Robert McDonald, President and Owner of Skookum Tools, launched the company when he realized that there was a more efficient way to provide consumable supplies to various industries and meet their needs more efficiently. McDonald launched Skookum Tools as an overarching industry supply solution. The company has established its name in B.C. and is becoming one of the fastest growing industrial supply franchises in Canada, focusing on franchising its unique solutions, radiating from B.C., then across Western Canada, and finally Eastern Canada.
Compared to standard tool suppliers, Skookum Tools offers easy and competitive service, delivering needed supplies right to the clients’ doors, right from the fully stocked mobile service vehicle. In some cases, even taking over their inventory needs completely, serving companies in industries such as metal fabrication, woodworking, cabinet making, marine (new construction and repair), aerospace, automotive, construction … and the list goes on.
The idea behind Skookum Tools is to save time and money for clients by delivering abrasives, drilling and cutting tools straight to their doors. To do this efficiently, Skookum franchisees learn about the customers’ needs and workflow, delivering what the clients need, when they need it, without stockpiling supplies in their warehouses. Skookum Tools provides the flexible service and drives to understand and deliver the right solutions to any industrial user.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with McDonald about the ideas behind Skookum Tools, and the opportunities for growth of this franchise and an untapped business solution. “I worked in industrial supplies, and I recognized that there was an opportunity in this segment to provide a higher level of service than what this particular customer base was used to. I observed the traditional automotive industry trucks – Snap-On Tools and Mac Tools – and I asked, why wouldn’t an industrial customer want to take advantage of this type of service?”
Traditional industrial suppliers require the customers to visit their warehouse and order the tools and parts they need, wasting valuable time for the companies, and making the industry fairly uncompetitive in regard to customer service. To challenge this status quo, Skookum Tools created service routes, assigning its franchisees service territories. This approach allows the company not just to visit the customers, but learn the customers’ business, understand their needs, and even take on the company’s inventory management in order to provide them with smooth business operation.
“Each of our franchised trucks and their locations develop their inventory according to the customers they serve, depending on the industries and geography. For example, one of our trucks supplies to a lot of marine industry, so the tools and parts carried by this franchise mostly focus on this industry, and all franchisees receive the needed parts from our warehouse or one of our partner suppliers,” says McDonald.
The Perfect Franchisee
While the Skookum franchise has seen a setback during the economic downturn due to its close tie to manufacturing, McDonald expects to grow the business as the economy continues to rebound, and the company seeks new franchisees to meet its ranks, looking for sales-oriented, self-driven entrepreneurial individuals. “We are looking for business owners, not employees. An ideal franchisee would have some background in industry, and be comfortable working with trades’ people – people who are either coming from trades, or a sales environment,” says McDonald.
The Canadian Business Journal also spoke with Franchisee Doug Gardiner about his experience working for trades with Skookum Tools. Gardiner has worked in trades all his life, from construction and commercial fishing, to his career as a firefighter. “I’m a very hands-on person, and I started with Skookum as a result of searching for a new opportunity. Compared to other opportunities, I found the Skookum Tools franchise gave me the opportunity to be in business for myself, not ‘by myself’ – I like that aspect of it. I like the fact that the bulk of our business is consumable goods like drill bits, sand paper, and so on, and we return to our customers who purchase them again. The cyclic nature of this is a great advantage compared to other business models.
“I also like being my own boss. As a franchisee, I can be very flexible, scheduling my work days according to my needs. I’m my own boss, so I can take time off if needed, I just need to communicate with my customers and the warehouse,” says Gardiner.
The company has established itself with its clients as a reliable supplier, and as a young franchise with a lot of potential, Skookum Tools faces various challenges. According to McDonald, efficiency represents challenge for any business, but even more for Skookum Franchisees. “As we only do business when we show up at the customers location, we need to be very strategic about how we lay out our routes and how much time we spend with each client.”
As to growth, the company recently embraced the e-commerce business, creating online ordering, which gives franchisees and end users across Canada the opportunity to order supplies 24/7. “Our franchise model is well developed and embedded in our company culture, and with the rebounding economy we want to engage new franchisees. With our online system, we have become a national player, and we can set up franchises and routes anywhere in Canada, but we are currently most interested in B.C. and Western Canada. However, we are able to set up franchisees anywhere in Canada,” says McDonald.