Developing strategic relationships, such as with a skilled mechanic, is one of the key challenges in building a successful owner-operator business.
We’ve always been told that you have to work hard and smart to be successful, but that’s not the whole truth. There are millions putting in long hours and sacrificing a life for a job, yet few of them truly succeed. They’re working hard – but not doing the hard work.
I’ve identified four key areas where owner-operators often skip out on the hard work:
- TRACKING NUMBERS MONTHLY. Find the discipline to keep up with your monthly bookkeeping. Then review those numbers consistently.
- BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. Surround yourself with good people and build a winning team to assist in your success – for instance, a mentor, a good tax preparer, a solid mechanic and a dependable fleet manager or dispatcher.
- UNDERSTANDING FREIGHT RATES AND LANES. Even if your current operation doesn’t require you to have this knowledge, if you stay in this industry, there will come a time when it will.
- STAYING HEALTHY. It’s difficult to exercise and eat healthy on the road. You can dodge this for a while, but bad habits eventually catch up with you. Still, it’s never too late to start.
Rate yourself in these four areas on a scale of 1 to 5. If you score less than 4 in any area, you have work to do. If you’ve failed at improving your life in these areas, try thinking smaller.
For example, you’ll save more than $1,000 in fuel if you slow down just one mile per hour for a year. After the first two weeks, try slowing down one more mile per hour; that’s another $1,000 if maintained for 12 months. If you’re young enough, you can put $1 million in your retirement account if you invest $1,000 a year over your entire career.
Let’s apply this concept to our four key areas. These daily habits can create small changes, leading to big results.
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Go to an office supply store and pick up an expanding folder with pockets and a flap. Get blank labels for the pockets, and label them with expense categories such as fuel, maintenance, tolls, etc. Get into the daily habit of putting each receipt that you receive into the proper slot. This one change will put you well on the way to creating a solid bookkeeping system.
- After creating a list of relationships you need to start or improve, put one phone call a day on your schedule to work on it. Make notes of who you speak with and the dates.
- Study one freight lane per day, such as Chicago to Dallas. Look up the current rate in that lane, as well as historical 12-month rates. Internet freight boards are a great place to start. Also, call the load matching services and ask them what resources they have for studying and learning rates.
- Adopt one habit that will make you more fit, such as parking farther from the building at the truck stop or walking a lap around the truck before going inside. Replace one unhealthy food with one healthier option. If you currently drink soda, replace it with bottled water. If you normally eat chips and dip, replace that with vegetables and hummus.
Little steps such as these will have you doing the hard work in no time. You’ll appreciate the results.