools name and logo.

“It got him out there fast, with a name that a lot of people knew,” Glenn said. “We’re separate entities. … We do a lot of talking and sharing, and anything we can. But we’re each responsible for ourselves and what we do.”

“It’s amazing how close our routes are to each other, but how different they can be,” Mark said. “There are certain things that Glenn’s got out on his truck, that he’s sold one, two, three — in fact, [he has] sold quite a few A/C machines, and I’ve sold none — but, there’s a roll cart that I bet I’ve sold six or seven now, and he had one, priced less than mine, and he couldn’t give it away.”

The chief lesson both have brought to tool sales from their time as techs, is that customer service should always be foremost.

“I remember situations where when I would ask for something … and they didn’t care about helping me on the problem that I had with something small,” Mark said. “That irked me.”

For Mark, one example he’s run into is doing repairs and searching for parts for a broken tool he didn’t sell in the first place.

“It pays to take care of the problems that aren’t going to make you money, even the repairs that will cost you in terms of time spent.” When he finally found the needed part after weeks of searching, the tech was so happy to have the tool repaired he also spent nearly $300 on Mark’s truck that day.

“It’ll take you time to find that part,” Mark said. “Understand that they’re going to remember that in the future.”

“You’ve got to take care of your people, and be honest with them,” Glenn said. “No high pressure [sales] … If you need it great, if you don’t great.” Just treat everyone with respect, regardless of what they’ve bought.

“Tools sell themselves,” Mark said. But if you manipulate somebody to buy something they didn’t really need or couldn’t afford, they will remember that too.

DOWN ECONOMY

The way things have been lately with the economy, Glenn and Mark have found that not forcing sales is truly essential to surviving on the truck. Both said that with the prospects at dealerships trending down, good relationships with their independent shop techs are vital.

“Some of these dealers are huge; I focus on three of them,” Glenn said. The others have lost business and techs there “don’t have the money.

“You can do just as well in a small shop, time-wise,” he said.

“Without question,” Mark added. He said that independent garages are his anchor, to the point where he’s considering dropping some dealerships altogether.

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