Don’t let his laid-back approach fool you — Brian Gallagher, an independent mobile tool distributor (Ironman Tools) in Savannah, Ga., is anything but. How else can you account for the guy who is running three trucks (with a fourth on the way) and still finds time to be a board member in the...
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Don’t let his laid-back approach fool you — Brian Gallagher, an independent mobile tool distributor (Ironman Tools) in Savannah, Ga., is anything but. How else can you account for the guy who is running three trucks (with a fourth on the way) and still finds time to be a board member in the Independent Mobile Tool Distributors Association and spend time with his family?
Yet to spend a day with Brian and watch him interact with customers, you might wonder how he does it. He doesn’t sell with a full-court press; in fact, it’s hard to catch him selling at all. Instead, what you observe is a distributor who’s at ease with his customers who obviously find it easy to buy from him.
“I guess I don’t see myself as a salesman,” Brian said. “The tools will sell themselves. Once in a while, you’ve got to coax somebody a little bit — if their balance is running low, ‘Hey, you need to buy this.’ But most of the time, it’s pretty laid back and pretty easy. I’m not aggressive.”
Not that it was always “laid back and easy” for Brian. He readily admits the first few months in the business were hard. Especially psychologically, when “you realize that’s your money walking off the truck.”
“When you’re first getting started, you need every stop … every $20 bill you can grab,” Brian said. “But it’s scary; you’re sitting there handing out your money, hoping they’re going to pay you back. … That was probably one of the scariest things I ever did when I bought this thing. Guys are taking tools off the truck, and I’m thinking, ‘That’s my money.’ ”
Brian has turned the corner, though, to where he is at ease on the route. Now he looks forward to all his interactions.
“It’s about having fun with the guys; dealing with the customers,” he said. “You know, it’s taken me four years to get good customers … they’re a blast. Every day there’s something different. That’s one of the best things about this job; it’s never the same thing. Every day is always different.”
As a former tech, Brian figured he had a slight advantage when he decided to start selling tools. He realized quickly that his own toolbox barely scratched the surface of what tools were actually available.
“I thought I knew everything about tools … I didn’t have a clue,” Brian said. “When it came to some oddball thing … the guys would point me in the right direction.
“I do still think [being a former tech] gives you an advantage over someone who’s never worked on cars.”
One of the unique things about Brian’s business is that he is adding trucks on the street so that Ironman Tools blankets Savannah. In addition to his own truck, he’s already added two other trucks and a fourth is on the way.
“It is exciting. It’s a lot more stress than I thought it would be,” he said. He does credit the help he receives behind the scenes from the independent distributor he bought his truck/route from, and who also helps train Brian’s drivers for the other trucks.
He also credits the IMTDA (see sidebar) with helping research how to get his second and third trucks up and running, especially regarding inventory and stocking questions. Brian’s first truck was already stocked when he started out; starting a truck from scratch was a new experience after just four years in the business.
“I had no anticipation of it growing this fast, this quick,” Brian said. “But other guys have had multiple trucks over the years.” That’s where he finds another good source of information. He talks to other distributors at all the shows he goes to, including AAPEX, and figures if he can draw five valid suggestions from each conversation, he’ll be ahead of the game.
Money is always an issue, though.
“It’s definitely costly, having to stock the other trucks as big as this one; stocking a 20’ truck is a lot of money. But a lot of [IMTDA] supporters have been helpful, and helping us with some deals, to make some things happen so that it’s a little bit easier on everybody.