The tool business is a great business, but success doesn’t come easily. Bill Jaynes, a Mac Tools distributor in Titusville, FL, came to the business as a seasoned sales professional in 2006, having worked in route sales for Coca-Cola Enterprises. He also brought tool experience, having worked as technician in the U.S. Army.
But even Jaynes didn’t find the tool business easy. When the recession hit Central Florida hard in 2008, he nearly lost his business.
At the time, Jaynes did some soul searching. With the support of his manager, a customer who had become a good friend and his supportive wife, Jayne, he decided to apply himself and dedicate the necessary time to his business.
Jaynes’ story demonstrates the importance of having a support network and being able to learn from past mistakes.
Tool sales: life experience needed
“Not everything can prepare you for this,” the 50-year-old Jaynes says of the tool business. “You need life experience as well. And it will sometimes take years to build your business. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Following four years in the Army, where he was trained as a heavy/light wheeled technician, Jaynes spent about two years as a technician for a fuel tanker company where he became familiar with tool trucks and the mobile tool industry. He then went to work at Coca-Cola Enterprises for 17 years in route delivery and sales operations.
One of his co-workers had joined the Mac Tools organization and advised him when a route became available in Titusville. Jaynes was looking to go into business for himself, and mobile tool distribution seemed a good fit. He took a mortgage loan to raise the funds needed to buy a truck and his starting inventory.
Jaynes felt confident in the beginning. He had worked in sales for years, he was familiar with automotive tools and he had a passion for them. But he had never before owned a business and he learned quickly that owning a business comes with its own unique challenges.
An early challenge
Jaynes had a good rapport with his district manager and the automotive shops were busy in 2006 and most of 2007. His business was averaging $7,500 in sales per week.
Then things changed.
In 2008, the Kennedy Space Center, the largest employer in Titusville, began laying people off. Automobile dealers, some of his largest customers, began having a tough time selling cars and were going out of business.
The housing market also took a dive, sending shock waves through the local economy. “The housing tank just totally devastated this area,” Jaynes notes.
Jaynes’ weekly sales and collections tumbled 60 percentage points. He was still making $1,500 monthly payments on his truck.
The hardest thing to overcome with lower sales was lower collections. He struggled to keep current on his tool payments and this made it difficult for him to keep his truck fully stocked. “You’ve got to order enough to cover customer needs and replace stock,” he notes. “That’s the secret of this game. Your tool bill is your life. You’ve got to really watch your finances. It’s a combination of many little things that’ll kill you.”
As 2010 ended, Jaynes was considering leaving the business. Just when all looked lost, something fortunate happened.
New district manager to the rescue
A new district manager started at the end of 2010 and showed concern for Jaynes’ situation, which lifted his spirits. The new district manager asked Jaynes detailed questions about his business. When he learned that Jaynes was allowing customers more than five to six weeks to pay their bills, he advised him that such a practice in and of itself can result in insufficient collections to cover tool purchases.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for your money,” he told Jaynes. “You live and die by your collections.”
Jaynes’ new district manager worked with him on a turnaround plan. “It was his positive attitude that made me change,” Jaynes says of his district manager.
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