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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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."