Gearing up for 2012… And Looking Back At My First Year in Business…

It’s that time of year already!

Time to think about all the business details that have to be attended to with the changing of the year.

Time to give this blog a new look for the coming year.

And time to reflect on what has been a wildly fluctuating first year in the trucking industry.

I’m trying to stay a little bit ahead of the curve this year instead of playing catch-up.  2012 UCR, check.  2012 IFTA, check.  2011 taxes, mostly check. 2012 insurance, check.  Pesky 2012 New Mexico permit, check.

I know danged well something else will rear it’s ugly head that I’ve overlooked and will bite me for a good chunk of cash, but at least this year I’ll be as ready for whatever-it-may-be when it does get me as I can be.  Just knowing there are such greedy (mostly governmental) things lurking out there to lure away my hard-earned dollars puts me in a lot better position than I was in this time last year, when I was just getting started in this venture and didn’t understand how many hands there were trying to pick my pockets.

I had no idea what I was getting into.  None whatsoever…

In retrospect, it’s been a wild ride.  Sometimes literally so.

There was the two-month long marathon start-up, picking and forking over mucho bucks for equipment.  The flurry of flying paperwork, jumping through government hoops and digging deep for the cash to pay fees, licensing, insurance, and such.

Then there was that first trip that could have been my first and last if I had given in to fear.  I could easily have thrown in the towel after that little jack-knife incident and given up.  But then again, I guess I couldn’t have, since I obviously didn’t.  I’m still internally a bit skittish about driving in ‘black ice’ weather, but I finally decided I just have to suck it up and get my job done.  And you know what?  I’ve been ok about it now for a while.  It’s all just part of the business.

I learned a lot real fast by leasing to a crooked trucking company right out of the chute.  I got dinged for a little cash but bailed out in time to avoid taking a big financial hit.  I chock that whole experience up to OJT – and training, it was.  I can spot a crooked company now a mile away and it was that experience that pushed me to either sink or swim on my own.

I suppose I learned to swim.  Maybe I’m not up to competition swimming standards, but I managed to dog-paddle my way out of a bad situation and made it across the first big, soggy obstacle.  I’m still here, still keeping my eyes and ears open and still learning, and thanks to that one crooked trucking company, I’m probably light years ahead of where I’d have been if they had been a good company to lease for.

The single biggest lesson I got was that it’s a whole lot better to succeed or fail as an independent company owner than it is to be nickeled and dimed out of business by paying someone else while leasing out to them.

Sure, insurance costs a lot.  But even with the upgrade I just got that allows me a whole lot more range and options for what I can haul, including haz-mat, I’m still not going to be paying quite as much as that first company took out of my checks.

And yes, I buy my own fuel, permits, and all of the other kajillion costs of doing business.  But now I know where that money is going, and although it’s still expensive, I don’t have to worry about anyone skimming from the money I generate by running independently.  And that’s a huge point for any business start-up.  Every cent that went to the leasing company came out of my slim profit margin and it hurt!

So even though it was rough going while waiting for my checks to start catching up with me for a couple of months after I split from the leasing company, it was sooooooo worth it!  Now every cent I earn over and above operating costs and taxes is mine.  Nobody has the opportunity to stick their sticky fingers into my cookie jar.  And that’s how I’m going to keep it.

When I say it was rough for a couple of months, I mean it was really difficult.  I had to juggle every cent that I had managed to scrape together, I even had to borrow from BB to keep fuel in the truck once or twice.  I had sleepless nights and worried days where I didn’t think the business would survive the waiting period between hauling freight at my own expense and eventually getting paid for the stuff I’d dragged across the country a month or two earlier.  But I hung in there with a whole lot of moral support and some financial help from BB, and once we got over that hump, things just got very, very good.

It was so strange.  One day we were sweating it out, not knowing if we could buy that next tank of fuel, then one miraculous day the checks finally started flowing in.  Let me just say that was a very, very, happy day for both of us.  And we’ve never looked back since.

That’s not to say there haven’t been slow freight weeks, because there have.  And I’ve stressed and sweated it out while scrambling to find something to put on the truck that would keep the income coming in.  I resorted to hauling again for a couple of brokers (even though I hate paying broker fees, sometimes you just have to bite that particular bullet) just to keep the cash flowing.

But there hasn’t been another moment since the checks started coming in that I wasn’t certain that I could keep the fuel tank full, make the truck payment, or keep the insurance in place.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

I suppose the moral of this story is that starting an independent trucking venture is difficult, trying, and often enough to make a person want to bang their own head on a big rock.  But if you really want to make it work, it can be done.

Now I’m looking forward more than backward and anticipating, and yes, expecting year 2 in this business to be an entirely different experience.  With the knowledge I have gained, the contacts I now have in the business, the handful of good customers I earned in the past year, I can see the potential for some really good things happening over the next 12 months. I think our next year in business will be great and profitable.

At any rate, that’s my story, and I am sticking to it.

I guess the big question at this point is, if I had known then what I know now, would I do it all again?

And my answer would have to be….. Yep, in a heartbeat.


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