Trade show veteran finds second career in mobile tool sales

Sales is sales, but can you go from selling convention and trade show exposition services to selling tools? You certainly can, according to Jim Stechnij, a Mesa, Ariz. Matco Tools dealer who made the switch about a year ago. Which is not to say the transition doesn't require some getting used to.

Stechnij, a lifelong entrepreneur, spent 30 years in the convention and trade show business. He coordinated and set up trade shows providing vendors with exhibitor equipment and services. He enjoyed the business and was good at it, but after 30 years, he felt he was ready to do something else.

Mobile tool sales? Not the first thing that might have come to mind. Stechnij learned about the mobile distribution opportunity from his son, an automotive technician. One thing that attracted him to the business was the independence it offered.

“I have always been self employed,” he says. “I could never work for somebody else.”

While he knew next to nothing about automotive tools in the beginning, Stechnij believed that a good salesperson can succeed in just about any type of business. He succeeded in the convention and trade show business because he knows how to communicate with people and he also knows how to organize his time and manage his inventory and receivables.

Stechnij knew he needed to learn about tools in order to sell them. Matco Tools gave him a good foundation and a strong support system. Since then, his customers have also been very helpful teaching him about tools.

The hardest adjustment he’s had to make so far has been dealing with skips. This was something he didn’t have to deal with in his previous business. “It really surprises me how somebody can purchase a tool, make a payment and then just walk away from their payment obligation,” he says. “It’s an issue with me. I could never do that to anybody.”

Stechnij’s district manager told him that skips are part of the business in mobile distribution. He has since become more careful about who he gives credit to. But he has learned a mobile tool dealer has to accept there will always be some skips. “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” he says. “You just don’t know.”

Another difference between tool sales and his former business is there is less flexibility in the daily work schedule. In mobile tool sales, “My shops are expecting my service every week. If I take a day off, I can’t always make up the potential business lost,” Stechnij says. “But I knew that when I went into it.”

The two most important skills in mobile tool sales, he notes, are communication and managing money. “It’s really easy to overspend in tool purchases in order to have a well-stocked tool store,” he says.

Overall, Stechnij is glad that he made the decision to become a Matco Tools distributor. The majority of his customers are good people, and he feels that Matco Tools and his fellow Matco dealers provide the excellent support needed to succeed in the mobile tool business. “If I don’t make it in this business, I have nobody to blame but myself,” he says.

Stechnij expects he’ll work as a dealer until he’s ready to retire. “When tools are selling and I’m growing my business, I’m happy,” he says.