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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“International Toolboxes has been phenomenal, with the help they’ve given us, coming up with deals for [IMTDA], and specials.”
While it’s been stressful getting the other trucks up and running, it’s been a relief at the same time for Brian.
“My days were so full, when the other truck came up, it was like, ‘What a relief,’ ” Brian said. With his daily load lightened, “I could spend a little bit more time with the customers,” which most would admit is a great way to increase business over the wham-bam sales model.
Don’t force it
The forced, make a sale at any cost was not an approach Brian liked. In fact, he doesn’t think the sales side of the business is terribly difficult to begin with.
“The selling is not the hard part. The hard part is collecting the money. The second hardest is making sure you give good customer service. Which, at times, that can be a difficult challenge.”
That’s not to say Brian hasn’t had some sales challenges. When he first put another truck on the road and visited shops unfamiliar with him, it was a tough go.
“I walked into an existing business,” Brian said. “Doing that other truck has opened up my eyes to a whole new level of this — starting out fresh.
The first day I took it out to another part of town, and we didn’t sell a thing. Couldn’t sell a thing. … And I don’t want to force it on people.”
But, of course, forcing a sale isn’t something Brian does. With good reason.
“If I have to force them to buy it, then I’m going to have to chase my money down, and I don’t want to do that. … I want them to come out and buy from me because they want to buy from me, so I don’t have to chase somebody down.
“Every time I force someone into buying something, all I’ve ever had to do is chase them down. So I make a habit of not forcing people to buy stuff.”
And once you’re chasing money, it’s not long until you’re dealing with skips.
“It was hard to stomach the first guy that skipped out; I just don’t get upset about it any more,” Brian said. “If you let it bother you, it’ll eat you up, and then you’ll be chasing bad money and leaving good money on the table, and you’ll go out of business.
“I’m easy to work with. If the guys just keep in contact with me, I’m OK with that. As long as they keep in touch, send some money when they can – I can live with that.”
For those skips that don’t get resolved, Brian does have a unique approach.
“I’ll 1099 them,” he said, referring to the tax code. “1099 is like claiming it as income. … It’s my money, and they didn’t pay me back, so they stole it. At the end of the year —like an employee almost — I’ll 1099 [their tool bill] as income. Because they didn’t pay for it, so if it was a $1,000 bill, that’s $1,000 that got added to their income.
“Let them deal with the IRS. I already wrote it off as a loss.”
Brian does use one technique to his advantage that is similar to the general philosophy of a flag truck. Like a brand-name distributor will typically purchase all (or most) of his tools from the brand, Brian tries to buy from a set group of warehouses and companies. It simplifies many areas, and increases the quality of customer service to him.
Brian has seen the most benefits come from “M. Eagles and Medco … and Ace.” He said he’s been buying from Ace since he started.
“At M. Eagles, you get to talk to the owners,” he said. “When you call up, Mike usually answers the phone, or Howard, 90 percent of the time. … They’ll work really hard for you. They want to earn your business, and they’re not after all your business. … It’s kind of cool, that they’re not trying to shove things down your throat.
“They’ve been in the business a long time, and that’s definitely one thing that helps.”