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Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Leasa Scheiman processes Internet orders at North American Tool Industries’ distribution center in Huntington.
Business Spotlight

The complete package

Tool maker and seller keeps service valuable to set itself apart

Mike Childers, right, and Robert Flood Sr. service chain saws, the company’s top-selling outdoor power tool.

North American Tool Industries/Homier

Address: 84 Commercial Road, Huntington

At a glance: The company includes two divisions. North American Tool Industries designs, makes and sells assorted tools to retailers, including Do it Best, True Value, Ace Hardware, Home Depot and Sears. The other division, Homier, does road shows across the country, selling tools directly to consumers out of tractor-trailer rigs stocked with 800 to 1,000 products.

The company’s corporate office and global distribution operation are in Huntington. But it also owns 12 overseas factories and three domestic plants.

Employees: About 50

Annual revenue: Not disclosed

When was the company founded: 1958

Biggest accomplishment in the past 12 months: The toolmaker used to promote selected products at specific times of the year, such as Father’s Day. Now, it works with retailers to offer a broader range of items year-round. By working with retailers on displays, the company has helped them find better ways to present chain saws, for example, so customers can touch and lift them, said John R. Brown, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

What was your biggest mistake so far in operating this business: When Brown started at the company three years ago, North American Tool Industries/Homier was trying to do too much. “Our portfolio was about double what it is today,” he said. “It was too broad, so we reined it back in. And we now have a laser focus on these (five) categories.” They are: Outdoor power equipment, automotive equipment, power tools, outdoor sporting goods and farm equipment.

What are the key challenges facing your business or industry: Numerous companies that focused just on importing and distributing tools to retailers have been forced out of business because they didn’t add much value to the supply chain. North American Tool Industries/Homier benefits from those companies closing, but the business also has to work hard to differentiate itself, to make sure customers know that the company designs and makes the tools it imports, Brown said. The company also hired outside help to refresh its brands to help them stand out. Brands include Farm Pro, Magnum, Speedway, Energin and Yard Dog.

What is your strategy for staying ahead of your competition: Homier’s staff receives a lot of feedback directly from customers at the on-the-road events. By sharing comments with product developers, the company is able to develop new products, tweak designs and test new tools more quickly, Brown said.

Also, the company tries to remake some commercial and industrial technologies and products into items that consumers can use. And it strives to meet unsolved consumer needs, he said.

What resources have you found most helpful in running a business: The company’s investment in its online presence has paid for itself many times over, Brown said. Studies show that more than 80 percent of people who buy power tools, for example, start shopping by doing research online, he said.

What are your growth projections for the next five years: 20 percent to 30 percent compounded, including 60 percent to 70 percent this year alone

What is one thing about your business that people might not be aware of: The breadth of products made. By offering cordless drills, tractor plows, cement mixers, woodworking tools, pipe benders, toolboxes and air compressors, the company allows retailers to reduce the number of suppliers they deal with, Brown said.

If you weren’t running this business, what would you be doing: Running a vacation resort in the Florida Keys. Brown, who owns rental property in the Keys, enjoys scuba diving and sport fishing.

Source: John R. Brown, executive vice president of sales and marketing Compiled by Sherry Slater of The Journal Gazette Business Spotlight profiles small businesses that are at least three years old and have 100 or fewer employees. To recommend a business, e-mail the name of the company and the name and phone number of a contact person to or fax to 461-8893.