How Dan Clermont took Ultimate Tools from a Burnaby laundry room to a seven-figure operation

The power tools retailer has found success nationwide.

Credit: Ultimate Tools

The power tools retailer has found success nationwide

Dan Clermont calls himself an “accidental entrepreneur.” If only all accidents could be so happy.

In 2008, Clermont was a film industry worker with a workshop in the outdoor laundry room in his house. Keeping the area clean was important, so dust-free Festool products made in Germany and bought in the U.S. were vital. After many trips to Point Roberts to get the tools, Clermont asked the company down there to set him up as a Canadian dealer.

Eventually, they agreed, and Clermont created a retail space in the rental suite of his Burnaby house. When inventory arrived, he contacted everybody he knew who used Festool products in Canada. Word started to spread across the country that Clermont had an impressive inventory. 

The demand was too much for Clermont to handle on his own. Luckily, he got into contact with a website developer through his daughter’s elementary school. The developer referred him to a small startup out of Ottawa that was creating an e-commerce platform. “They said that they were just getting going and would cut me a good deal if I put my e-commerce site on their platform, called Shopify,” recalls Clermont with a chuckle. “That’s how we got going nationally.”

Not long after that, Clermont opened up a retail space called Ultimate Tools that gave way to his current space on Burnaby’s 1st Avenue. “When we first opened the store up, we bought a really good coffee machine that made individual cups of coffee,” he says. “When someone came in, we’d give them a cup of coffee and that bought us about 20 minutes of their time to get to know them and teach them about what we sold, I still have customers coming in after 15 years that remember the rental suite in my house and how it’s all grown.”

In 2015, Clermont joined EO Vancouver, the local branch of the global organization. “I didn’t have much of an entrepreneurial background and it really helped elevate my business,” he says.

Today, Ultimate Tools has around 16,000 customers in Canada, eight full-time employees—as well as some fractional staff—and brings in some $8 million in annual revenue.

“For years, it was word of mouth,” says Clermont when asked how the company marketed itself. “People would see our product on job sites and say, Hey, where’d you get that? We also keep such good stock levels on our products that people who go to a different location first eventually find their way to us because we have what they need available to them.”

The three-to-five year plan for Clermont is to increase Ultimate Tools’ online presence and make it easier for customers to receive product Canada wide overnight. “We don’t want to just be the place to go to in B.C., but for all of Canada.”

In the end, it comes down to relationships. “All our employees are very knowledgeable on the product lines we sell and are able to work with the customer to make sure they buy the right product,” says Clermont, who adds that the company demonstrates the tools to show customers how they make a difference.

Who knows, another accidental entrepreneur could be waiting in the wings. “I was sitting in the storage unit a bit ago and a guy came in for an interview,” says Clermont. “He’s been a customer for 13 years and said he always wanted to work here. And that’s so cool for us.”