A Healthy Obsession

Feb. 23, 2006
Matt Scharping's work ethic, attitude and drive have produced company-leading results from what was once a failing route.

Matt Scharping is admittedly obsessive, hates to lose and says he'll do whatever it takes to be successful. He also rarely stops smiling, loves his job and tackles it with a passion fueled by providing everything he can for his wife and children. It sounds like two different people, but these characteristics combine to form what Scharping hopes is the "total toolman".

The former dealership service manager and Sprint Car racer initially got into the business by taking over for a retiring Mac dealer. He then switched to Cornwell, and after about 18 months made another move, to district manager. "I was looking for more freedom," explains Scharping.

But after a year of supporting dealers throughout Minnesota and Iowa, he realized the demands of the DM job did very little to lighten his workload. So to balance his personal and professional goals, Scharping came back to where it all started, personally and professionally.

"I got back on the truck in June of 2003. It was a route that another guy had recently quit in and around Arlington, MN, which is where I grew up and now live," he explains.

Despite spotting his fellow dealers six months of selling time, Scharping finished 29th in national sales for 2003. He followed that up with a second place finish in 2004, and using a goal-oriented plan and unmatched work ethic, Scharping grabbed the top spot as Cornwell's leading seller in 2005. "And I even took two weeks of vacation," he adds with a smile.

"Look What I Get To Do"

"A lot of the tool business is mental," states Scharping, when asked about the secrets of his success. "While some people wake up and say, 'I have to go to work today', I look at it like, 'I get to go to work today'.

"Attitude is so important in this business. And so is work ethic. Everything else can be taught." Attitude and work ethic have proven to be the cornerstones of Scharping's success, with both being crucial in meeting the demands and expectations he's placed on the business.

"Being satisfied leads to boredom, because there's nothing left to strive for. That's why I'm continually setting goals and forming plans for reaching them. This year I wanted to hit a certain dollar amount in total sales, so I broke things down to see what I needed to do every day, week and month for that to happen," he explains.

Combating boredom isn't difficult when you examine the parameters of Scharping's weekly route:

  • 500 customers, about 10 of which he sees twice a week.
  • Days that can start as early as 7:00 a.m. and stretch as late as 11:00 p.m.
  • He relies on his 22' International to take him as far as 60 miles outside of Arlington, which is about 45 minutes southwest of the Twin Cities.
  • In addition to traditional automotive repair shops, Scharping also hits a garbage truck fleet, a race shop and several farm equipment repair facilities.
  • Additionally, he owns a landscaping business. He says working there on the weekend helps take his mind off the tool business.

"Some people think I'm crazy to have a route this size and then carry the additional demands of a landscaping business, but this is the way I was raised," states Scharping. "My dad was a farmer who also worked a full-time job. So when he got home from work, I knew I'd better be starting my chores. That's just the way it was and that's what I know."

Dad would be proud. In addition to his record-setting sales numbers, Scharping's work ethic has also produced:

  • A relationship with Hennepin Technical College in nearby Eden Prairie, which generated six-figure sales at the beginning of the 2005 school year. "Votech takes some cultivating and extra service after the sale, but if you're willing to invest the time and accept the risk of setting up truck accounts for students, the rewards are great," he states.
  • A gaudy $48 average weekly payment, which balloons up to as much as $150 for open/shop accounts.
  • A 6-1/2-week turn on all sales.

"As the business has grown, it has also gotten a lot more complicated," states Scharping. "Turning bigger numbers is great, but it also means that I have to look more closely at what I've got on the street, what my margins are, what my competition is doing, and how quickly I can re-coup the sale. That's why I ask for more in weekly collections. It helps shorten my turn, while also taking money away from the competition."

His Team

Like most successful people, Scharping is grateful for the support he has received, and continues to benefit from in growing the business. In addition to being there emotionally, his wife Shelly helps trailer and deliver toolboxes, as well as run the landscaping business.

He also points to the insight of regional manager Mike Massey, leadership of Scott Mata, and the overall vision of Cornwell president Bill Nobley in helping him to learn and do more with the business.

And his choice of role models hasn't hurt either. Throughout the different stages of his career Scharping has been able to tap into Del Postma, a former number one, and current top five Cornwell dealer. (Postma also appeared on the June 2002 cover of this publication.)

"Del's consistency is really amazing when you look at how he's been able to continually do so well through the years," explains Scharping. "And he's provided so much advice, like establishing and following up on Needs Lists.

"He's my role model, especially in how he balances time between his family and the business. I just have all the respect in the world for him and Bruce Beltramini (another top 5 Cornwell dealer)." With support from Shelly and guidance from Postma, Scharping has been able to get more from the final members of his team – his customers.

"I hang my awards on the truck because I want my customers to know that they're part of my team. Plus, they want to buy from a winner, and it helps validate my reliability," he states.

Scharping also looks to connect with customers on a level that goes beyond just showing up once a week to collect payments. "I want my customers to believe in me, so I'm sincere in what I do to take care of them, and I make sure they know that.

"My job is to help them solve problems and make money, which entails being more than just an order taker. It means being proactive and hunting down what they need, because if I don't take care of them today, another tool truck will tomorrow. Throw in the fact that you have to have fun or you're going to bore your customers to death, and that's what I think being a total toolman is all about," he explains.

When you ask Matt Scharping about any of the typical issues mobile distributors face, his responses typify a positive, yet unrelenting personality. "When gas prices increase, it just means you have to sell more," he states. Followed by, "Bad debt doesn't kill you, lack of sales kills you," when asked about skip accounts.

So it's no surprise to hear the following when asked to sum up his approach to the business, and in taking over a highly rural, lowly populated area. "The situation is what you make it, and I wanted to make this a successful one."

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