2013 Distributor of the Year: Wayne Kolvoord, MAC Tools

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

Not knowing the tools did not intimidate him. Kolvoord simply asked his customers what they needed, and he learned about the tools from them. In four years, he has become recognized as an expert. “It’s been a learning experience,” he says.

One tech was having trouble getting an exhaust line removed without breaking it because it was rusty. The tech told Kolvoord a longer wrench would give him the leverage he needed. Kolvoord inspected the area under the hood and assured the tech he could get the right wrench.

He can do a lot of repairs himself on the truck.

A key to his success is his insistence on talking to every customer, one on one. He makes it a point to ask each customer how they are doing, if they have any warranty needs or any “issues.”

Kolvoord also does his best to take a personal interest in all of his customers. He thinks technicians in general are genuine, likable people. “They’re my customers. I put them above me,” he said. He finds out what their personal interests are and tries to make conversation about things other than the business. “It’s serious business, but you’ve still got to have some fun,” he says.

Since starting the business four years ago, his sales have increased every month. When he started, he was told he should do 20 sales and 40 transactions per day. He surpassed these averages from day one, and he currently averages 28 sales and 50 transactions per day.

Kolvoord achieved Mac Tools Silver status in the first two years. In 2012, his sales grew by 25 percent over 2011, earning him Gold status. He currently averages $1,400 to $1,500 in sales per day.

Promotions help sell

Kolvoord takes full advantage of the special deals that Mac Tools offers. He delivers the Mac Tools monthly fliers by hand every month to all of his customers.

He sometimes allows a customer to borrow a tool before deciding if they want to buy it. He recently left a MAR100 coolant retainer and pressure tester with a customer. The tool was advertised in the December Mac Tools flier. “It sparked a lot of interest,” Kolvoord says.

Kolvoord doesn’t negotiate on price for anything except toolboxes. The only other exception is when a group of customers get together to buy high-ticket items, such as scan tools, as a group. “They (scan tools) have just come leaps and bounds,” he says, noting that both the capabilities and the price points have improved. “That’s helped a lot of guys do their jobs.”

Kolvoord believes that most customers ask for a lower price because they have nothing to lose by asking. He doesn’t let it bother him, and he doesn’t believe he loses many sales based on price.

Kolvoord takes his tool bag into 80 percent of his locations to show new tools. The only stops he doesn’t go into are those that he knows the majority of technicians are waiting to walk his truck as soon as he arrives.

“They can see the flier, but when you put the tool in their hand, then they say it’s pretty nice.”

Kolvoord has a policy of not looking in his customers toolboxes to see what they need since he thinks it violates their sense of privacy.

Efficient management crucial

The Mac Tools mobile operating system software makes it easy for Kolvoord to keep track of his collections and receivables. His wife, Elaine, updates his collections and receivables daily, allowing him to know what is outstanding. “If you don’t stay on top of (receivables), it’ll kill you,” he says.

The Mac Tools software also includes schematics of tools that he can print out and show customers. This way, if a tool needs a certain component, the customer can order that component instead of sending the tool for repair or buying a new tool.

The software also makes it easy for Kolvoord to know who bought what item in the past. When tool manufacturers introduce add-ons such as a hook for a flashlight, he knows who to approach.

He frequently breaks sets of tools to accommodate requests. “I have extras of a lot of stuff,” he says. “I keep extras of every tool bit. Rarely do I not have a tool for these guys.”

He invested in a credit card reader app for his smart phone, and it has paid off since about half of his sales are paid by credit card.

Kolvoord keeps a close watch on credit processors, whose transaction fees he claims vary considerably. He says he recently switched processors and has more than cut his monthly fees in half to about $400. “It’s like getting a raise,” he says.

He also saved money recently by switching mobile phone services.

“You’ve got to be looking for what’s new out there,” he adds.

Forming a dealer network

Kolvoord has found great benefit in the Mac Tools field service group, a group of regional distributor who meet periodically to share experiences. Through this group, he has been able to learn from people with as much as 26 years’ experience. “I always learn something,” he said. He also gets ideas about what products are popular. “It’s always nice to hear what’s selling good in somebody else’s area.”

Last summer, Kolvoord spearheaded a group of five distributors to meet and spend time on a Saturday walking each others’ trucks. The distributors spent five hours together, spending time on each others’ trucks and sharing ideas.

Next summer, the group will expand on this and invite the public to visit their trucks. They will serve food and advertise the event.

Kolvoord views the group activity as way to make the Mac Tools name stronger which in turn will make his business stronger.

He has found it helpful to attend the Mac Tools tool fair, where he can buy tools that offer 1-year, same as cash terms. This financing is a great customer incentive.

In the future, Kolvoord hopes to operate multiple trucks.

The most important skill to succeed in any type of sales, Kolvoord says, is people skills. “To have that rapport with customers requires some effort and time,”  he says. “It’s a pretty big trust factor.”

For a video tour of Kolvoord's truck, visit VehicleServicePros.com/XXXXXXXXX.

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