They say you can’t keep a good man down. Al Zdenek is proof of that. Zdenek, a 32-year veteran of the mobile tool trade, gained greater perspective on a number of things February 8, 2006. He learned an appreciation for how most personal possessions can be replaced, but human beings cannot. He...
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They say you can’t keep a good man down. Al Zdenek is proof of that.
Zdenek, a 32-year veteran of the mobile tool trade, gained greater perspective on a number of things February 8, 2006. He learned an appreciation for how most personal possessions can be replaced, but human beings cannot. He obtained some perspective on the quality of the human condition from the way his friends and neighbors reached out to him. And he realized the true power of a positive attitude.
At 3:00 a.m. that fateful morning an electrical fire began its attack on Zdenek’s garage. An attack that turned into a full-out assault on his home and all its contents when a couple of gas cans were caught in the fray, literally blowing the roof off of his garage.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, but among the irreplaceable photo albums and countless antiques stored in the upper portion of the garage, the Zdenek family also lost:
- Two dirt bikes.
- A Cadillac Escalade.
- A Ford Lightning pick-up truck.
- $100,000 in tool inventory.
- A tool truck.
- A gun collection that included several rare pieces, like German Lugers.
- A 1967 Pontiac Firebird with a 502.
- A recently remodeled house with all of its new finishings, furniture and appliances.
“After all of that,” states Zdenek with a smile, “the key was keeping a positive attitude. From a business perspective, I was off my route for 6 weeks. But I bought a new truck, set it up by myself and got back at it. SK provided some free graphics and Triple A Tool gave me a great deal on a couple of Sequoia toolboxes. Both of those things helped a lot.”
Although the warehouse distributors he buys from offered additional time in paying his bills, Zdenek didn’t see the need. “Once I got back on the route, my guys started right back up with me, and having close to $40,000 on the street helped replenish my cash flow,” he states.
“However, one of the sadder days was sticking $30,000 into my inventory, and it didn’t even fill up the truck. That’s when it really hit home. It was going to be a while before I was back to pre-fire levels.”
Al Zdenek’s business before the fire - that’s a place most mobile dealers would like to be.
Answering The Call
“I was amazed the first time I walked on a tool truck,” recalls Zdenek. “I was working as a purchasing agent for a business that bought from the local Snap-on guy. So one day when he pulled up I went to take a look. That guy sold me something just by having it on the truck, so I figured I could probably get somebody to do the same thing,” he laughs.
The year was 1974, and Zdenek would cover his initial start-up costs within the year. His journey in the mobile tool business would later see him assume a role with Cornwell as a district manager before going the independent route in 1986. “My primary line is SK Hand Tools. I feel like they’re a great tool with good margins, and I don’t have any limitations placed on my sales territory,” states Zdenek.
His current route covers the western portion of the San Fernando Valley, which lies about 35 miles to the northwest of Los Angeles. It’s a large area that Zdenek “cherry picks” in selecting the best accounts to feed his business, with customers offering up average weekly payments of $40.
His primary suppliers are Integrated Supply Network, where he enjoys dealing with Robert Yanez, Weiss Tool Distributors, Triple A Tool in nearby Torrance, where he buys from long-time friend Lloyd Wright and takes advantage of the Sequoia tool storage line, as well as tapping into the same day pick-up provided by Mike Feges and Feges Tool.
You Gotta Love It
For 32 years Zdenek has succeeded in a business where about 15 percent fail in the first two years. The reasons behind his longevity stem primarily from one attribute that can’t be taught, and another that must be learned.