Tales from the road: Going independent

Feb. 4, 2016
Thanks to a combination of perseverance, dedication and drive, Livonia, Mich.-based distributor Chris Travis has made being an independent work for him.

Making a living as an independent mobile tool salesman is a task easier embraced than done. There are challenges and uncertainties that present themselves when owning a business, and overcoming them requires a significant amount of perseverance and dedication.

For Chris Travis, the combination of focus, hard work and determination allowed him to navigate his way through some difficult professional trials and circumstances and set himself on the path to being a successful independent distributor for the long term.

“I make a good living as an independent,” says Travis, a former franchisee and franchise employee who has been in the business for more than six years and has owned Livonia, Mich.-based Diversified Tools since October of 2014. “I wish I would have done this from the start.”

A few years back and before Travis went independent, his tool truck was involved in a hit-and-run accident that took it off the road for three months. Though he continued to operate his business out of a tool trailer, the cost to repair his truck was significant. Travis's business was adversely affected, and he began to explore alternative options. Eventually he settled on going independent, started seeking out tool suppliers and stocked up a new truck he purchased by selling a classic car he owned and parting with his last $1,500.

“I parked my (old) truck and never looked back,” he adds.

While he is very much satisfied with his decision to go independent, Travis is quick to admit his time as a franchise employee and a franchisee helped him develop both customer service skills and a strong understanding of how to operate a mobile tool business the right way.

“My experience in this business has broadened my knowledge about tools, private branding, how tools are made and how to sell tools effectively,” he says. “In the business, I have realized that you will never know everything, and you are constantly learning about new tools, new brands and your customers' needs.”

Lack of name recognition, however, was a significant challenge for Travis during the initial days and weeks after he had gone out on his own. Because he was no long closely aligned with a franchise, Travis was forced to deal with concerns about the longevity of his business.

“I just had to show people I was there every week,” he explains. “When somebody orders something, if it is in my control, I’ll have it for them the next week. And I just had to show my customers I was dedicated. At first it was a little tough. But over time, it got better.”

Travis was also able to establish some professional relationships with Neu Tool, SK Tools (who vinyl wrapped his truck) and the GearWrench Street Team. These partnerships helped his business both immediately and immensely.

“Working with those three companies has been great,” he says. “My profit margin has risen, and all three companies have been very supportive with sales flyers and all other perks that you would receive with a franchise company.”

The longtime distributor now has set his sights on growing his business and ultimately putting five trucks on the road at some point in the future. Furthermore, his recent successes have allowed him to initiate plans to acquire and second truck.

“My business is going good and getting better every week,” he continues. “I don't see it slowing down anytime soon.”

Though he’s seen some trying times during his career as a tool salesman, a drive to succeed and a persistent desire to find his niche in the business have served Travis well and taught him a valuable lesson. 

“Never let anyone stand in your way or tell you that your goals, no matter how high they are, are not achievable," he says. "With focus, hard work and determination, they can be."

Sponsored Recommendations

Garage Tip: The Value of System Solutions

Learn why inspecting related parts when repairing your vehicle can save you time and money. Avoid future failures and ensure satisfaction! Click to watch now.

Access the Best Learning Resource for Professional Mechanics

Get hands-on tips, updated repair instructions, mounting videos, failure diagnosis, and best practices for professional mechanics. Click to access essential technical info to ...

From the Basics to Innovations - Transmission Technical Training Videos

Explore Schaeffler's portfolio of transmission technical trainings for the LuK brand. Tailored for all skill levels, our modules cover basics to innovations. Click to learn more...

Clutch Release Problems - Diagnosis & Failure Analysis

Explore common clutch release problems and their causes, from hydraulic issues to mechanical faults. Understand diagnostics and solutions for optimal clutch performance.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!