Century Trading Company and mobile dealer Rick Hege balance their businesses with respect for the customer, and each other.
Through a mutually beneficial joint venture, Century Trading Company (CTC) President Marcia Germann and mobile tool distributor Rick Hege joined forces in 2004 to offer each other a hand, and their customers a team effort in delivering better service and greater selection.
“When I was with SK Hand Tool as a district manager, Marcia was one of my accounts,” Hege says. “I told her she was in a unique position to begin a mobile tool business, which is cheaper than opening two locations. And she did it. She made the investment and bought the truck.” Hege wasn’t Century’s first mobile dealer, but he began the business two years ago after he decided to take a break from his district manager position at SK.
According to Hege, he transitioned from district manager to a mobile tool dealer who specializes in SK simply because, “I enjoy people—meeting them and listening to their problems. I also don’t like to be cooped up in an office, and I like having the independence to set up my own schedule and route.” It was a smooth transition for Hege, who now operates from the driver's seat of a tool truck with SK emblazoned on each side and CTC’s logo spread like a banner across the front.
Hege has a background in, and comprehension of, both sales and tools. “I took care of the mobile program for SK, and was the motor sports liaison. That’s where I learned the ins and outs—what to do, what not to do. When I started here, I just restocked the truck and reorganized it. Then I established my base in Fort Wayne, IN,” he says.
“I have no designated territory—no restrictions. And even better, I have the option of whom I sell to. Although I work for Century, I run the truck as a mobile business separate from the warehouse. It’s like a second store on wheels.”
Lending A Hand
Although Hege and Germann independently operate separate arms of CTC, one hand tends to help the other. Germann takes care of buying Hege's products, whether from her store or an outside source, as well as brunting the cost of the truck's operating expenses. In turn, Hege provides CTC with an expanded customer base and the convenience of mobility.
They can also offer each other product information and advice. CTC has added some items due to Hege's suggestions, and vice versa. Although Hege says, “I stock my truck from Century’s shelves usually once a week,” and CTC’s website confirms, “The truck offers a similar product mix as the store, plus lines specific to mechanics’ requirements,” product selection varies a bit.
The duo’s customers also differ, but barely. Hege admits, “About 60 percent of my customers moonlight, working on farms to supplement their wages as techs. They work days, nights, weekends, whatever it takes. So it makes you want to help them out.”
Whereas the store’s clientele is based on industrial contractors, DIYers and local farmers, Hege says, “Basically I service shops dealing with heavy-duty truck, trailer and diesel repair. So it’s primarily truck dealers, implement dealers, etc.” It’s plain to see that even with a bit of a different customer base, Hege and Germann’s customers’ interests overlap, but are singularly targeted.
Hege believes, “Each dealer should know their marketplace, and serve them accordingly. I carry larger wrenches and impact sockets, and other tools in larger sizes or with more power in order to suit my heavy-duty and agriculture customers.”
Harmony In Customer Service
The real connection between the two is not their mailing address, but a focus on customer service, which they define as going beyond the call of duty to satisfy and retain the customer. “The customer always comes first,” Hege says. “That has always been Marcia’s philosophy.