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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One “upside” to the economy, Glenn said, is that as jobs have become scarcer, many techs who tend to job-jump have been more likely to stay put. That means fewer skips and tracking headaches.

“That’s helped; it’s for a bad reason, but it’s still one aspect” of the economy, Glenn said.

Sales have become so erratic, Glenn said his average weekly tallies will vary by as much as $3,000. And collections still remain the hardest part of the job.

“I would love to get my money back in five weeks, but that’s not happening,” Glenn said. Ten is more likely, and not all are paying even that well.

“I’ve kept my ears open though. Some of the guys that pressure really hard to keep to that turn, lose customers. … I know there’s a fine line with this,” Glenn said.

He tries to make up for some slow payers through volume selling.

“Usually what I’ll do, I’ve got goals. I’ll say, ‘I’m going to sell five of these this week.’ As far as the money, I quit making those goals because it’ll bring you down into a depression if you don’t hit that mark. I’ll have goals of, ‘I want to move this many side cabinets.’ I learned long ago, when it’s time to go home, go home,” he said.

“I have tried to beat the bushes when it’s slow. All you’re going to get is the rats. It’s dead? Go home. It’s a sign.”

Glenn does have a few customers who are doing a layaway-type payment with him.

“They are doing it on their own accord,” Glenn said, and usually toward a bigger purchase with him. “They’ll build credit; that way I have the money to help me buy the product,” and if there’s a week where they can’t pay, “he doesn’t have the product anyway — so neither one of us is out anything.”

Both Glenn and Mark said being respectful of your customers in both sales and collections will pay off, eventually.

“When the economy starts to go the right way, it’s going to be great,” Mark said. It’s a struggle right now with long hours for little payback, but it will come, he said.

Both credit their wives with being the extra help they need to be successful right now, from helping with bookkeeping to doing deliveries.

“My wife picks up my orders, checks and makes sure everything is there that’s supposed to be there,” Mark said. She picks up repair tools and makes special deliveries; his kids help with washing the trucks and straightening up inventory on the shelves.


Aside from reading PD’s sister publication, Professional Tool & Equipment News, Glenn and Mark get a lot of their tool information from their warehouse agents. Glenn has used the Tools & Equipment Warehouse, nearby in Conley, since he started in the business in the early ’90s.

“When ISN hit the scene, when they came to Atlanta, I started buying more from them … and they’ve got stuff that Tools & Equipment Warehouse does not.” Glenn said he now buys from both, and it’s helped with his efficiency in ordering and stocking.

“I love ISN, and I’ve had a great experience with them,” Mark said. He likes that he can talk with one or two reps at ISN, and they always know his voice.

Both also use the tool fliers from the WDs, but have some reservations regarding the pricing.

“I use ISN’s tool fliers; in fact, I’ll use anyone’s fliers that I like,” Glenn said. “The problem is sometimes fliers have too low of prices to make money. Other times, the prices in the fliers are way too high. … I’ll give it to the customer, but I’ll say, ‘If you see something you like, please ask me about it, because some of the pricing’s too high.’

“I’d rather have no pricing at all,” he said. He also typically uses fliers from Ace and Tools & Equipment Warehouse.

Both are fans of the ISN Tool Dealer Expo as well.

“They’ve really got it going on at that show. I really enjoy it,” Glenn said. “You see the new products … you can get the deals you need, the financing that you want and it’s fantastic seeing all the products there together — if you take your time and you go to see each vendor.

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