As an independent business owner, your primary goal is to make more money. That’s why you made the decision to purchase or lease your own truck. The challenge lies in holding on to more of the money you make, especially as expenses increase. You have to pay for your own plates, permits, fuel taxes, federal highway use taxes, maintenance, insurance and more.
Keeping track of it all takes a substantial amount of time. Some owner-operators are fortunate enough to have a spouse or partner to handle the paperwork. But even if this is the case, your spouse or partner probably does not have the resources or experience necessary to help you maximize your take-home profits – or to warn you when your costs are unreasonably high.
Many owner-operators fail within the first few years, as do most small businesses. New owner-operators and experienced operators who need help should choose a business services provider that understands their business model. A good services provider often can save you an amount of money that more than covers the annual service fee.
Such a provider should be able to give you all the tools necessary for running a profitable trucking business. These include:
PROFIT PLANNING. A profit plan is akin to a budget, or a plan that helps you oversee your business and control your future, including both business and personal expenses and goals.
BOOKKEEPING. Sorting and tallying receipts and settlements can take several hours a week. A good business service can, in effect, give you back that time.
PROFIT AND LOSS STATEMENTS. These tools provide snapshots of your business’ health. A profit and loss statement shows your revenue, fixed and variable costs, net income, contribution margin and break-even miles.
BENCHMARKING. This is the practice of comparing your business to the rest of the industry to decide what changes may be needed to maximize your profitability.
TAX PREPARATION. Many federal and state income tax rules regarding trucking are complex and constantly changing. You need a business services provider with tax expertise in trucking – one that has a Certified Public Accountant and Registered Tax Return Preparers. This critical expertise helps professional drivers find every legal tax deduction, thereby reducing your tax burden significantly. A good service provider also will support you in the event of an audit.
RECEIPT ARCHIVE. A good business provider will scan your receipts and financial documents so you can access them anytime on the road or at home. This information should be housed in an encrypted, secure site that keeps your personal information safe.
BUSINESS CONSULTING. A good business service provides continual support through business consulting to help you better understand the essential tools of business and use them effectively.
FINDING THE RIGHT MATCH
Choosing a business services provider is an important step that should be taken carefully. Consider these criteria to make your choice:
- How long has the provider been in business and serving the trucking industry?
- Does the provider understand how the trucking industry operates and where it’s headed?
- Is the company large enough to provide the best services, benchmarking and comparison data?
- Is the provider’s customer base composed of successful owner-operators and fleets?
- Does the tax staff hold professional tax credentials and have trucking-specific expertise?
- Do the provider and its tax department provide audit support by CPAs or enrolled agents if a client is audited?
- Does the provider offer an assigned consultant, or do you typically speak with a different person every time you call?
- How does the provider charge?
Work with your business services provider to determine key issues to address in your operation. Based on this information, your consultant should help you complete your profit plan and fill in any missing information. Once completed, your plan will help you manage expenses so you can run a successful operation. It will allow you to make any necessary changes to your business on a monthly basis instead of at tax time, when it’s often too late.
ATBS, co-author of this manual and presenter at Partners in Business seminars, is the nation’s largest owner-operator business services provider. ATBS has years of experience in the trucking industry and partnerships with most major owner-operator fleets. The Denver-based firm provides bookkeeping, profit planning, profit and loss statements, tax preparation, incorporation review, a secure online portal, and consulting services for more than 40,000 owner-operators. It can use its extensive database to pinpoint dozens of owner-operator benchmarks – measurements of key operations – that are not available elsewhere.
ATBS enrollment specialists can be reached at (866) 920-2827 or via www.ATBSshow.com for answers to critical questions. ATBS clients make on average 40 percent more than their peers. Let ATBS help you grow your business and gain peace of mind knowing you and your family have the best business service provider coaching you on the road to success.