Stay focused: Principal problem-solving challenge for owner-ops

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What industry disruption in the headlines last week is projected to create headaches for drivers and owner-operators? HOS changes, detention surveys and government hearings, natural disasters, freight rates and projections for volumes, driver training standards, the 18-year-old CDL question, the list goes on and on. It’s a veritable collage of historical problems that need answers.

Keep in mind: All of these issues have eluded long-term remedy.

What technology company, industry organization, or elected/appointed government official is proposing or promising to be the sole solution to our problems? Trust us with your future. Buy our services now or suffer the consequences.

I approach such claims skeptically. My experience is that me, you, each individual independent owner needs to simplify problem-solving as much as possible. One of my primary points when mentoring a new owner-op or driver: solve the little problems first. Part and parcel of that directive is understanding just what you are able to control. Don’t let others distract you from your priorities.

Stay focused, as we have an official staff of one.

For most small-business truckers it has been a difficult six months. No big news in that. At once, it feels like there’s a wide gap in this freight economy between those who have it together and the so-called “have-nots.” What’s the difference-maker? Based on my conversations and observations, it isn’t length of tenure as a business owner.

Like many experienced owners, I’ve received more request for help in the last six months than at any other time in my life. It’s a result of the sudden stresses created by freight market changes. But it’s not just rates. People are suffering from equipment issues and repair cost, personal and family health problems, marital problems, depression, anxiety and overwhelming stress. It seems often to be the result of things I might categorize as more personal than business.

Personal issues can easily be those distractions that take our eyes off the necessary business changes we need to implement, those that we control. To counteract the distractions, stay calm and collected to maintain hold. Exercise areas beyond trucking that sit at the core of your identity. Manage risk, not just wish-fulfillment. Invest in personal relationships with the family and other loved ones, and learn as much as possible from personal failures.

These are just a few — perhaps obvious-seeming, I know — tactics toward living an engaged personal life, though I believe they’re all key hallmarks of successful, satisfied people. Maybe the most important single behavior of all is acting out daily the millennia-old philosophy of the “Golden Rule” — treat others as you wish to be treated.

If you need help, don’t let pride get in the way. Reach out talk to someone privately soon.

In business terms, that’s all about building a bigger support staff — we don’t have to travel this road alone.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2022 edition of Partners in Business.
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