He writes his own ticket. How did he do it?

Selling what he wants, when he wants, to whom he wants.


Seybold built up his business by maintaining excellent customer relations. Here, he is taking in a warranty. A frigid New England morning seemingly sets the stage for a long and dreary day of going to dark and damp shops, hoping to make the sales needed to pay the bills. But this is not John Seybold’s story. He has every reason to be upbeat, because he has the right attitude and his customer base is...


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A frigid New England morning seemingly sets the stage for a long and dreary day of going to dark and damp shops, hoping to make the sales needed to pay the bills. But this is not John Seybold’s story.

He has every reason to be upbeat, because he has the right attitude and his customer base is his dependable meal ticket.

After years of operating a profitable franchise with five different trucks and four employees, he had a large pool of customers.

When it came to the time of his life when he wanted to tone things down, he kept all his “A” customers and operated independently out of one of his trucks in Chicopee, Mass.

This is the most compelling thing about Seybold: he has found a way to consistently turn a profit and genuinely love every second of it.

 

From franchisee to independent

Seybold began selling tools in 1980 after an eventful conversation with a tool distributor. “The conversation began when he told me he just bought a bigger house,” Seybold explains. “I told him that he just bought a house, and then he corrected me that now he has an even bigger and better one. If he could be making all that money in the seventies just selling tools, I wanted in.”

So Seybold interviewed with a tool franchise and bought a territory. Years of hard work resulted in an increasing amount of reliable clientele.

As Seybold perfected his craft, business boomed. In the mid-nineties he was offered the opportunity to become a franchise owner. He accepted and eventually purchased a second franchise, growing his business to five trucks with four employees.

But by the 2000s, business was changing. Demand shifted in favor of specialty tools easily obtainable through outside sources at a lower cost. Worse yet, his employees did not have the “sixth sense” to sniff out skips.

Furthermore, Seybold’s life situation was also much different. His children were grown and he did not need to hustle like he once had. But he still enjoyed selling tools.

So, in 2007 Seybold became an independent. Instead of overstocking the essentials that everyone already has, he focused on specialty tools that are not for everyday use. This meant less warranties and less frustration. In lieu of paying several employees, stocking several trucks and dealing with too many skips and marginal customers, Seybold kept his most reliable customers, making his job profitable and enjoyable.

 

Business summed up in a payment card

Here’s how a common day goes for Seybold: He arrives at a shop and usually does not park the truck too close. His truck does not figure into sales. Then Seybold walks into the shop, nonchalantly opens up his customer’s toolbox and removes the payment card within. He simply collects the cash or he marks off the payment he will take off the customer’s debit card. His customers welcome the ease of the process.

Seybold might have fewer customers now, but he still has a sizeable number of his best ones. He has a manageable 437 on the books in a route that covers 200 miles a week. Seybold will sell to anyone as long as they do not mind paying him a “fair” price (around a 35 percent mark-up) for what he is selling them.

Simply put, that service is warranties, availability and, in particular, financing. Seybold’s services not only include selling tools, but also cashing paychecks for a modest cut. He purposely wants his customers to maintain balances with him, even modest ones as low as $6, but not so he can charge exorbitant interest. Seybold charges no interest for 90 days, and 1 percent interest beyond that point. (A fair and equitable term in Seybold’s view would be 10 weeks.)

The reason for this is that it maintains an ongoing relationship with his clients. The more they see Seybold for whatever reason, the more likely they will buy a tool from him when they need it.

Being in the finance business, Seybold has a pulse on his customers’ finances. “Sadly, most of the population lives paycheck to paycheck,” he notes.

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