Who are you working for really?

| February 19, 2012

I learned today that Diane and I will not have to go to war to get the money a tire dealer owes us for casing credits (see my February 8 blog entry). Learned when the check arrived.

I also learned that replacing the memory chips in my computer was the fix for what ailed it. Learned after running the computer for a few days with new chips and without a crash or other issues.

Diane and I woke up this morning in our Florida vacation house where we have been since early January. We will be back on the road soon.

Two steps forward, one step back. Successful people sometimes describe their efforts that way. Putting time into fixing a computer does not move you forward. It keeps you even because the step back happened when the computer developed issues that took time to diagnose and repair. So too with finally getting a check that was long overdue. It should have come weeks ago but did not until we did some research and wrote a letter that took a firm tone with the tire dealer.

Sometimes you don’t get to move ahead at all. Instead you must work just to stay even.

For owner-operators, staying even seems fine most days. You are busy hauling freight and making enough money to make your truck payment, meet your daily expenses, keep your customers happy and your creditors at bay. But how long can you afford to break even?

Can you break even for a month and still be OK? How about for a year? Are you OK working that long only to have the same amount of money saved that you had at the beginning of the year? What about a decade; is it OK to break even for a decade?

Money-losing weeks are easy to understand. They are undesirable and produce pain. You react to the pain and try to minimize money-losing weeks to avoid future pain. Breakeven weeks are more seductive because they are more comfortable. You worked. You paid your bills. Not bad, ‘eh?

While breakeven weeks may not seem bad to you, they are fantastic for the people you support. I don’t mean your family or others who rely on you. I mean the banker who sends his or her kids to college with the interest you pay on your truck loan; and the truck mechanic who may earn more per year than you because you and people like you hand big money over to keep your truck running; and the oil companies to which you hand over more money in a year than most Americans earn; and your carrier or freight broker who make good money on the freight you haul, and the truck dealer who walks home one night with thousands of your dollars in his pocket because he convinced you to go into debt to buy a new truck, not because you need one, but because your present truck is paid off and you can reduce your tax bill by deducting the interest on a new truck loan.

(By the way, that new truck for tax reasons thing is a topic in itself. If you agree with that common myth, you are running blind! You will pay more in interest than you will save in taxes.)

You are a self-employed owner-operator, in business for yourself. But who are you in business for really? If you are content to run a breakeven operation, you are in business for everyone but yourself. You do the work. They move ahead.

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