“As an independent, you kind of do it in reverse. You concentrate on selling the hand tools and the air tools,” he said. “They can have all the big toolboxes they want … you can make a lot more money on the other stuff.
“If you’ve got all these toolboxes out, then you have to collect the money for them. You sell a guy a $10,000 toolbox, and he’s pretty well tied up for the next three to four years, and you can’t hardly sell him any hand tools.”
Lynn estimates a big part of his business is in consumables, like grinding discs, and that about 20 percent is in air tools. Along with that, his route is a majority of heavy-duty truck shops; yet nearly 15 percent is body shops.
Though there are many tool distributors that tend not to stop at body shops, Lynn said the reputations for most body shops have increased greatly.
“Body shops are good business,” Lynn said. “I found that bodymen really make a lot of money. They make more than mechanics do; I cash out paychecks, so I know what a lot of them make. They buy a lot of expensive tools, expensive grinders—they have a lot of special tools to work on these cars.
“Body shops are really, really good business. Mostly air tools and bits … but they have a lot of special tools: doorskin tools, drills for all this new metal and high-strength steel. Bodymen work on commission, so anything they can buy to make their job faster, they’ll pay.
“They’re not afraid to spend money,” he said.
Based on his time in tools, from branded truck to field manager to independent, Lynn has a more comprehensive view of the trade than many. He sees the current market as a strong one, where customers are more educated about new tools and the distributor’s job is made just that much easier.
“The customer is a lot smarter buyer these days than he ever was—way more informed,” Lynn said. “They’re way more conservative than they used to be.
“These guys are smart, they know the value of tools, they look for the value. They’re pretty smart consumers, really.”
Though the end user is smarter about tools and value, you still have to approach the business as a business, branded or not.
“You have to be upbeat, you have to be professional, you have to look decent,” Lynn said. “People like to deal with successful people, not some guy that’s hanging around, telling jokes, in blue jeans… They like to deal with a real professional.
“It’s a real simple business, really,” Lynn said. “Being an independent is a really, really good business.”