Cornwell Quality Tools
Cornwell Quality Tools provides its dealers with the knowledge
and resources they need to succeed.
By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Knighthouse Media
Cornwell Quality Tools continues to produce the “finest tools in the world” that have been The Choice of Professionals® for nearly a century. “This business is a relationships business,” CEO Bob Studenic says. “There is no magic formula to the mobile tools business. Don’t overthink it and don’t get too creative because in essence it’s relatively simple. Service your customers and build relationships with customers. As those relationships develop they will translate into profitability.”
Eugene Cornwell, a highly skilled blacksmith, founded the Wadsworth, Ohio-based company in 1919 with the goal of producing “the best tools.” After experimenting with various steels and heat-treating methods, Cornwell accomplished his dream and achieved a widespread reputation as a top-notch toolmaker.
Cornwell forged the company from his small blacksmith shop in northeast Ohio where he established a foundation for the company to “do the best it can.” The company remains employee-owned, takes pride in the sale of quality materials and recognizes the importance of family.
Because the company has remained family owned since its inception, Cornwell Quality Tools can differentiate itself in the industry by staying nimble and responding quicker. “We are not part of a publicly traded company or conglomerate,” Studenic adds. “Those types of companies’ performances are often predicated on satisfying Wall Street stock analysts and investors, and there are expectations that must be met. We are much smaller being privately owned and that makes us quicker and flexible to react to things rather than trying to turn the Titanic. Being partially employee-owned also doesn’t hurt and culturally allows us to keep that family-owned mentality moving forward.”
Cornwell Quality Tools is the oldest mobile tool company and has 680 dealers today. National Franchise Recruiting Manager Andy Scott says the company has added 71 dealers in the first five months of 2018, which is one of the best starts it has had in the past decade.
“Our franchise offer is one of the best in the country because of the fact that we don’t have an initial franchise fee or an annual franchisee fee and have unlimited term agreements,” Scott adds. “We are offering veterans, who are transitioning out of the military and honorably discharged, no-interest financing, which is almost a $15,000 incentive.”
Although Cornwell Quality Tools specializes in automotive tools, its dealers come from all different backgrounds. “When you look at our top 100 dealers, aside from working hard, they come from a wide variety of backgrounds,” Director of Marketing Don Russell says. “They are not all repair technicians. We have a butcher, baker, realtors, pharmacists and people who worked in warehouses. You don’t have to be someone who knows cars or tools to be successful.”
Once someone has decided to become a Cornwell dealer, they are partnered with a district manager who guides and coaches them to be a franchise owner. The dealer chooses a tool truck and travels to the company’s headquarters in Wadsworth for one week of classroom training. Dealers will then spend two weeks in their territory with a manager riding along to learn the business, their route, visit customers and learn how to keep the business profitable.
Dealers operate their own truck as Cornwell Quality Tools has found that the owner who has invested significantly provides the greatest return and is most invested in its success and enjoying the rewards. Because the company is introducing new products weekly, it suggests dealers order on a daily basis to ensure their trucks have the most relevant tools onboard.
“Here at Cornwell we have close to 10,000 items in our warehouse and it’s really an ongoing education process with the dealer force to teach them the keywords and phrases a customer may say and point out which tool is needed,” Studenic says. “The customer is remarkably well informed, so they may ask for a specific tool and the dealer can do a quick search with a keyword and one or two solutions will pop up. Some he may have on the truck.”
The Cornwell Opportunity
Cornwell Quality Tools says there are six reasons to become a franchise dealer. The first is that it is family owned and employee-owned, which means dealers are the company’s No. 1 priority. “I really believe that a company that’s family owned makes better decisions, especially about things that directly affect dealers,” says Brian Freudenburg, a dealer in Madison, Neb. “It makes you feel good to know that top managers and executives know you by name.”
The second advantage is that Cornwell Quality Tools offers comprehensive and ongoing training opportunities. It understands training is critical to dealers’ success.
In addition to initial training when coming aboard, dealers are invited to attend district and regional sales meetings and to the annual Cornwell Tools Rally. “‘The Rally,’ as we refer to it, offers a full day of training that covers several topics of interest,” the company says. “We usually offer four different tracks and repeat each one throughout the day so that dealers can attend as many as they like. What’s more, you’ll find an army of people willing to help you throughout our company.”
Total company support from day one is Cornwell Quality Tools’ third advantage because its dealers are its customers. Paul Walsh, dealer in Rhoadesville, Va., says the support at Cornwell is “unreal.” “Dealers help each other out all the time,” he adds. “My DM goes above and beyond his job to help me out whenever I need it. I wouldn’t be as successful as I am without the help I get from everyone in the company.”
Top performers are also given the opportunity to advance into management. The company believes in promoting people from within, so it always looks for those who aspire to move into management. “Moving off the tool truck and into management is not for everyone,” the company realizes. “But we give top-performing dealers the opportunity to move up because no one knows our systems, processes and people better than our current dealers.”
Dealers are given a geographic territory rather than a fixed customer stop. “We do this as opposed to saying, ‘Mr. Smith can visit the Ford dealership, but can’t visit the Chevy dealership across the street,’” Studenic says. “Your potential is limited only by your ability to work hard and compete and to sell, service and collect from your customers.”
Finally, Cornwell Quality Tools says its sixth advantage is the promotional items its sales and marketing professionals create to help dealers grow their business. Those items include a monthly sale flyer that promote products across a wide range of prices, as well as the sale of tool boxes and other big ticket items. “I stock my truck with the tools that are on sale,” says Tyson White, a dealer in Mona, Utah. “I’m a big fan of ‘Tote and Promote.’ The promotional items have helped me grow my customer count year after year.”
In addition to all those advantages, Cornwell Quality Tools also offers dealers the ultimate opportunity to be their own boss. “We offer them the ability to work for themselves and how well they do is not determined by anyone else but the franchisee,” Studenic says. “The rewards they receive are directly proportional to their investment and how hard they work.”
Focusing on Expansion
Cornwell Quality Tools operates a forging plant in Albion, Pa., and a manufacturing facility in Mogadore, Ohio, where it produces its legacy hand tool line. The company also maintains two distribution centers – one near its headquarters in Wadsworth and the other near Salt Lake City.
In 2016, Cornwell Quality Tools acquired Kennedy Manufacturing as its tool storage box provider. The company continues to make investments in its toolbox factory by adding new metal bending and forming equipment.
Cornwell Quality Tools plans to continue doing what it is doing and focusing on growth. “We have a lot of room for growth across the country,” Studenic says. “We aren’t concentrating on any specific geographic area, but look for opportunities wherever they are in the 48 states. We are growing year over year and haven’t looked back.”