Four tips from a money-making owner-operator

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Updated May 6, 2014
Jenny Simpson in front of her ’99 Freightliner CenturyJenny Simpson in front of her ’99 Freightliner Century

Owner-operator Jeanette Simpson (Jenny, to confidants) isn’t your typical American driver. In fact, she’s not American at all—she emigrated from Australia in 1999, bringing with her a business-savvy repertoire and an entrepreneurial attitude.

From the onset, she says, “I [saw] the potential in trucking from a business aspect,” and she became a company driver the same year she arrived in the U.S. for Keystone Freight Corp. before buying a truck and leasing to Landstar Ranger as a high-risk, high-value load carrier.

She’s also built quite a lucrative operation – she netted $75,000 in 2011. Simpson can’t talk publicly about the freight she carriers, but she did offer a few pointers she says make a successful owner-operator.

Act like a professional: “The No. 1 thing is to be personable and communicate well,” Simpson says, “meaning your company, customers, brokers, basically everybody.

“You have to keep your head on your shoulders and keep your cool. You can’t just get upset over anything. Also, dress professionally. Don’t go up to customers looking like 100 miles of bad road.”

If customers “remember you for good reasons, they’ll want you back,” says the Grand Prairie, Texas, resident. “If you say you’re going to do something, do it. I don’t take a load unless I can give it 100 percent.”

Work toward goals: Simpson works to continually improve profits by controlling spending, she says. “The theory is it’s not how much you make, but how much you keep. If I need something, I get it. If I want something, I just think about it.”

She also sets safety goals. “It’s a goal of mine to reach a million safe miles,” says Simpson, who had about 750,000 at the beginning of the year.

Stay on top of pm: “Everybody’s out here to make money,” Simpson says. “You don’t want to waste it by being complacent about repairs. It’s much cheaper to take your truck to the shop when you have downtime than to get it towed because you were too complacent or too lazy or you just had too much on your mind.”

Gain business knowledge: When she lived in Australia, Simpson worked in banking and for an attorney. She worked in the lending branch of the bank and dealt with small businesses and business plans.

“The details differ in every business, but there is a core there that’s with every business,” she says. “When I worked in banking, I could see trends and see where businesses were failing. I wasn’t realizing how much knowledge I was gaining, but now I can look at my business and know what caused downturns and what made things better.”

Though other owner-operators may lack the business background she does, Simpson says, anyone can learn about business basics. She says she continues to use self-help learning options online and through carriers.

Simpson was Overdrive’s January Owner-Operator of the Month. See the full story on her here.