In looking at pictures of early motoring, you will undoubtedly observe many vehicles struggling to make their way down the roads of yesteryear. It seems as if each one is stuck in the mud or trying to negotiate heavily rutted roads. The development of paved roads helped the automobile blossom into the essential part of life that we know today.
However, there are still ruts of another kind that can impede the mobile tool distributor as he or she strives for success. Recognizing them is one step in a journey that can continually test your mettle.
The average length of time someone stays in this business is three - five years, according to my observations. Let’s all say this together now-: “The tool business is not for everyone!” Being in this industry for 25 years has given me the opportunity to witness many of the pitfalls and mistakes that can occur.
A rookie can have the greatest credentials and intentions, but sadly those aren’t enough to compensate for fatal errors. I might be covering some old news, but a review of these toxic practices never hurts.
I won’t list these in order of magnitude, but near the top has to be lying to a customer. It will come back and bite you most times. This usually comes up when your customer is grousing about the other tool guy.
He is waiting for a tool and is told it is still on back-order. We all have items that achieve that status on occasion, but using it when that's not the case is trouble. If you forgot to order it, then just come clean and smile. Also, and this might hurt some feelings, but if you are having cash flow issues, be straightforward and ask for some understanding. You will most likely get it if you haven’t eroded your credibility with previous fibs.
The same is true for repairs - get them out the door the next day. I have UPS pick-up, and these things are gone in 24 hours. Cultivate the reputation for fast service and offer loaner tools if possible.
I am guilty of this next one, which is taking too long to check into something. We all have scraps of paper, post-its, etc. that we use to write down, with the best of intentions, those special requests. However, they can be yellowed by the time I finally do it. The more difficult I perceive it to be, the more I put it off. Sounds like human nature. Some you hope are never mentioned again and others just aren’t worth doing. Pick the important ones and act - it feels good to crumble that note!
Keeping to your schedule is a demonstration of commitment to your customers. Many fail because of the time obligations that are required to be successful. You can’t slide the door shut on Friday afternoon and be ready Monday morning without effort in between. At my house we refer to it as the “second shift”, which means everything required to get ready for the next business day.
These tasks are imperative and occur during your off-the-street time. It needs to be made clear to prospective tool distributors what the real time commitment will be.
On the topic of time, I am a big believer in delegating mundane tasks. Find a customer to clean trade-in toolboxes and assemble tool carts for you. Think about how your time can be better spent, like doing some deadbeat letters.
The intoxication of cash in their pocket every day has distracted otherwise focused people. That money needs to be plowed back into inventory once your truck and tools are paid off. Only then is the cash flow yours to savor.
There are many ways to fail in this business, but there are thousands of us out here making a successful go of it. It is never too late to right the rudder on your tool “ship” and chart a new course.
For you, the uncharted waters offer a challenge and require courage to navigate, but unlike other ancient explorers, the rewards are well known. There are “maps’ to guide you on your journey. Look to others for help and into yourself for strength as you embark.