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Time spent as a Cornwell Quality Tools district manager taught Oklahoma City dealer some valuable lessons


Shane Sutton takes a call from a customer while servicing an account. It is often said that luck plays a big role in a person’s success. What is less often said is that what a person does with their luck plays an even bigger role. In Shane Sutton’s case, good fortune did not become apparent until he put the lessons he learned as a Cornwell Quality Tools district...


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It is often said that luck plays a big role in a person’s success. What is less often said is that what a person does with their luck plays an even bigger role.

In Shane Sutton’s case, good fortune did not become apparent until he put the lessons he learned as a Cornwell Quality Tools district manager to use as a Cornwell dealer.

Sutton had an opportunity to work in Cornwell management in between stints as a Cornwell dealer. Now, three years into his second “tour” as a Cornwell dealer, he has been more successful, thanks to the lessons he learned as district manager.

Like anyone in business, Sutton brought certain strengths to the dealer position, such as good interpersonal communication skills and extensive product knowledge. During his time as a district manager, he gained a greater understanding of areas where he himself needed to improve as a dealer.

Today, he has one of the more successful Cornwell franchises and is on a positive growth curve.

Sutton, 38, gravitated to the automotive business while in junior high school. He earned an associate’s degree after graduating from high school and went to work as a technician at a Cadillac dealership.

In the 10-year period he worked as an automotive technician, he got to know his Cornwell dealer, who impressed him with his professionalism. “He always got things taken care of,” Sutton recalls. “You didn’t have to remind him of anything.”

He eventually became a Cornwell dealer himself, and after two years he became a Cornwell district manager before returning to his former dealer position. (See sidebar, page 13.)

Armed with the insights he learned as a district manager, Sutton has dedicated himself to doing a more thorough job serving fewer customers. Riding with dealers, he learned that maximizing sales and minimizing travel time were important factors in a dealer’s profitability.

“I definitely sell to more guys at fewer stops (than before),” he said.

Most of his accounts are automotive shops, but he also has some rental equipment stores and construction companies. One construction company he serves recently needed a vacuum pump for cleaning backhoes.

Serving a 15-mile radius of Oklahoma City, Sutton visits an average 15 to 18 stops a day, most of which he visits every week. He has a total of nearly 90 stops.

Renewed focus on collections

One of the biggest changes Sutton made in his second “tour of duty” was a more concerted focus on getting paid faster.

In the two years he worked as a district manager, Sutton had a chance to see a lot of dealers in action. Something the successful dealers did that Sutton himself didn’t do was be assertive about getting paid. He saw that a dealer could improve his collections by diplomatically reminding customers to pay their bills. He recognized this was an area that he himself was deficient in as a dealer.

He now displays a large poster near the front of his truck stating, “What If,” in big letters, followed by “On pay day your boss said he was short this week and could not pay you?” and further notes “It’s the same for the Cornwell dealer.”

He does not negotiate much on price. Sutton claims his products are competitively priced compared to other brands of similar quality. Hence, he says there is no reason to accept a lower profit margin.

To facilitate payments, he has added a credit card reader and a laser jet printer for processing payments on the truck. Most customers still pay with cash or check.

And there is always a contest that rewards customers for paying their balances faster.

Customer contests drive faster payments

This past December, Sutton offered customers a chance to win a popcorn machine, a mobile cart and a TV. For every payment of $30 and above, the customer received a raffle ticket. Drawings were held after four weeks.

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