Mack W. Sorrells Co. Inc. d.b.a. Metal Working Solutions

Metal Working SolutionsMack W. Sorrells Co. d.b.a Metal Working Solutions’ ability to continually provide Professional Representation during changing market conditions, as well as its founder’s experience, sets it apart.
By Jim Harris 

Mack W. Sorrells Co. Inc. d.b.a. Metal Working Solutions, does not have an official mascot, but if the Texas-based manufacturer’s representative company did, it would be a chameleon. “I think the key to being a good rep is being adaptable,” says Mack W. Sorrells, the company’s founder and chairman. “Throughout our nearly 40 year history, we’ve been able to adapt to the ever changing requirements of our principals and to the needs of our distributors and customers.”  
Metal Working Solutions represents manufacturers serving all levels of the metalworking industry. Product lines represented by the company include cutting tools, work and tool holding devices, machine tool accessories, quality control gauges, coolant cleaners, coolant and fluid recycling equipment, lifting magnets and magnetic conveyors. 

The decrease in oil and gas production in the company’s territory of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas as a result of the drop in oil prices during the past few years is not an unfamiliar situation for the company. During the oil bust of 1982, the company saw an overall decline in rig activity from more than 4,000 to just 600 rigs. At the time, the company employed 13 people and operated two warehouses; today, it employs four full-time salespeople and two part-time staff.  
Metal Working Solutions’ four full-time representatives each work out of their home and represent a different portion of the region, with Sorrells serving the northeast Texas and Louisiana territories. “We had tremendous overhead in 1982,” Sorrells says. “This time around, we were better prepared to hunker down and deal with [the gas price drop].” 
The products represented by the company are used in the manufacturing of valves, drill bits and other equipment used on rigs. Product lines represented by the company are sold through industrial distributors, though Sorrells and the company’s other representatives spend more time with end-users solving problems and building brands. Representatives conduct training, troubleshooting products and handle service calls, as well as selling products. In addition to the oil and gas industry, other end-users of products represented by Metal Working Solutions include the aerospace and defense industries, and a wide variety of metal working and fabrication customers.  Metal Working Solutions box
“We’re not just salespeople; we’re the only face of the manufacturer that many of our customers have ever seen,” Sorrells says. “Our professionalism has a direct bearing on the image of our manufacturers.” 
Pulling in Business 
Sorrells started the company in 1978 after 10 years with a leading manufacturer’s representative company that offered general industrial products. “I began to realize at that time that the trend was more toward specialization, so I started my own company to focus on metalworking tools,” Sorrells says. “In addition, up until that time, there was a push to just get things on a distributor’s shelf – I felt that representatives needed to build brand preference by pulling business through the distributor.” 
The company’s philosophy of having its lines become preferred by end-users earned it a positive reputation in the industry as well as long-term relationships with manufacturers. The company still works with the first two lines it represented: Robb Jack and Niagara Cutter. 
Metal Working Solutions’ service and representation level are just a few of the company’s distinguishing features. Sorrells and the company’s other full-time representatives bring a great deal of technical experience and qualifications to their roles. Equally, they invested in their professional development, having completed the requirements for CPMR (Certified Professional Representative) and CPSA (Certificated Professional Sales Associate). For Sorrells personally, this includes completing the requirements for certified trainer from the American Society for Training and Development. 
The company is now in the process of transitioning ownership from Sorrells to President and CEO Craig Meadows, who joined the company five years ago. Meadows has 17 years of experience in distributor sales, as well as experience as a manufacturing engineer. The transition, which began last year, will become final in four years. “Providing a continuity of professional representation is a critical responsibility we owe our principals,” Sorrells says. “I have every confidence that Craig will continue adjust and grow our firm as market conditions continue to change.”

Improving the Profession 
In addition to his contributions to the company’s success, founder and Chairman Mack W. Sorrells has also helped his profession grow and advance. He is a past president of the North American Industrial Representatives Association, a past president of the executive committee of the Manufacturer’s Representatives Educational Research Foundation and a past chairman of the board for the Manufacturer’s Agents National Association. 
“I’m proud to have been able to provide quality representation to our customers for more than 40 years, as well as the personal contribution I’ve made to the profession,” Sorrells says. “I’m proud to have been able to serve and have an impact on not just industrial representatives but all representatives in all professions.” 

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