2013 Distributor of the Year: Wayne Kolvoord, MAC Tools

Fort Wayne, Ind. Mac Tools franchisee sees his customers, his industry and his community as his extended family.

For Wayne Kolvoord, the professional is personal. Kolvoord, the 2013 Distributor of the Year for Professional Distributor Magazine, devotes himself wholeheartedly to serving his customers as if they were his family. 

His family, for that matter, is quite extended. In addition to three children of his own, Kolvoord and his wife, Elaine have six foster children.

In the four years Kolvoord has owned a Mac Tools franchise, he has established one of the most successful tool trucks in Fort Wayne, Ind.

He proves that an individual with the right skills can succeed in mobile distribution. He was nominated for Distributor of the year by Kevin Stewart, his district manager. Kolvoord was chosen from a competitive pool of nominees by the Professional Distributor staff.

The Distributor of the Year award honors business owners not only for business success, but for being active in their community. Kolvoord, in addition to being a foster parent, has been active in his community's little league and Girl Scouts organizations. He has also taken a leadership role in helping other Mac Tools distributors in the Fort Wayne area.

A solid foundation

Kolvoord, 58, was an accomplished salesman before he came across the opportunity to own a tool truck. After working several jobs over the years, he was a stay-at-home dad for two years when his wife got laid off from her job.

Kolvoord had never owned his own business, but when he came across the chance to own a tool truck franchise, it looked like the opportunity he had been looking for. Two people from Mac Tools visited him at his home.

In the decades Kolvoord spent honing his sales and service skills, he relocated several times. When it came time to once again become the family breadwinner in 2009, he wanted to stay in Fort Wayne so his kids could grow up in one place.

After he met with the Mac Tools people, he was interested in learning more. Mac Tools arranged for him to ride with another distributor. "Once I stepped on his truck, it was pretty much over," Kolvoord said, meaning he was sold on the opportunity. "I knew it was something I wanted to do."

He had no doubts he would succeed, based on his previous sales success and the support of his wife, Elaine. His previous sales jobs taught him how to sell, how to be organized and the importance of learning his products inside and out. "I know what it takes to succeed," he says.

A supportive organization

Kolvoord attended the Mac Tools training in Columbus, Ohio. He realized he wasn't alone when he started; his district manager was often in contact with him, as well as the distributor he rode with.

He appreciated that the Mac Tools officials didn't sugarcoat the opportunity.

"I've worked for a lot of companies, but none have wanted me to succeed as much as Mac Tools," he said. "It's on your shoulders whether you make it or not. You're not out here alone." 

He had enough money in savings to buy a truck and his starting inventory. He was able to buy a 17-foot, 1999 Grumman Olson from an out-of-state distributor who was retiring.

Mac Tools gave him a list of customers. Most of the territory had gone unserved for nine months. Some customers told him they would not buy anything from him for two years. But when they saw him coming back to their shops every week at the same time, most began buying within six months.

To the skeptics among his customers, Kolvoord offered a bet. He bet them $10,000 he would still be business in five years. No one took him up on the bet.

There were a lot of warranties to honor when he began visiting customers who hadn't seen a Mac Tools truck for many months. Kolvoord looked at this as a chance to build new relationships. "That really put a lot of guys in good favor," he said. "It's all about sales, service and collections."

He also sought out new customers. He primarily focuses on auto-related businesses, but he has some construction sites as well.

He learns from his customers

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