Fully Charged With Ambition

In this issue of The Hardware Journal, we spoke to Don O’Toole, General Manager of Monbatt, to find out more about the group’s new business venture, International Tool Industries.

International Tool Industries is the latest business in a long line of successful ventures by the founder of Monbatt Ltd, Gary Larkin. Monbatt Ltd is a wholesale automotive battery specialist located near Monaghan Town. The company was founded by Gary in 1996, who remains the company’s MD to the present day. Gary worked in his father’s automotive  electrical company when he was in his late teens, and through his time learning the trade, Gary was very aware of how many car batteries were being sold to his father Tom’s customers. Taking note of a highly demanded product in the market, Gary put a very quick business plan together and shared his idea with Tom. Of course, as any father would say, Tom exclaimed “You’re mad!”.

Gary was a single operator, a first generation business at the time of his launch, and with the support of some friends, he brought in his first consignment of batteries. His only customer at the time was his father, but that wasn’t for long, as he put a visually enticing display of his stock on his van and traveled around neighbouring counties, introducing his products and services to other businesses. His determination and efforts proved fruitful, and in no time, he was selling more and more product nationwide.

21 years after its foundation, Monbatt now employs 22 members of staff, consisting of a general manager, a financial controller, an accounts team and five salesmen on the road
nationwide to promote their products. In accompaniment to this, Monbatt also has a telesales department, taking care of all customer needs and complementing a full back- office staff, who manage goods in and goods out.

During the success over the last number of years, Monbatt reached their first €10M turnover in 2018 and this was achieved through what General Manager Don O’Toole
describes as “sheer determination and plenty of hard work from all the staff.” Continuing, Don said, “it’s a credit to everyone employed in the company.”

Due to the ongoing success Gary was experiencing, eight years ago, he decided to take over his father’s small car parts business in Monaghan town, as he had a vision of the
potential this business had. In order to give the business a flying-start, Gary brought in another family member to partner in the business for the first five years. Together, they named the business ‘Car Parts Distribution (CPD)’, and with the knowledge of where to source products internationally, they set out on their journey to build what has now  become an €8.5M business, wholesaling new motor parts to the industry nationwide.

“In support of running a successful business, it is important to have a very user friendly software, that will manage your day to day administration. We have been using MAM software in our business for the last six years, supplied by RNH Solutions Dublin. Since integrating this software in our tool business, we remain confident we have made the right decision and knowing the back-up from the IT team is very professional and proactive at all times, gives us peace of mind”, said Don O’Toole.

After rebranding the company to ‘Comline Ireland’, they now employ 60 people throughout their whole operation, from top management, right through to administrators and warehouse operatives. This proves as another success story for Gary and his team, and sets the scene for the formation of International Tool Industries (ITI).

International Tool Industries

Last year, Gary decided it was time to refocus and look for new business opportunities, and after studying a couple of different options, it was internally agreed to diversify and concentrate on a product range that was not dissimilar the current offerings of the group’s different companies, but was still directed at a new market for them, the hardware and builder’s providers market.

Commenting on the recent expansion into the hardware and builder’s providers market, Don O’Toole said, “we were fortunate enough to make contact with a very specialised tool manufacturer and wholesaler in Greece, known as F.F Group Tool Industries. This company has more than forty years experience in the industry throughout Europe. They had been
selling a range of products directly into Ireland for the last couple of years, but couldn’t develop any sales growth, due to the logistics of moving products. One would say, we were in the right place at the right time!” “After spending some time researching the brands and  quality offered by F.F Group Tool Industries and having received some feedback from the market and those who had previously made some purchases, we decided to organise a  normal visit to meet the owners of the company, to appreciate the business model they have created, through family generations. Now a €40million turnover in Europe, we saw the potential for Ireland and the we couldn’t have chosen a better partner”, Don said.
Once the formalities were over and contracts signed, the company wasted no time in setting up a new distribution and business centre in Monaghan, to service their customers
nationwide with such benefits as next-day delivery. Having a catalogue of 5,500 Stock Keeping Units, ITI are confident that they have the market covered. ITI’s offerings currently consist of four key brands; Benman for the professional tradesman, F.F Group tools for a high quality tool range, Morris painting accessories and a “fabulous” range of Hugo locks.

Don O’Toole is confident about the products ITI supplies, saying, “Not only do we have and promote a quality product, we also have very competitive prices, to suit all markets. We have over 150 satisfied customers currently buying our products, since opening our doors in early September 2018 and still more active enquiries are being received on a daily basis.”

“Since our commencement of business, we now employ three very highly experienced account managers that have extensive knowledge of this industry. Bill Carey (formerly Sharp Distributors) looking after Munster, John Cuffe (formerly Bosch Power Tools and Draper Tools) looking after Connaught and John O’Brien, a veteran of the Irish tool industry formerly Tucks O’Brien) looking after Leinster”, said Don.

It’s clear that ITI have a ready-for-action approach to the stock that they supply. Their warehouse is packed high-and-wide with shelves that are bulging with stock ready for distribution at any given moment, which they recognise as an important element for any successful distributor.

ITI maintains an ongoing monitoring process of the products that they supply, as told by Operations Manager, Matthew McCrudden, who was preparing to travel to Athens to visit F.F Group on the day we spoke. ITI is currently located in Monaghan Retail Park, just minutes from the town centre, making it easily accessible both to potential customers and to
main transport links around the country. “We now have a great team around us and have set the foundation for a great future, for International Tool Industries. We are very excited about 2019 and look forward to developing our sales and relationships with many existing and new customers”, according to Don.

ITI will be attending The Hardware Show 2019 in Citywest in February at stand no. J28-H26-H28. ITI’s website is available at www.internationaltoolindustries.com

If you have a story to tell as a supplier or manufacturer in the Irish market, please contact Annemarie on 01 298 0969 or annemarie@hardwareassociation.ie for more information.