Anyone in business for a long period of time knows business conditions are unpredictable. You can be up one week and down the next. One thing I’ve learned in my 31 years as a mobile distributor is that you need to be disciplined and have a positive mental attitude to overcome the setbacks that...
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Anyone in business for a long period of time knows business conditions are unpredictable. You can be up one week and down the next. One thing I’ve learned in my 31 years as a mobile distributor is that you need to be disciplined and have a positive mental attitude to overcome the setbacks that ultimately come your way.
Those of us in New Jersey have faced a triple dose of setbacks with the recession that came in 2007, the closing of a major army base in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy, which hit this past fall.
In my case, I’ve had an additional setback. This past March, Debbie, my wife of 36 years, passed away.
Despite many years of success as a mobile distributor, these setbacks have been tough to deal with.
But once tool sales gets in your blood, you learn to stick it out. And sticking it out I am. This year looks like it’s going to be a turnaround year for me.
2007: Things looked good
In 2007, my situation was good. It was the best year I had in the tool business. Near the end of that year, however, the business began to suffer as the Great Recession began.
In 2011, the Army’s Fort Monmouth in Eatontown, N.J., closed due to Congressional budget cuts. When the fort closed there was a trickle down effect to all local businesses, including automotive repair shops.
Shortly after this, my wife, who was my bookkeeper, became ill. There was less time to tend to the business, and there was more work since I had to do many of the tasks that she had performed. She passed away in March 2012.
Then, in the fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit. I was fortunate not to have suffered damage to my house, but many of my customers took major hits.
What’s my secret?
The setbacks have been hard to deal with. But every day I get in my truck, I wear a smile. I have had a good life as a tool distributor, and I expect I will continue to be successful for many more years.
Someone recently asked me what my secret is. My answer: I love the business. In the 31 years I have worked as a tool distributor, I have never lacked for motivation. I love making the sale.
Don’t get me wrong; there are other things to like about this business.
Like many tool distributors, I like the independence.
I’m also naturally competitive. Whether it’s in business or in sports (I run competitively and I ski), I have always worked to beat my previous best performance. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t, but I always try.
I have no way of knowing if 2013 will be a record setter. It will be hard to surpass my performance in 1993 when I was in the Mac Tools Top 100 distributors. It will be hard to top 2007, which was my best year ever. But I will try.
Lessons from a great mentor
I was fortunate to have an excellent teacher when I got into the tool business. The DM who trained me gave me some excellent sales advice. I have passed his advice on to every distributor who rides with me.
One day, when I was being trained, a customer came on the truck and asked me for a 3/8” air ratchet. As I looked for the tool in the truck, my DM pulled me close to him and spoke to me softly. He told me to get the 3/8” and also to get a 1/4” air ratchet and show both tools to the customer.
To my surprise, the customer bought both air ratchets. That made an impression on me. My DM explained that what I had done was make it harder for the customer to decide against buying something. That’s always stuck with me and I’ve always passed it along to other tool distributors who ride with me.
Mobile distribution is a good business, but to be successful, you need to like the business and have a strong work ethic. If you have the right mind set, you can overcome setbacks when they occur.
Fred Linkhart owns a Mac Tools franchise based in Oakhurst, N.J. He is a 31-year veteran of the mobile distribution business. Send any comments or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.