Texas Independence: Newcomer carries the torch in a changing economy

In two and half years, this largely self-taught Texan has a promising future in tool sales


Clint Maxwell, right, gives an Ingersoll Rand air hammer to a customer at a shop that services oil tankers. Clint Maxwell never planned to be in business for himself. As a young man, he had aspirations to be an engineer or an architect. But while attending the University of Texas in Arlington, he realized he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Fast forward to today, and the 35-year-old Maxwell has...


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Clint Maxwell never planned to be in business for himself. As a young man, he had aspirations to be an engineer or an architect. But while attending the University of Texas in Arlington, he realized he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.

Fast forward to today, and the 35-year-old Maxwell has established himself as a reputable, independent mobile distributor in Stephenville, Texas, a rural area just west of Dallas. In the past two and a half years, this largely self-taught Texan has paid off half of the money he borrowed to get himself started in tool sales and is now looking to invest in a larger truck and a computerized management system. He proves that an ambitious, dedicated individual with good people skills can be successful in mobile tool sales.

Like many successful business owners, Maxwell has been able to use his natural gifts – in his case, an outgoing personality – and leverage his familiarity with his region to take advantage of an opportunity that, until a few years ago, he didn’t even know existed. But his ride – no pun intended – hasn’t been smooth.

After a stint in college, Maxwell went to work at DHL, the courier service, as a driver. Over the next 13 years, he worked his way into management as a supervisor, and was moving up the corporate ladder. He was upbeat about his future.

 

A setback and a new beginning

Then the recession hit. In 2009, Maxwell fell victim to a massive downsizing at DHL. He immediately teamed with a “downsized” fellow employee on a startup business, an airline luggage delivery service. But the venture fizzled in less than a year.

Things weren’t looking good for Maxwell in late 2010. He had two young children and a wife to take care of.

Little did he know that his next opportunity was awaiting him in his own backyard.

Maxwell’s Uncle Bob owned an independent mobile tool company, WB Tool Truck. When Uncle Bob suddenly took ill, one of Maxwell’s cousins took over the route on a temporary basis. WB Tool Truck had a client base of 150 accounts established over 22 years in a 360-square-mile area.

When his cousin asked him to help out on the truck, Maxwell obliged. Little did he know he would soon be asked to buy the business.

No decision was made until Uncle Bob passed away. At that point, Maxwell decided to buy the small company from his aunt, who was also the business’s bookkeeper. They agreed on a purchase price for the inventory, the truck (a 1979 16’ Ford Kubmaster that was originally a ServiceMaster carpet truck), the customers and the goodwill.

Maxwell borrowed $10,000 from a local bank, but carried a much larger balance with his aunt who sold him the business under a seller financing arrangement.

 

Tool education begins

Maxwell knew almost nothing about the tool business except for what he learned driving for a few weeks with his cousin, who was also a novice. His aunt was able to give him a good overview of the inventory and how much he needed to sell to cover his costs and make a profit. His uncle had grossed around $200,000 a year, yielding a reasonable income for the couple.

Integrated Supply Network (ISN), his main tool supplier, advised him on what inventory to stock. Maxwell fitted the truck with 280 stock keeping units worth about $10,000 in retail inventory.

His aunt taught him how to manage Excel spreadsheets for keeping track of sales and collections.

Maxwell knew very little about tools, but fortunately, he wasn’t shy about asking his customers what the tools do. He found most customers were willing to help him, thanks largely to their loyalty to his Uncle Bob. One customer, for instance, told him to tape his business card on all toolboxes he sold as a way to promote the business. Some customers taught him how to fix tools.

The customers told him they liked his uncle and would keep buying from WB Tool Truck if he served them well. Uncle Bob had a reputation for being fair and helpful; he would make an emergency delivery when asked. Maxwell realized he needed to do the same thing to keep his customers satisfied.

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