There is no denying that a certain amount of luck comes with starting out on a new business venture as an owner-operator. Except for a select few out there, most of us got our start much in the same manner. The natural evolution of the owner operator usually starts with paying our dues as a company driver, typically in an over-the-road scenario. Being a company driver is not all that bad for some, as there are no real business expenses to juggle and equipment breakdowns are someone else’s responsibility. There are however, those who want to delve a little deeper and decide they want to be their own boss after considering the risks versus rewards. Although a certain amount of luck may go into the timing of such a decision, there are three basic qualities that will help out in the times when luck seems to run a little thin! I rediscovered these three qualities that have remained steadfast in my journey while thumbing through an article in my reading from “Entrepreneur” titled 3 Qualities Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Have, written nearly a year ago by Doug and Polly White. Since being an entrepreneur is essentially what jumping into your own truck and running it is, these three qualities have ultimately made my business thrive through times of economic turmoil and increasing industry regulation.
My business journey started when most people advised me that it would be the worst time for such an enormous business undertaking. I had seen the red flags alerting me of something bad happening to the company I had been driving at for almost six years and decided it was time to take a stand for myself. It was at this time I cashed out my 401K savings plan and invested that money in my own first truck and leased it onto one of the larger known carriers for hauling dry van freight regionally in the West. Lucky for me, since about six months later they were sold. Although the economic recession was in full swing and still rising to its peak, I adapted my business model to become the best at what no one else wanted to do. This method of “trial by fire” later positioned me for a certain level of priority later in the game with this carrier, which helped me latch onto a more localized division where I could make more profit by running less miles. Throughout the onslaught of rapidly changing federal and state laws in the years since going into business for myself, I have kept “early adaptation” instead of “opposition of the inevitable”, as a main reason I have been able to succeed.
Whatever your goal is in becoming an entrepreneur, it would not be attainable without being persistent towards achieving it. If I gave up every time I was told I “shouldn’t” or “couldn’t” do something, I not only would not have even got off the ground as an owner-operator all those years ago, but I probably would not be blogging here for you in the Team Run Smart web community as a Pro either. The persistence to not only walk through doors that are opened for you, but to kick down and bust through the ones that are slammed in your face, is key to making your business successful. As recent as nine months ago I was forced to barge through doors being slammed in my face, when looking to buy a trailer to become a fully independent motor carrier. When a dried up supply of newer trailers here in California led me to look into the aging and dwindling supply of older used trailers, finding someone to finance an un-established independent carrier on one would prove to be a difficult task. Instead of relying on huge down payments and inflated interest rates on used equipment after hunting through multiple finance companies, I decided to drum up the capital myself and buy a slightly older trailer outright. I will admit that in doing so, I inherited a few maintenance problems that I may not have encountered in a newer trailer, but I remained persistent in my goal of becoming an independent and never looked back.
One important thing to remember when deciding to go out on your own is that you will work much, much harder than you ever did as a company driver! There should be no visions in your head that when you are your own boss, or a small fleet owner, that you get to put your feet up on the desk and kick back. As a company driver, the luxury was there to hang up the keys at the end of your journey and head home for time off. As an owner-operator at that point, there is still a laundry list of things to be done! If you thought your 12-14 hour days were bad before, just wait until they become 16-18 hour days as the true business owner. Things to consider that add to the owner aspect of your work day can include things like tallying receipts, bookkeeping, estimating and arranging payroll, getting truck and/or trailer maintenance done, picking up parts, invoicing customers, monitoring compliance, and booking upcoming loads. The risk is not without reward, but let there be no doubt in your mind that you will have to work harder than you ever would as a company employee.
Reading this, there is no doubt in my mind that some of you may say, “Why would I ever want to own my own trucking business?” This is why it is a fact that being an owner-operator may not be the right decision for everyone out there that drives a truck. There are those out there though, that will see this blog and look to it for inspiration and clarification to further fuel their drive towards being their own boss. Use these qualities as a guide and never give up on the opportunity to become an entrepreneur, as it has been the most rewarding thing I have done! Despite all of the frustration, long hours, and sleepless nights, I would never look back at trading it in to be a company driver again!