Tales from the road: Back in business

Sept. 2, 2016
The theft of his truck and inventory devastated distributor Gary Zuckerman, but now his business is on the road to recovery.

On the morning of Aug. 21, 2015, mobile tool distributor Gary Zuckerman received a telephone call. His neighbor in the storage yard they both rent spaces from was calling to notify Zuckerman that the shipping container the tool salesman used for overflow inventory and for storage of family-related items had been broken and appeared mostly empty. When Zuckerman arrived at the storage yard to assess the situation, he discovered his tool truck and its inventory had been stolen as well.

It was determined the perpetrators were able to defeat the truck's alarm system and made off with both the vehicle, its inventory and everything else in the storage container. They were never apprehended. 

Zuckerman began to consider the devastating effects of a theft that occurred over just a few early-morning hours would have on his business moving forward. But the shock and alarm at what had transpired prevented him from fully grasping what was to follow.

"I kind of had a disaster happen in my life," says the San Diego-based independent distributor and owner of Advanced Tool Solutions. "It did affect me pretty strongly. It was like one day I had a business and, the next day, not so much."

Zuckerman admits it took several weeks for him to begin dealing with the theft. Though the authorities got involved immediately after the incident occurred, it took them a month and a half to complete a report Zuckerman's insurance company required to enact provisions in his policy. Frustration ensued.

"It was all on everyone else's timeframe," he says. "When the insurance company finally started talking to me to enact provisions of the policy, it's not like they wrote me a check right then, either. I had to negotiate back and forth about the value of the truck and substantiate what my inventory was. There was a lot that went into it."

The longtime distributor had to go about determining what his insurance coverage was by proving the actual worth of his inventory, and it was critically important to Zuckerman to get the payout he was entitled to so he could restart his business.

Some difficult lessons were learned as a result. According to Zuckerman, mobile tool distributors must have an appropriate amount of insurance coverage, and he recommends tool salespeople have a business appraisal conducted every year to ensure they have an accurate knowledge of the value of their assets.

“You need to guard your stuff, and you need to know that it can disappear in a hurry,” he continues. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to. But if it does, it can be very bad for you.”

Now almost a year after the incident, Zuckerman is focused on getting his business back up and running and servicing his customers effectively. He recently purchased a 61-year-old antique vehicle and is in the final stages of making it into a very unique tool truck. He also made the decision to give it a go as an independent after parting ways with a flag just after the theft.

While he admits he is a bit anxious about getting his start, Zuckerman says he is encouraged by the fact that several customers have reached out to him to ask when he was coming back to sell and service tools.

“I’ve said ‘Well, you’ve got a couple of other choices,’” says Zuckerman. “And they say, ‘Yeah, they aren’t you.’ You hear that and it’s unbelievable. You never really know what your effect is until you know what your effect is. And I’m very proud of that relationship I have with my people.”

When all was said and done, it took quite a bit of time, a lot of hard work and no shortage of patience for Zuckerman to overcome the theft of his truck and inventory and get back to business.

“It has been very slow to get things handled, and it has taken way longer than I thought it would,” he says. “But now things are finally popping into place.”

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