Despite strong technical background, 25-year tool truck veteran sees drive and people skills as most important to success

Not many tool dealers come into the business as prepared as David Labbe, a Cornwell Quality Tools dealer in Manchester, N.H. Not only was he the son of a technician-turned-Cornwell dealer, he brought experience as a trained electrical engineer.

Yet despite this excellent background, which Labbe admits has been a great help, the most important attributes in mobile tool sales in his view is determination, liking people and having an outgoing personality. Labbe, who turns 49 this year, believes these are the skills that have helped him succeed in his 25 years on the tool truck.

“You have to be energetic,” Labbe says. “You can’t be afraid to talk to new people. You have to be a go-getter.”

Labbe hadn’t planned to follow his father in the tool truck business as a youngster. While he shared his father’s love of tools, he studied electrical engineering and eventually went to work as an engineer for the U.S. military.

He liked working in the engineering laboratory, but being social by nature, he wanted more human interaction.

One day, a Cornwell route opened up. He left his engineering job and began driving a tool truck in an area close to where his father worked. His father eventually retired and has since passed away.

Labbe’s technical knowledge of tools, combined with his outgoing personality, put him in good standing with customers. Today, 25 years later, he has many of the same customers he sold to in his first year in business.

Labbe is optimistic about the tool business as technology evolves. He notes electronic and cordless tools keep improving all the time. Customers always want what’s new and improved, he observes.

Asked if he would do anything different today than when he started 25 years ago, Labbe said he would have invested earlier in a new truck.