Independent survives recession doing it 'his way'

Going independent and switching to using a trailer has helped Central Florida dealer succeed.

Moskalyk finds a trailer every bit as effective for merchandising tools as a tool truck. Larry Moskalyk, an independent mobile distributor in Largo, FL, learned early in his business career not to take anything for granted in running a business. He learned to pay attention to changing business conditions and to take corrective action quickly. These lessons led him to a successful career...

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He credits tool manufacturers for continuously improving products.

Flashlights have become one of the most popular items lately, thanks to the higher luminosity they now offer. He has been surprised by the number of techs that want 640 lumen LED flashlights. “If guys want them, I’ll get them,” he says. When he asks them what they will do with their 350 LED lumen flashlights, the techs tell him they will use them at home.

At this writing, some techs were waiting for Streamlight to release colored flashlights since they are easier to locate in a busy shop than the black ones. Moskalyk has been surprised to learn that many techs have specific color preferences.

Diagnostic tools are also popular. “The big thing right now is diagnostics,” he says.

Because many diagnostic tools are new, some customers want to borrow them before buying them. Moskalyk is wary of doing this, even though he knows some distributors do it. He does not want to be responsible if the technician damages the tool. When asked to borrow a diagnostic tool, he refers the customer to another technician who has used the tool to get an opinion.

Cordless power tools have also become popular of late. Moskalyk notes that cordless tools are now coming with longer warranties, which customers like.

He does not aggressively sell toolboxes. “It’s tough with the financing,” he says. “If you sell these guys toolboxes and they don’t pay, then you’ve got to ‘repo’ it.”

If he had it to do over again, Moskalyk doesn’t think he would do anything differently. He did well working for the flag when he entered the business. He thinks it made sense to go independent when the economic slowdown hit.

As an independent with a trailer instead of tool truck, he has become more profitable. With fewer problem payers to deal with, he is also more relaxed, which keeps him in good spirits while visiting his 20 shops per day, six days a week.

The biggest mistake he sees other distributors make is not keeping current on their payments. “They think that money belongs to them and it really belongs to the business,” he says.

He encourages people interested in the business to first spend time riding on a truck and ask the distributor as many questions as possible. “It’s definitely not as easy as it looks,” he says. “It’s a fun job, but you’ve got to be hard on people, too.”

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