Frank Whitlock feels fortunate to have gotten into the tool distribution business as he winds down his 25-year career in Saginaw, Mich. When he started working at General Motors after he completed his active military duty in Vietnam in 1972 as a U.S. Marine, he never expected that he would someday own his own business.
In 1988, after holding different jobs at GM over an 18-year period, the automaker offered him a buyout. He had no experience owning a business, but for the first time ever, he found himself in a position to do so, thanks to the capital he received from the buyout. He began looking for opportunities.
Whitlock was all set on investing in a pizza franchise when then he came across an opportunity to become a Matco Tools distributor. He thought tool sales made sense for him, given his automotive background, so he became a mobile tool dealer. Within the first year, Whitlock achieved Rookie of the Year and was ranked sixth in the nation. With his hard work and dedication, he was promoted to district sales manager. After just a few years of management, he realized how much he missed working with customers daily and returned to the mobile distribution business.
Like everyone else in the business, he found skips to be the least enjoyable part of the job, but he was able to minimize it. He enjoyed a successful 25 years as a Matco Tools distributor.
Asked if there is anything differently he would do if he had to start over, Whitlock couldn’t think of a thing. “It consumes you,” he says of the enjoyment he felt working with customers.
The biggest change in the business he witnessed was that more of the tools are made overseas.
He has also noticed that in general, due to the current Michigan economy, customers are spending less than they used to.
Whitlock has sold about two thirds of his business as he winds down his career. He is looking forward to a leisurely retirement.
Led by district manager Robert Tolbert, Matco’s Arkansas district has seen an increase in sales, distributors and good times.