A risky and (rewarding) business

Aug. 2, 2019
Change always carries some risk, but with the right attitude, the reward can be sweet.

A colossal career change from big oil to tool sales, another job move that meant a transition from turning a wrench to selling them, and starting fresh with a brand new route in a brand new state. These are the experiences of the mobile dealers profiled in this month’s cover story.

There’s nothing wrong with staying put when things are good. It only makes sense. Still, sometimes life throws us a curveball, or we wonder “what if” ... or … or. That is how all change begins.

Of course, these stories are not uncommon. I’ve talked with many of you who started one place, ended up another place altogether, and are still looking to shake things up. A catalyst for change can happen on a grand scale or be very personal. Back in 2007-2008 (more than a decade ago now), the economic crisis closed the door to a lot of mobile tool selling businesses and served as a launch-pad for others. Since that time, this industry (along with many others) has rebounded ... but it has never been “boring.” Maybe it’s better to say, mobile tool dealers simply are not a boring bunch.

Take, for example, Independent dealer Reid Thomas. Thomas dove into the mobile tool selling business after turning wrenches as a tech for a number of years. This is a common story, but not always an easy transition. Thomas is learning as he goes and enjoys a large route in the southwest corner of Houston. He finds he can use all the technical knowledge he has shored up to help educate his customers about scan tools and other various new products.

Cornwell Tools dealer Roy Hernandez is another one who stepped onto a tool truck and didn’t look back. He was previously a safety consultant for big oil companies like Chevron, Shell, and BP. “I thought the transition was risky,” says Hernandez, who liked tools and had a hobby of racing cars. “It was rough the first several months, but you make it how you want it to be – as busy or as steady as you want it.”

Finally, Mike Gruber, a Mac Tools dealer, left a successful route in Pennsylvania to start fresh with a failing route in Virginia Beach. It was the right move for his family, but not without some challenges. He did, however, discover an unexpected benefit: With a change of scenery and new customers he could reinvent himself and his business in subtle but profound ways.

If life were without change or challenges, it would be pretty uneventful. Mobile dealers are one group who seem wired for success when the road branches off in a new direction. Each day is already as much hustle and relationship building as it is sales and business strategy. But that’s all part of the allure, or so I’m told.

Speaking of “new,” you won’t want to miss this year’s Innovation Awards winners, starting on page 18. Happy selling!

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