Southern California Cornwell dealer bounces back from the recession

Aggressive marketing and attentive bookkeeping keep Dave Putits in growth mode.

Dave Putits has survived the recession, thanks in large measure to skills he mastered in his first and most challenging year. When Professional Distributor first profiled Dave Putits in 2008, the article focused on how the Southern Californian used basic business skills to run his then eight-year-old Cornwell Tools business successfully. “Smile-Collect-Sell” was the motto Putits espoused at the time, and it worked...

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He also claims beef jerky and sweatshirts are consistent, reliable sellers.

Aggressive displays

Putits covers every square inch of his walls with tool displays, including the area above the driver’s seat.

He finds toolboxes are great for displaying toolbox canopies, and has found toolbox canopies great accessories.

A wall-mounted, 6’-by-4’, video recorder from RapidFix, an adhesive manufacturer, has added a high-tech, audio-visual experience to Putits’ truck. “I get guys mesmerized by it,” he says. “It’s a great marketing tool.”

During his previous sales career for a battery manufacturer, one of Putits’ customers was the state border patrol. The contact he established at the border patrol helped put him in a position to bid on an automotive tool contract. This has proven to be a lucrative arrangement. The border patrol pays its bill up front and Putits does not have to warehouse the tools; he simply sends the order to Cornwell, which delivers it to the customer via courier. “It’s great for me,” he says. “They don’t buy too much, but when they do, it’s quite a bit.” He recently sold them a pair of tool carts.

Putits has not sought out other government contracts due to the amount of time these sales usually take. The bids require extensive paperwork, and getting an answer can take three months.

The business has benefited from the popularity of some higher ticket items recently, Putits notes, such as scan tools and battery-operated hand tools.

He also notes there is a growing awareness about safety in the workplace, resulting in a growing demand for safety gloves.

Tools for hybrid repairs present a challenge, Putits notes, both for the customers and tool trucks. California is known for being progressive with hybrid vehicles, but the number of hybrids remains small. Tools specific to hybrid work tend to be fairly pricey, he notes. The decision to invest in such tools is a tough one for shops and techs since it’s difficult to know how much they will use these tools.

At age 51, Putits expects to be running his routes for another 20 years. “Cars are always going to be around,” he says.

When asked what qualities a person needs to succeed in mobile distribution, Putits says a person must be a “self-starter.” This means being willing to put in the long hours needed to make enough money to be successful. “That’s the biggest downfall I’ve seen in tool guys (who fail),” he says.

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