Razor Sharp

Led by district manager Robert Tolbert, Matco’s Arkansas district has seen an increase in sales, distributors and good times.


Anybody who has spent time in Arkansas knows one thing for sure: the people love their Razorbacks, the nickname for the college sports teams. And although they’re about 1,000 miles away, Razorbacks have been making the folks in Stow, OH pretty excited as well. The hard-working Arkansas...


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Anybody who has spent time in Arkansas knows one thing for sure: the people love their Razorbacks, the nickname for the college sports teams. And although they’re about 1,000 miles away, Razorbacks have been making the folks in Stow, OH pretty excited as well.

The hard-working Arkansas district of Matco Tools has seen its national ranking go from #44 in sales to #13 in less than five years. And while each is quick to point out that it has truly been a team (or family) effort, mobile distributors Bud

Cook and Walton Johnson, along with district manager Robert Tolbert, are three major reasons for the turnaround. Back Where He Belongs

At a point where most mobile dealers are looking to slow down, Walton Johnson and Bud Cook are peaking. Then again, neither followed what might be a “traditional” career path into the tool business. Both put in over 20 years of turning wrenches before getting behind the wheel.

Walton Johnson’s mobile distributor career began in 1992, after the Naval base where he worked as a civilian mechanic was shut down. This prompted a move from south Texas to Rogers, Arkansas, an area he was familiar with from recent vacations. For the next three years Johnson enjoyed his route and prospered as a Matco mobile distributor.

However, in 1995 Johnson would need to take a nearly six-year hiatus from the business to care for his ailing mother back in Texas. His return would be made both simple, and complicated. “A friend tipped me off to Matco when I was initially looking to get into the tool business,” recalls Johnson. “They provided a strong territory within the area that I wanted, and they responded much quicker than anybody else. So when I decided to come back into the business it was an easy decision to re-join Matco, because of how good they were to me the first time around.”

Johnson’s return in 2001 coincided with the 9/11 attacks, and the difficult economic times that followed. But the reputation for having what his customers needed, a positive attitude, and consistency in showing up at shops would help him make it through some tougher times. Additionally, he soon found that Tolbert’s support, as well as that of his wife Serelda, provided a solid foundation for success.

In 2004, Johnson’s sales placed him well within the top third of all Matco distributors, but his goal this year is to finish in the top 150. “I want that ring,” he explains.

“I originally planned to retire at 62 (he’s now 54), but I’m just having too much fun. That’s partly because of the support I get from Matco, and also in working with Robert,” states Johnson.

What You See Is What You Get

“You can’t fool the customer,” says Bud Cook from beneath his signature cowboy hat, “You just have to be yourself.” It’s an approach that has produced impressive results for the former technician. After just six months in the business he finished 2002 at #41 in national sales for Matco, and followed that up by finishing #14 in 2003 and 2004.

“Being a tool distributor is really 100 percent attitude. I just try to have fun with the customers, and they appreciate that. You also have to like to work with people, which is one of the things that interested me in the tool business from the start,” he states.

His results have also been bolstered by toolbox sales, which average out to nearly one a week. “I think Matco has the best boxes in the industry, but to help move more of them I do a lot of merchandising with smaller tools, T-shirts and other things. Sometimes I’ll throw in dinner at a nice place for the customer and his wife, but what’s even better is taking trade-ins,” adds Cook.

These results are nearly as impressive as the man’s humility when asked why he’s been so successful.

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