A Quest to Commercialize a Workbench

By Mike Drummond

Adamstand.Pro1Joe Adams invented a tool stand that he believes … no, that’s not the right word … that he knows would save auto shops and mechanics millions of dollars a year.

The Adamstand is a lightweight, portable, durable stand with all kinds of attachments and surface layouts for professional and hobbyist mechanics, offering tools within easy reach. No wasted movements searching for the right wrench when you’re doubled over into the bowels of a transmission.

The trade press once called the Adamstand the “Swiss army knife” of tools and workbenches.

The stand is used by drag racing legend Don Garlits, among a handful of others. Garlits has an Adamstand on display at his Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Fla. Adams says his stand could displace Black & Decker’s ubiquitous WorkMate. Like Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, it coulda been a contender.

If only given the chance.

Although Adams declines to go into specifics, at one time a major manufacturer was ready to go into production, but moved operations to China and turned its back on him.

So to listen to Joe Adams is to hear frustration and anger brought by two decades of promising leads, close-but-no-cigar opportunities and thanks-but-no-thanks rejections.

“I’m f*&%$!#@ pissed I can’t get it to market,” he says. “You work for 20 years going in debt with a revolutionary product line in your category. You do that and you’ll have a little edge to you, too!”

In March, he thought he was close to wooing Penske Automotive. But an official there responded to him in an e-mail:

“Our team has reviewed and discussed the opportunity but does not feel it currently lines up with our priorities. We have all of your contact information should we decide to do further diligence and really appreciate you taking the time to share your services. It is clear you are enthusiastic about it and we wish you the best of luck!”

Adams fired back:

“Has Mr. Penske seen my piece? Increasing revenue in the tens of millions by increasing efficiency, productivity and parts replaced annually does not line up with your priorities?”

Setbacks like this take on added sting for Adams, who recounts happier and more promising days when he was demonstrating his stand for Hot Rod Magazine at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, or winning accolades at various tradeshows.

His uncle loaned him $200 to have a prototype made back in the late 80s. Spurred by positive feedback, Adams poured more of his time and energy to commercializing his product.

He says one investor wrote him a check for $10,000 with a note saying, “Go chase your dream.”

Adams has been chasing it ever since.

He’s been able to have a handful of Adamstands built and sold, but mass production has eluded him so far.

Don Garlits, the drag-racing star, says he uses his Adamstand everyday and that “it’s a shame every mechanic in the country doesn’t have one.”

Garlits, who “blew off” half his right foot in a racing accident years ago, says the stand saves him time in the garage, adding, “It’s a nice piece for the shop.”

With that kind of endorsement, why hasn’t the Adamstand taken off?

“That is the $64,000 question,” Garlits says, who speaks warmly of Adams and admires his skills as a craftsman and designer.

Part of the answer may be that Adams’ ambition is greater than his reach. Garlits notes that Adams aspires for a big-ticket, infomercial marketing approach, similar to the Soloflex exercise machine.

Many American consumers are out of shape and want to have the six-pack abs they see in the TV ads.

“But a (tool) stand is a totally different thing,” Garlits says. “Most mechanics who could use this are living from hand to mouth. Even if Joe got his message on TV, I still don’t think it would work. We’re dealing with a subculture.

“I would have built as many as I could, stopped in every garage I could within a 50-mile radius and built from there,” Garlits adds. “It never would be multimillion dollar thing like a Soloflex though.”

Adams concedes the initial price point for his stand was too high. Yet he insists his invention can save large auto dealerships millions of dollars a year in saved time and materials.

“I have the ratchet-and-socket set of shop equipment,” Adams says. “I could create one interactive system for the category, streamline the assemblies and reduce the number of tooling needs to manufacture a more efficient product and improve the entire category.”

“I’m right and it can be proven to save time mathematically,” he says. “Adamstands can pay for themselves fast.”

Interested in finding out more? Adams is looking for a break. Contact him at [email protected] or phone 727.692.8738

Editor’s note: This article appears in the June 2010 print edition.