Jackie Hoffman is not only the sole woman van driver in the stone tools industry that we know of, but she is one of the top sales consultants at BB Industries. She has been in the industry for nearly two decades, and knows her way around the business as well as she knows the streets she travels every single week of the month.
When asked about her secret to success, she said, “I try my best to provide my customers solutions instead of just selling products. If a customer sees my knowledge, then they trust me and know I am going to do what is best for them. Also, I am not afraid to get dirty or break a nail. I know my products -- from machines to pads and blades, down to adhesives. If I don’t know, I will call the manufacturer or work with it to understand it. This industry is my Rubik’s cube.”
Whatever her secret, it works because Hoffman always exceeds her budget/quota. She is a true workaholic. “I’m successful because my customers do not have to wait,” she said. “I will provide products same day or next day — guaranteed.”
While Hoffman was on the phone during this interview, she was planning to drive five and a half hours out of her route home for the weekend to deliver a sink harness on Friday, instead of making the customer wait another day!
Hoffman works seven days per week: five days on the road and two days of detailing the truck and doing inventory. Her schedule is not the only difficult thing about her job, though. When she meets new customers, many times they think she is a delivery person instead of a knowledgeable tool sales consultant, because she is a unicorn in this business.
No matter how tough it may be, Hoffman still eats, sleeps, and breathes her job. “I have been doing this for 17 years,” she said. “I leave Mondays and don’t come home until Thursday or Friday. I am a road warrior. My customers are my people, and I want to make sure they are taken care of, and no one takes better care of them than me. I know my customers’ favorite beer, sports teams, vacation spots and even their wives’ names and birthdays.”
One story illustrates how hard Hoffman works for her clients. “I was once about to leap off the side of a boat in the Bahamas with my snorkel gear on when my phone rings,” she explained. “I stopped and walked back in flippers to where my husband was with my phone to answer it. It was a customer here in Washington (state), and I sent an email for him so he could get his product in two days. I called the customer when I got back to port and made sure he had received the order. That is how dedicated I am to my customers!”
She began her stone tools career at Sommer & Maca, a glass manufacturer that also had a stone tool division. She started out chasing trucks with A-frames down the freeway to find out where the busy shops were. Hoffman was the youngest sales representative in the entire company, and one of only three women in the company.
She learned so much about tools and machines from following people around, hanging out in shops and asking many questions. Hoffman can now demonstrate and use the machines and tools she sells.
“When I met Jackie, she was working for GranQuartz, and what I liked about her was that she was always curious as to where and why I would use certain products like epoxies,” said Edgar, fabrication foreman at Stone Center in Portland, OR. “She would ask for my opinion on customer concerns so she would know enough to resolve issues that they would have. She wants to know everything about the industry, whereas other drivers or suppliers just want to sell their products.”
After two years with Sommer & Maca, Hoffmann went to Keystone. Then, a merger placed her working at GranQuartz. They didn’t have trucks at that time, and only had catalog sales. Hoffman spent seven years there, altogether. She would take her vacation time and go to trade shows since she was not invited. She would go into competitors’ booths to do research and get their catalogs.
When she left the company, the new GranQuartz regional manager asked her to come back, but she had already trained her replacement, so they hired her as a consultant. She took a van route the next day, took truck inventory for others and trained the new salespeople on the routes, and did some in-store training.
On the side, Hoffmann worked with Aaron Crowley and helped design the deluxe apron from Fabricator’s Friend. “Jackie has always been Fabricators Friend’s biggest advocate, and it was her suggestion to put a suspender-type shoulder strap on our standard apron,” said Crowley. “Her idea became the Deluxe version of our Bullet Proof Apron, which is now more popular than the original!”
When Hoffman left GranQuartz, she was Steve’s Polishing Pro Systems’ director of sales, where she learned how to do surface repairs. They once called her in at a trade show to repair a Caesarstone slab, and she did it in 3-inch heels in the SFA Cage, balancing on a five-gallon bucket!
“The day I met Jackie, she was on a bucket in her heels repairing a slab in the SFA cage with only men,” said Dave Bonasera, CEO of ESP (Environmentally Safe Products and Procedures). “I would put her up against anyone refinishing stone or engineered material. She learned from the best with Steve at Steve‘s Polishing Pro Systems. Most salespeople can sell, but Jackie uses the tools she sells. If she cannot, she will research and practice until she can. She is a very self- driven self-made person that puts in the hours and works hard to be the go-to source for her customers. That is a lost art these days. I know if I told Jackie she was ‘old school,’ she would put her hand on her hip and say baby, ‘I am the school!’”
Next, Hoffman established Western Tool & Supply’s Pacific Northwest territory via catalog sales and stayed there for a year and a half.
One day, long-time BB Industries (BBI) sales consultant Bill Hickey had mentioned that she should work at BBI. When she saw that her friend and former co-worker Joe Torres had been hired at BBI, she called him and told him she wanted to work there, too. And that is where she has been for the past three years.
With so many years in the industry, Hoffman runs into past co-workers who are competitors all the time in her BB Industries territory, and has good and respectful relationships with them. “One calls me the pit bull because I won’t let go, once I sink my teeth in,” she said. “Another calls me the princess because the car I used to drive before my van was Cinderella blue!
“It has been so great working with a fast-growing company who values customer service as much as I do,” Hoffman went on to say. “I tell my customers that I work for them and BBI pays me to supply them. I really do love what I do -- my customers and my company.”
Women Spotlight: Read more about the leading women in the stone industry.