Most Brooklyn natives don't want to talk about 1957. After all, that's when their beloved baseball team left town for the seemingly brighter lights of Los Angeles.
In contrast to the fleeing Dodgers were the founders of what is now Weiss Tool Distributors. They would place cornerstones in the community for what has become one of the largest tool and equipment warehouse distributors in the country. And while the business has expanded beyond these roots, the owners and employees have kept that Brooklyn attitude alive and well.
"There's definitely an in-your-face attitude when it comes to the way we do business," smiles Jerry Staub, former president and current chairman of WTD Supply.
Originally started in 1929 by a pair of brothers selling tools, oil and oil filters throughout Brooklyn, the tool side of the business was sold to one of their salesmen in the late 1950s. He, in turn, would sell the business to Ron Hartstein and Jerry Staub in 1984. "Neither of us were tool guys," admits Staub. "We were working for a printing company and really wanted to get into something of our own."
At the time of this purchase, WTD was a small, 5-employee company that paid rent on a 6,000-square foot warehouse.
Also part of the mix was a young college student who spent time at the business during summers and holiday breaks. A jack-of-all trades, he gained experience in numerous facets of the company's operation, with his duties ranging from customer service to purchasing. This involvement in his father's business would produce great dividends, because as Neil Staub grew in his understanding of the company and marketplace, he was also developing a vision for its growth.
"1992 is when things really started happening," states Neil Staub, the current president of WTD Supply. "We published our first significant catalog and started pursuing the mobile distributor. We also expanded our focus to reach customers outside of the local geography," he states. The benefits were significant. Weiss Tool grew into the 50,000 square foot facility that they now own in Brooklyn, and began looking for new ways to grow the business.
"We got to a point where it was time to take a calculated risk in order to service our national customer base, which meant opening some new locations," recalls Jerry Staub. "So we put a plan together with the goal of opening a new facility every two years. The first was Las Vegas in 1998, which we recently expanded to 30,000 square feet. Dallas was next in 2000, followed by Chicago last year. In the spring of 2006, we're proud to be opening our fifth location in Jacksonville," he states.
Getting In The Right Faces
Part of their "in-your-face" approach is a strong telemarketing presence, which is operated out of Peking, IL. WTD relies on their telemarketing team not only for sales, but also in helping to build awareness of what they feel are lower prices and greater availability. The only problem with a strong telemarketing business unit is that it can lead to questions about who exactly is on the other end of the phone call.
"We guarantee that the end-user can't place an order from us," states Neil Staub, when asked about rumors linking WTD to direct sales. "We qualify everyone who contacts us. We want to know who they are, who they're buying from and who they're selling to. If they stumble over any of these questions, then our customer service people are trained to turn them away. We won't sell direct," he reiterates.
Want It, Got It, Here It Comes
"When it comes to inventory, we offer a lot of different brand names, as well as a host of lines from within those brands. So the focus is on breadth and depth of product," states Neil Staub. "Our role is simple. We're demand fillers. So it just makes sense that our inventory is based on what our customers are telling us they want."
A big part of this approach is being more hands-on and involved with customers. This not only ties WTD in with what they want and need, but it has also helped in developing and implementing more efficient processes. The end results have been better customer service and lower overhead costs. "You really help yourself by helping the customer," states Jerry Staub.
Specific examples of how they work to do just this include:
- Multiple locations that can provide one or two-day delivery to 90 percent of the country.
- All orders received by 2 p.m. local time are shipped the same business day.
- Availability of non-tool, but shop-related products. This includes fans, picnic coolers, tarps, garbage cans and cigarette ash disposal bins.
- Drop-shipping equipment.
- Extending credit.
- Quicker processing of returns, with accounts usually credited within 24 hours.
- On-line ordering, with the ability to check price, availability and the status of the shipment.
- A new fleet section in their catalog.
- The Weiss Tool Challenge. Customers can send them a copy of any invoice from any other warehouse distributor to see how WTD compares on price.
Both the younger and elder Staub feel their growth and success can be attributed to consistency in their offerings, pricing and shipping. And just as they rely on a steady flow of products and pricing in managing their business, Jerry Staub feels these same practices are key for the mobile and glass front distributor. "You have to be there and be able to get the shop owner or technician what they need as quickly as possible. It's the same for our business as it is for theirs," he explains.
In addition to the new locations, WTD has also seen growth by tapping into the agricultural, mining, industrial and hardware markets. They also list internet sellers among their customer base, which breaks down to roughly 40 percent mobile dealers, 50 percent parts stores, and the remaining 10 percent representing a composite of the others.
"Even as we continue to grow, our focus and attitude is the same in year 21 as it was in year 1," states Jerry Staub.
- "We want to have whatever product the customer needs.
- "We want to get it out the door the same day we receive the order.
- "We want to offer it at the best price."