Every month we interview a successful tool distributor and tell you how they meet the challenges, nurture the business, and deal with some of the most demanding customers in the world. Last summer we began a search for the tool man’s tool man (or woman): an ambassador who projects a positive image...
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Every month we interview a successful tool distributor and tell you how they meet the challenges, nurture the business, and deal with some of the most demanding customers in the world. Last summer we began a search for the tool man’s tool man (or woman): an ambassador who projects a positive image of the profession, someone that everyone would recognize as a true professional.
Nominees were judged not just on the success of their business, but also on their attitude, their sense of community both inside and outside the industry, and the appearance of their truck.
This month we are proud to announce our 2012 Mobile Tool Distributor of the Year: Rick Brown of Manassas, VA.
Rick is a Cornwell dealer and was nominated by his district manager, Steve Sullivan, who described Rick as “Quite an individual. I’ve been in this business for 34 years and he’s the only one I’ve met who has become this self-sufficient. He’s really on fire.”
Steve says Rick’s increase over the previous year was 17 percent, which is impressive enough, but it also made him the first-ever Cornwell dealer to reach the million-dollar mark.
But numbers tell only part of the story. Steve says Rick “has so much fun with his customers” and is “respected by Cornwell dealers all over the country. He’s a great listener, always puts a positive spin on things.”
Rick is also involved with a community service group called Freedom Behind the Wheel, a non-profit organization that provides wounded veterans with the opportunity to participate in motorsports events driving hand-controlled cars (see sidebar, page 13).
A LATE START
Rick has been in the business only six years, but he became interested over 20 years ago when he rode with a good friend who had become a tool distributor. “I thought it was the most fun job ever, but every time I tried to get a route something would fall apart and it just didn’t happen.”
After two decades turning wrenches in dealerships and independent shops, he finally heard about a Cornwell route that had opened up nearby. “I figured if I could make the owner of the shop $300,000 dollars a year, why couldn’t I do it for myself? That was over five years ago and I haven’t looked back.”
Rick attributes his success to being a competitive person. “When I went to my first Cornwell rally and saw someone get the gold ring, I said ‘I want that.’ ”
Rick placed 23rd in his second year, in the top ten the next two years, and was number one in 2010 and 2011.
In addition to being competitive, Rick also loves what he’s doing. “This is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I couldn’t see myself going back to work for somebody else. I like having the freedom to do what I want and do it my way.”
Maybe it’s just his Southern culture, but the mood on Rick’s truck is relaxed and familiar, not at all competitive. “It’s just something that comes naturally. I love talking with people, and (now) I get paid to do it. Some days I feel like a bartender, listening to everybody’s problems, maybe giving some advice … they know they can vent and not worry (because) it all stays on the truck.”
That said, Rick is indeed attending to business. In a 70-hour week he drives about 250 miles to collect from 425 customers, and he sees almost 1,100 customers in dealerships, independent repair shops, heavy truck shops, landscaping shops, a large construction company, a couple of motorcycle shops and even the aircraft maintenance shops at Dulles International Airport. Rick said he doesn’t do much business in tire shops because “the techs are mostly young, hourly, don’t know how to manage money yet, and usually they don’t stay there very long.”