It's funny what we can learn from history. For instance, you may be surprised to hear that during the Revolutionary War pirates played a huge role in securing the freedom our forefathers sought so passionately.
Wearing a more distinguished title, these "privateers" basically served as mercenaries for the colonial cause by attacking British supply ships and relieving them of essential cargo. While the motives of these pirates may not have always stemmed from beliefs in a great political cause, they did play a part in securing freedoms that we enjoy today.
Fast forward 230 years and we can look at another set of pirates who are working to further a freedom-based cause. While the tactics and goals of Mitchell Fain and Woody Holloway differ greatly from their sea-faring namesakes, the duo does see the benefits of bringing a like-minded group of people together in pursuit of personal gain.
As an independent mobile dealer responsible for both his and Holloway's Pirate Tools trucks, Fain is looking to start the Mobile Tool Dealer Association. The goal of MTD is to band independent distributors like himself together in realizing a number of benefits.
"When I talk to people about it, they like the premise. Right now I've got about 15 guys who are ready to participate, but I'd like to have a higher number than that in order to really get things started," explains Fain.
What he envisions is a resource center for independent mobile tool dealers. MTD would provide a place for these distributors to go when seeking some counsel or support for initial and on-going topics like:
- Basic industry data.
- Peer advice.
- A louder voice to address supplier issues like fill rates or shipping inadequacies.
- Greater purchasing power, which could result in better pricing options.
- Better deals on insurance premiums covering life, health, truck, disability, liability, etc.
- Blanket coverage benefits like AAA towing assistance.
Unlike previous attempts at uniting independent mobile tool dealers, Fain doesn't envision MTD acting like a franchise. Rather, it would simply offer a place to go for some basic information. "I'm not looking for mobile dealers to fly the same colors or go by the same name," explains Fain.
"All I know is that when I went independent I had some questions, and having an independent point of contact or organization that could have offered some feedback would have helped. For example, I didn't know which warehouses to buy from or what tool truck company is the easiest to work with. That type of information would have helped a lot."
For more information, Fain can be contacted through his website at www.mobiletooldealer.com. In addition to helping others through the same situation he was in, Fain feels MTD could also help with his current business situation.
Works For Him
About one year removed from his franchise affiliation, Mitchell Fain runs his 18' tool truck on a two-week route in and around Knoxville, TN. The ability to extend all of his stops over two weeks, instead of the traditional five-day period, is just one of the freedoms he likes about his "new" business. "It's challenging, but that's one of the things I enjoy," he states. In addition to the challenges, there were other factors that led Fain to joining the mobile tool ranks in 2000.
Being self-employed for over 20 years, Fain got behind the wheel of a tool truck after running a successful landscaping business. "Growing up, my grandpa owned a repair shop, and I hung around quite a bit. So I always saw the tool guys and thought it would be an interesting job," he recalls.
"Then while I was running the landscaping business, I got to know several of the dealers in the area, which peaked my interests again. The rest, I guess you could say, is history."
While Fain says he doesn't sell as much as he did while flying a franchise banner, his margins have improved. Some of this can be attributed to a greater understanding of the products and business as a whole, but a big part of this added profitability also stems from the customer service he and Holloway have received from their primary warehouse suppliers.
Fain cites Eastern Tool Warehouse's (ETW) Marcus Fulton as being especially responsive to his needs and concerns, while representatives from Neu Tool & Supply and Ralph Mills of Ace Tool have also been very helpful.
Woody Holloway joined Pirate Tools in December of last year. Formerly an automotive technician, he was simply looking to warranty some of his tools when he contacted Fain. "I was looking to bring on another truck, and Woody just had the right personality for this business. We talked about it and things have worked very well," states Fain.
"What I enjoy the most about this job is working with the guys in the shop and helping them finish the job by providing the solution," states Holloway. "This business is all about knowing what they need, and then filling that need."
Pirate Tools? "My youngest daughter Megan came up with that," recalls Fain with a smile. "She is/was really into that Pirates of the Caribbean movie. So we were sitting around trying to come up with a name for the new business, and she came out with that. I liked it immediately, and the customers absolutely love it.
"Down the line, depending on how many trucks we're able to get on the road, that name offers some really unique merchandising and promotional opportunities," he states.
Regardless of what the future holds, right now the combination of midnight black trucks, bright white and red paint and skull and crossbones graphics certainly get people's attention. However, even if they liked it, customers were not immediately open to working with a couple of Pirates.
"Initially we did have to prove ourselves and show that we were able to provide the same products as the big boys," Fain states. "It took some time, but eventually we overcame the label of carrying junk and demonstrated an ability to get them quality products.
"We showed up every day and really worked to service the customer. At the end of the day, it's as much about the guy behind the steering wheel as it is the name on the truck."
Even if you're a pirate.