Spokane Journal of Business

Action Fasteners reports rising revenue trend

Distributor expects sales to rise 15 percent this year

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-—Kevin Blocker
Tim Jackson, owner and founder of Action Fasteners & Supply Inc., says the company currently employs 16 people, most of whom work out of its warehouse on east Trent Avenue.

Tim Jackson started Action Fasteners & Supply Inc., of Spokane, in 1994 out of his garage with two sheets of plywood and four sawhorses.

Today, the wholesale fastener distribution company at 3335 E. Trent operates in 10,000 square feet of space and is a multimillion dollar operation, Jackson says.

He declines to disclose exact revenue figures. However, he says the company expects to see an increase in revenue this year of between 15 percent and 20 percent over last year. Action Fasteners had a revenue gain of 18 percent in 2016 over 2015, and had an 11 percent increase in revenue in 2015 compared with 2014, he says.

“We’re just so busy right now. I got up at 2 this morning just to do a couple of hours of work before coming in today,” Jackson says.

Jackson is the sole owner of the company, which has been in its current location for a decade. Before that, Action Fasteners was located in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse about a half-mile east of its current location, he says. 

The company has 16 employees, including four sales representatives pursuing new customers.

Jackson says most of the company’s customers are specialty contractors in the manufacturing sector operating in proprietary fields seeking to maintain anonymity.

“We’ve just had constant growth, and we’re running out of space in this location,” he says.

Jackson attributes the company’s growth to a variety of factors. More than just a stronger local economy, he cites his hardworking staff, a talented sales team, and internal procedures established in recent years that have helped increase the company’s efficiency.

Jackson says the Great Recession helped serve as a catalyst for a change in the way he runs the business.

“Depending on how you look at it, in a way, 2008 was the best thing to ever happen to small businesses. We had 24 employees before the crash, and that took us down to eight workers and two owners,” Jackson says.

Jackson says he co-owned Action Fasteners with his now ex-wife at the time.

“What I learned was that I wasn’t saving like I should have been,” he says.

In 2011, Jackson says, he hired a business coach from Spokane Valley-based Pointguard Financial PLLC to help him run the business.

“I’d been a business owner about 16, 17 years at that point and doing very well for myself, but they taught me how to be a chief financial officer,” he says. “Today, we do a financial breakdown each month of every penny and every margin.”

“If you want to be a big company, you’ve got to act like a big company,” Jackson says.

Three years ago, he hired Bruce McBride, a local graphic artist who specializes in designing single-page ads for the company. The advertisements are passed along to sales reps for recruiting new customers.

“He makes us look good,” Jackson says of McBride.

Not long after hiring McBride, Jackson brought on Southern California-based information technology company Protelligent Inc., to handle Action Fasteners’ intellectual-property and software needs.

“The amount of time we saved outsourcing IT was just immeasurable. Storage, backups, the facilitating of new software … they handle it all,” he says.

Jackson, 54, says he sometimes can’t believe his good fortune as a business owner.

He grew up in a rough part of Cincinnati and realized at a young age that it was in his best interest to leave there after high school. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was last stationed at Fort Lewis army base near Tacoma until leaving the Army at age 22. He returned to Cincinnati briefly before deciding to move back to the Seattle area.

“The Army set me up with a job sweeping floors for a screw distributor. Three months later, the old man who owned the business made me an outside sales rep,” Jackson says.

“I went home and told my wife, ‘I’m an outside sales rep.’ She says, ‘What’s that?’ I told her, ‘I don’t know, but I’m gonna be one in the morning,’” he says.

“I didn’t know the difference between a square drive versus a Phillips screw. He was a retired Marine, and I can still remember him saying, ‘Go get ’em, Tiger,’” Jackson says of his boss at the time.

Jackson says he couldn’t complete an order sheet properly; however, he secured three orders in his first three sales attempts and quickly understood he had an ability to connect with people.

“That first check as a sales rep was $5,400 for the month, and I’ve never looked back from that,” he says.

From the mid-‘80s to the early ’90s, Jackson says he worked for other screw and fastener distributors, but inevitably he wound up making so much money for his employers that he thought he was being underpaid for his work.

“I did have an owner tell me I sold too much,” Jackson says. His former co-workers called him Action Jackson because he was so successful at sales.  “I hated that nickname.”

But in 1993, he moved his family to Spokane and established his business with his nickname as its namesake, he said.

Despite his success now, Jackson says what he values most is being able to provide above average wages for his workers.

“I’ve got six or seven millennials working with me, and for a lot of them, they’ve come to view me as a father figure,” he says.

“I’ve taught them how to pay off debt and watched one even close on his first home,” he says. “I’m not running this anymore to get rich. I haven’t given myself a raise in five years. But I’ve given them raises.”

As a token of appreciation for their hard work, Jackson says he’s considering implementing a six-hour work day on Monday though still paying his workers for an eight-hour shift.

“I’m at such a good place right now,” says Jackson. “When Friday afternoon comes around, I start thinking about how I can’t wait to get back in here Monday morning. I want my employees to feel the same way.”

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