Proof Positive

See how Al Zdenek bounced back after a fire destroyed most of his business and personal possessions.


See how Al Zdenek bounced back after a fire destroyed most of his business and personal possessions. 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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“I still have a few customers from my Snap-on days,” states Zdenek. “One of the most important things I’ve learned is that it’s as much about me as it is the products. I enjoy what I do and people can tell. Personality is so important in this business. When you make the customer feel good, they like working with you.

“I also make a point of listening to everybody’s problems, but I never tell them mine. They know that I got hit pretty hard by that fire, but on the bright side, I didn’t lose anybody. The bottom line is that there’s a reason for everything, so you just persevere, do things the right way and trust that it will work out.

"My feeling is that things happen for a reason, so you take what you’ve got and do the best you can to make it better. It’s all about having the right attitude. Customers see that and appreciate it.”

His personality is especially helpful in dealing with a significant number of Spanish-speaking customers. Even though he doesn’t speak much Spanish, this group still trusts him and has proven to be a great customer base.

Zdenek has also learned the importance of getting people on the truck. To improve his foot traffic he always has candy, cookies or donuts at the ready, and lays down a rubber mat on the truck’s floor to provide a more comfortable environment for his customer’s tired feet. But more importantly, his shelves are stocked with what his customers want and need.

“I carry what my customers tell me to carry. If they ask about it, I find out how to get it as quickly as possible and have it to them either the next day, or the next time I see them. That’s one of the reasons I buy from more than one source. And if I’m going to sell one, I’ll buy two more. So I price shop each of the WDs to get the best deal for me and my customer.

“I also look through Professional Tool & Equipment News, as well as the different fliers and catalogs I receive. My goal is to find the products that I know will save my customers time and make them money. Because if I can get excited about it, so will they.

“I’m not afraid to break-up sets either,” he continues, “to fill in what they need, like one socket or a missing piece. I’ll just re-order that particular item later. The key is to have whatever they ask for and never hassle them about warranties. I’ll just take care of it and figure out what I need to do later. To help save them money, I’ll also order the part and let them replace or fix a tool themselves.”

All of these best practices and lessons learned have helped Zdenek build a successful business and a comfortable lifestyle. With some hard work and a positive attitude, he’s confident both will eventually return to the way they were.

A number of cultures tell stories of the mythical Phoenix, a bird that would consume itself in fire, only to be re-born from those same ashes. Upon re-birth the bird was stronger, wiser and more colorful. In looking at the before and after pictures of Al Zdenek’s tool truck, you can see he’s emerged from the ashes in a similar fashion.

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