Tales From The Road: Training in the mechanics of tool distribution

Aug. 2, 2022
This Cornwell Quality Tools dealer bought his franchise at age 23.

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Since he bought a Cornwell Quality Tools franchise at age 23, Norman Hansen has crammed what seems like a lifetime of learning into two years. Today at 25,  Hansen looks back at a rocky beginning and bumpy rise to profitability, and he looks forward to smooth sailing ahead.

That’s a bit like the terrain on his 1,000-square-mile route in Whatcom County, Washington that borders on Canada and the Salish Sea. It is marked by flatlands, rolling hills, and mountains. His customers range from regular automotive and semi truck shops to logging shops and fabrication enterprises.

When the COVID-19 pandemic scared drivers into staying home, business at the car dealership where Hansen previously worked slowed to a crawl. He and several other technicians were laid off. Seeing his income dwindle while his bills piled up, Hansen tried his hand at different things, including cattle ranching.

“During that time, I realized that I wanted more variety in my life,” he says. “I love turning wrenches, but that was all I did at the dealership.”

Hansen has always been a “tool nut,” and has become a fan of Cornwell products over the years. When he approached Cornwell dealers about jobs, they suggested he start his own business.

“I crunched the numbers and with my family’s help, I was able to buy a franchise,” he says, admitting that the biggest magnet for that idea was becoming his own boss and taking control over his life.

Hansen’s business took off quickly, but he confesses to making a few “young person” mistakes at the outset. These included spoiling himself and living beyond his means – a pattern that forced him to work even harder to get back on top and stop giving himself a salary. He also learned to trust his gut instinct after being stiffed by a shady customer.

The combined effect of several negative experiences was discouraging, and he turned to a longstanding Cornwell dealer and friend for advice.

“He told me the first thing to do is always pay myself because I’m the employer now,” he reports. “Like working for any employer, getting paid motivated me to do better.”

Hansen now works smarter, watches his bottom line carefully, and makes sure to collect payment for goods sold.

“On the personal side, I’m careful to live below my means and plow money from my personal account back into my business when I can,” he reports. “On the company side, I focus on budgeting, replenishing my inventory as I sell items, and getting a fair return on my investments.”

Hansen also plays the long game of building trusted relationships with customers along his route.

“In my previous life as a technician in a car dealership, I worked on all kinds of vehicles, so that helps me understand their needs and what types of special tools will help them," he noted. "As a shop technician, I appreciated dealers who took the time to get to know me and my crew."

He reports that his biggest sellers are diagnostic equipment and the 5’ cables with Wi-Fi inspection cameras and lights that customers can use to find things in dark, crammed spaces.

With his business now healthy and growing, Hansen is confident he can attain his long-term dream of buying a five-acre property where he can settle down, raise a family, enjoy the space, and have a garage big enough to park his tool truck, pickup truck, and other toys.

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About the Author

E. Lisa Moses

E. Lisa Moses is a seasoned freelance writer with a range of clients. These include a research centre that conducts multinational studies into surface, air, and maritime transportation. One of her areas of focus is emerging technologies.

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