I am writing this installment for anyone who is contemplating or in the process of becoming an owner-operator. The most important change a person needs to make in their mind when changing from a company driver to an owner-operator is the fact they are no longer just a truck driver. From the moment a person signs on the dotted line to purchase a truck they become a business owner who drives a truck.
The last sentence of the previous paragraph is why I always advise people who are going to purchase a truck to leave the driver at home when they go to choose a truck for their business. The driver portion of a person's mind will often be focused on truck specifications that will be fun to drive. Big power, bold styling, and many other non-profit generating options are high on a driver’s wish list. Having enough power to only slow down for the steepest grades is very appealing to the driver side of the human brain. For the above reasons, it’s important for the owner side of your brain to consult the driver side of your brain before going to find a truck.
The owner side of your brain should leave the driver side of your brain at home when they start the process of choosing a truck. The owner side of your brain will be more interested in purchasing a truck that generates more profit revenue to deposit in the bank than being the fastest truck up a hill. The owner side should also be paying attention to maintenance costs as well. A good example is today’s Detroit DD15 engine which qualifies for a factory recommended oil change interval of 75,000 miles when using the latest 10/30 FA-4 semi-synthetic blend of lubricant.
This is why it’s important to “mind your business” as a business owner and not a truck driver. At the same time, you still have to perform as a skilled driver to make it happen for the business side of your mind.
There are people who will bring mechanical skills to the table as an asset to their business which is a huge advantage when a mechanical challenge presents itself. Of course, most people do not have the tools, time, or resources to properly handle repairs that venture too far from basic preventative maintenance. Most people farm out the maintenance of their trucks for a host of reasons such as skill/knowledge level, lack of facilities, lack of proper tools, etc. It’s always wise to pick your service provider carefully and if possible develop a relationship with the manager and the technician working on your truck. I look at this as being very similar to a doctor-patient relationship. This way I make it a point to request certain technicians to perform repairs for my business.
Now that you have put together a business, how are you tracking your profits? Do you have accounting skills? An important step in setting up your business for success is knowing your numbers, knowing tax laws, and having a system in place to take care of these duties. If accounting is not your strongest skill set then it will be in your best interest to work with a business service provider who focuses on the trucking industry like American Truck Business Services (ATBS).
ATBS has been around since 1998 and helps over 20,000 owner-operator truck drivers every year with their tax, accounting, bookkeeping, and consulting services. They take the complexity out of the lives of owner-operators by allowing them to simply focus on driving their truck. All you have to do as an ATBS client is send your documents, receipts, and paperwork to ATBS through their app, email, mail, or fax and they will do the rest. Working with a business service provider like ATBS ensures you are staying profitable, up-to-date on your taxes, organized, and less stressed out on the road.
I have met many truck drivers who were not good business people, business people who were not good truck drivers, truck drivers who were not good mechanics, mechanics who were not good truck drivers, truck drivers who were not good accountants, and accountants who don't have the skills required to drive a semi-truck. Know your skillset and farm out what you aren’t able to do proficiently.