The problem with 'work-life balance' OTR for small business owners

Above and below find 2024's third mid-week special edition in Overdrive Radio's series of Partners in Business shorts culled from a long owner-operator business-focused talk at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March with Eric Harley of Red Eye Radio.

This episode extends from the first couple, expanding on the necessity of close business analysis in near-real-time to keep tabs on costs and profits, the start-up necessity of stocking that pantry and doubling down on saving when markets are hot for the lean times. We’ve been in one of those, by some estimates, going on two years at this point.

While owner-operators might scoff at the notion of a vacation, Red Eye Radio host Eric Harley notes early on, the achievement of personal goals, whatever they are, is a necessary part of owner-operators' business planning.

In the new edition of the Partners in Business book, noted Overdrive Editor Todd Dills in the talk, there's an update in Chapter 17 that proffers the notion of work-life balance. The idea itself is problematic for many small business owners simply because, as is the case for many owner-operators, the two are totally inseparable. 

[Related: Trucking's feast-or-famine cycles: Stock your pantry as insurance against it]

That doesn't mean there aren't steps you can take to bring unity between work and life without turning your job into a 24/7 go-go-go nightmare. "Rather than going out and running all 48 states all the time," Dills said as an example, "build the routines that will get you home, build the customers that will get you home, build relationships with the brokers that are going to get you back to where you need to be." 

Rush Truck Centers logoThis year the Overdrive/ATBS Partners in Business owner-operator business education program is sponsored by Rush Truck Centers, the premier solutions provider to the commercial vehicle industry with 150-plus full-service dealership locations in the United States and Canada. The new PIB book is now available for download.And as Gary Buchs shares in this episode, there are a seemingly infinite number of little things, practiced day-to-day, that will engender real respect from the customers you serve over time. Solidify your stature with them, and odds are you won't have to turn to dime-a-dozen brokered loads on the boards so often, if that's your situation. Long-term you'll help yourself do what's perhaps the No. 1 most desirable outcome when it comes to business ownership. 

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As Dills put it: "Building the business for maximum profitability. Ultimately, that's probably the No. 1 thing that will help you and your family succeed, and live a happy life." 

Easy to say, of course. Difficult to truly pull off. Yet it’s the little things Buchs and others describe in this episode -- pursued day-in, day-out -- that serve the best chance of getting you there. 

For more on related subjects: 

Find more advice on building the customer base and owner-operator business practice in general in the brand-new 2024 edition of the Overdrive/ATBS coproduction of the "Partners in Business" book. Download it here. 

Access more shorts in this series via the playlist below featuring both 2023 and 2024 episodes: 

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 Partners in Business book, updated annually.
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