You get the feeling after spending time with Matco Tools distributor Mike Pridgeon that he will be successful in whatever he puts his mind to. In fact, the San Diego area distributor has already been successful at much that he’s done, whether it be freelance photography, motorcycle racing, golfing...
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Balance is evident in Mike’s inventory too. His truck is clean and obviously well-stocked, but customers can walk through and have sight-line shopping on every shelf. There aren’t bare spots, but no shelf is overcrowded either.
“I have more inventory at home that I could put on the truck, but if you can’t display your inventory right, I think that’s a detriment to you,” Mike said. “I know guys that have probably $120,000 to $150,000 worth of inventory on their truck. But the problem is, if I put $140,000 worth of inventory on my truck, it’s really like having $80,000 worth of sight line.
“You’ve got to display your inventory so guys can look at things easier.”
And you’ve got to change the inventory around every so often as well, Mike said. “I go through a spring cleaning and a winter cleaning — every six months basically, where I’ll move stuff around. Some guys will come on the truck, and even though it may be the same inventory, it’s in a different location. They’re so used to going on the truck and seeing that one area, and then, ‘Oh man, you got a bunch of new stuff.’
“A couple times a year you have to do that, rotate inventory. That’s something that I learned from owning other businesses.”
Having a little bit less inventory on the truck doesn’t mean Mike is shorting any customers, though. He has more inventory in storage at his house and is more than willing to make special trips to get a specific product to a tech the next day, or even have his DM pick it up and drop it off ASAP.
Mike also is sure to take accurate notes at each shop to stay on top of his techs’ wants, special orders and even just their lives in general.
Mike said he always takes notes on “weird stuff — things that I would probably forget. As soon as I leave, I’ll put a little note in there to myself on kids names and stuff.
“It’s very important when you have a new birth. ‘How’s the baby doing?’ ‘How you liking changing diapers?’ It relates you to that tech, but it also relates you to the rest of the shop, because they’ve been hearing about it all week, all month. I can’t even put a price on that.
“That, I think, is what separates good tool guys from guys that are just mediocre. I know, because I owned my own shop. It was important when guys would remember my name, or my wife’s name. Little things.”
One tech related to Mike that his girlfriend just the day before had passed out at work and the resulting tests at the hospital found she was diabetic. He made notes of that in his computer for that shop, and now will follow up on that, asking how she’s doing each week.
Probably the most unique part of Mike’s approach to the job is his good relationship with some of his competing distributors, one in particular. He said they have a “don’t mess with” pact regarding customers, to the point where they sometimes will tip each other to problems with skips or techs needing warranty work on the other’s tools.
“That’s a healthy business relationship … if you are cordial and nice,” Mike said. “He will call me and say, ‘You got me,’ if he sees a new Matco box at one of his stops, and I’d do the same to him.”
“You know, there’s some distributors out here that take the Cornwell and the Matco hats and throw them on the doorsteps so people can step on them.
“How disrespectful is that? I mean, why are you trying to ruin a good hat?” Mike asked.
Rather than get all riled up about the competition or spend time bashing the other trucks at his stops, Mike is content to meet his 300-plus customers’ tool needs by talking about what he can offer.
“I feel that if you’re doing your job correctly, it’s going to reflect on your sales,” Mike said. “And there’s only so much that you can do in our economy today. Where it was before, if you just wandered around the shops you’d make $1,000, $1,500 a day. When I first got into this business, it wasn’t anything to sell $6,000 or $7,000 a week.” Now, getting above $5,000 in weekly sales is becoming more rare, he said.
So instead of using the small amount of time you have with each customer bashing the other brands, it’s a chance to relate for a little bit and continue setting the standard for tool sales to come.