Lessons From the School of Hard Knocks

Jonathan Winstel, who operates Matco Distribution Inc. of Monroe, Ga., has managed to survive six years as a distributor despite a difficult economic climate. The 31-year-old Winstel has learned how to survive largely through trial and error. His story...


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He recalls the time when a customer owed him $15,000 for a toolbox and was falling behind on payments. Matco worked out an arrangement with the shop owner, whereby the shop automatically deducted a certain amount for three years until the payment was complete. There was no penalty charged for the tardy payment.

Another key selling point is the Matco warranty. “If it’s Matco, I warranty it,” he says.

Winstel has also replaced other companies’ tools for customers if he thinks it will win him future business.

Explain the benefits

Customers sometimes tell him they can get the same tools for less at “big box” stores. Winstel responds that the “big box” store will not give credit and they don’t have as much product variety.

Sometimes a customer says something is available for less money on eBay, in which case he tells them when they need it repaired they can try and send it back to eBay. “Nothing’s for free,” Winstel tells his customers.

Winstel has slowly recovered from his setbacks: 2011 was better than 2010, and 2012 is on track to surpass 2011. The new diagnostic tools are helping him in particular.

“It’s definitely still fun,” he says of the tool truck business.

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