Mobile tool dealer Norma Girardin finds that using the help that's all around her helps her business greatly — turning a potentially lonely job into a shared experience. From her partner, Lucille, and dog, Cruiser, to neighbors and the techs on her route, the people around her all help her serve...
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Mobile tool dealer Norma Girardin finds that using the help that's all around her helps her business greatly — turning a potentially lonely job into a shared experience. From her partner, Lucille, and dog, Cruiser, to neighbors and the techs on her route, the people around her all help her serve Mac Tools customers in her southwestern Maine territory.
Norma knows a thing or two about delegating, too. She is Mac's first female Master Distributor, and she did it in less than three years with the company. (August 2007 will mark her third anniversary at Mac.) "The thing that I always recommend to anybody … is don't do it alone," Norma said. "Don't wear yourself out … use your resources. If your wife's home for you, get her to check in your order, make sure everything's there." Luci does just that for Norma by checking in her day's deliveries and sorting out special orders from general inventory and placing the special-order items into boxes according to what days those shops are scheduled.
Other areas Norma delegates are washing her truck (done by neighborhood kids) and assembling toolboxes. "There's a guy across the street who puts utility carts together for me," Norma said. "I know that I can, if I have to … but for the most part they go to him. "He puts them together, and I give him $45. He's also a customer. So, he'll either take that as credit on his account, or he may take it as cash."
Norma uses other customers as well — mainly as great sources of information. "I use the customers so much," Norma said. "I had a customer yesterday call me for something they needed for a job on a GM, and didn't know what tools to use — he'd never done that job." Later on her route, in a GM shop, she talked to the techs and found the information her customer needed. "First of all, the guys love it. And I don't care if you're a male distributor or a female distributor. You show that you don't know it all, and let them know that you need their help; I think they love it."
Another source of help Norma is big on is the Mac Tools system itself — from the annual tool fair and monthly district sales meetings to conference calls and individual talks with other mobile dealers. "It's extremely important to go to every tool fair, district meeting and conference call — even if you learn just one new thing," Norma said. "[This business] is not a hobby. Each item is a tool the company gives you to help with your business. "I don't know how independents do it, maybe they have some kind of hotline. … But when you're with Mac Tools … you'll get the answer," Norma said. "Like I said before, if you have resources, use them."
Aside from using Mac as a source of support, Norma uses her brand as a sole source of tools. And it has paid off for her handsomely, in the form of end-of-year rebate checks — most recently nearing $50,000. "I do not buy tools from anyone except for Mac," Norma said. "My customers know that, though some don't agree with it. Some would like me to get things that I can't get from Mac — but I don't. "The thing is … if you go to Wendy's and you want a Filet-o-fish, they're not going to next week have that for you. You've got to go to McDonald's. "You just can't be all things to all people. … You do the best you can with what you have, and you have to draw the line. And it's hard. There are some times where you know you can make a few bucks — but you're going to make a few bucks right now. The headache comes later" when warranties become an issue and you don't remember if you sold that tool or not, for example. But its mostly a no-brainer, Norma said, when buying exclusively from Mac during the year results in such a big pay-off later.
Diversity in Shops
Though Norma is exclusive in her tool supply, she is inclusive in her customer stops, from dealerships and shadetree mechanics to tractor/small engine shops and a mattress store. Anywhere they might need tools. "I stopped at a mattress sales store on a weekly basis, Norma said. "You can go anywhere — if there's somebody there to buy tools, you can go there." But just because there are plenty of potential stops doesn't make it easy. "The most challenging part of my job is getting the job done," Norma said. "Getting through the whole day … to as many people as possible and not blowing off a whole county. "I think some people just bang through jobs, run in and out, and don't think much of it. …. "But I feel like every time you go into a shop, if you run your business correctly, every time you go into a shop you feel like you're helping these guys do their job. … "Of course, pushing a $10,000 or $20,0000 toolbox into a shop … when you're pushing it in, it's pretty cool. And every time you walk in, you see it there and you know that wasn't an easy sale to get done — I like that. "It's very rewarding."
Toolboxes are not idle talk for Norma. It seems that about every stop on her route sports at least one Mac-branded toolbox, including about eight in one car dealer's service bays. At that stop, even another company's toolbox is filled with Mac equipment from Norma's truck. Norma credits her toolbox success with getting to know her customers before she tries to sell them on a particular box. "You have to look at the whole picture; you have to know your customer and what his payment abilities are," Norma said. "I think that anybody who takes a guy out of a little toolbox and puts him into the biggest toolbox ever looks dumb — the distributor looks dumb because they're burying the guy in a toolbox, and he's never going to be able to buy enough tools for the next 4-5 years. "I want them in a box that's big enough to get them what I think they're going to need for a couple more years. [The toolboxes] are mostly upgradeable anyway … I kind of look at the whole picture, really. "You've got to know your customer. Ask questions."
One area where Norma differs from many mobile dealers is her flexible route schedule. Some days she dictates the route; on other days, the route can take over.
"My customers know what to expect some days. Those I do the most business with, I'll try to keep them on the schedule, to give them the time than I would normally give. And then work in the other stuff if I can. "Depending on how your day is going, it's going to be different every single day." Norma said the route can come down to money some days. "If it's getting to be 3:30 and we've got $500 in the money bag, I've got to go to the hot shops. … But if we've got $2,000, $3,000 in the money bag, then it is a good day to go get those people I haven't seen in a while. "Maybe I'm not going to get anything there, but it's not the end of the world. I've made my stops. Next week, who knows what's going to happen."