Getting a good truck and trailer is very easy and fairly affordable in the light commercial (hotshot) market. However, the road to entrepreneurial success is not easy and affordable. There are several ways to fail in hotshot trucking, but we have seen a trend lately that is worth outlining… for those old enough to remember the 1960’s television drama “Lost In Space,” we are issuing an official… WARNING WILL ROBINSON, to all future hotshot trucking companies.
The trend is for guys with zero trucking experience to invest in equipment, and then hire a driver to drive it. This strategy is a difficult challenge for a start-up company. So difficult that we are now recommending that the new guys we meet to NOT start out with a hired driver. The best way to start a hotshot trucking business is to get behind the wheel of your own truck for at least 6-months to a year. The best driver of any truck will always be the owner. If you’re not willing or able to get on the road for a year in your own truck, save your money or look at another business.
We think this is an cultural entrepreneurial trend, where people want to start businesses, but are not willing, or don’t understand the importance of learning the business from the ground up. We have become a culture that is not willing to get our hands dirty and think that we can delegate necessary taks to hired labor while the owner sits comfortably in their office “running” and analyzing the business.
We’ve had guys recently say to us… “I’m NOT a truck driver,” as if the position behind the wheel was some sort of lessor plagued existence. Yet, these same guys are very willing to own a trucking company. Driving a truck has the same challenges that running a business does. In fact, many guys are driving their own trucks AND keeping all of the back end paperwork that is required.
“Running the business,” is a phrase that should be eliminated in all small business start-ups, and particularly in light commercial trucking. We have met truck owners with big plans, to scale up an auto hauling company with zero actual driving experience. They forecast the future profitable outcomes for 2-3-5 or 10 trucks before the first one has rolled a mile. How can an owner of a hotshot start-up manage a small fleet when they have never driven or maintained the first truck?
Spending time focused on the wrong things is another entrepreneurial trap that we see with many new hotshot owners, they develop logo’s, outline organizational charts, and set up internal systems to scale their business. These tasks that at some point take business to the next level, but will have little to do with how the pay for the next oil change. Measuring an owner’s use of time for a start-up business is really simple, there are activities that generate revenue, and there activities that don't generate revenue. In the beginning, as the OWNER of a start-up, if you're not doing something that generates revenue then you’re a liability to your company. No one in the auto hauling business gets paid or makes a profit until a car gets delivered, as the owner, what are you doing to accomplish that task? Don’t just take our word for it, let’s look at what happened at the beginning of some other fairly successful companies. Bill Gates (MicroSoft), Steve Jobs (Apple) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) all have 2 important start-up traits in common?
- They started their businesses from the ground up, doing some, if not most, of the work themselves. Gates wrote code, Jobs built computers, and Zuckerberg wrote algorithms.
- All three were deeply involved in generating revenue for their company.
- Learn the business from the ground up, drive, load cars, learn how to navigate, maintain your equipment, and get out in front of your customers.
- Be an active day-to-day force, and become an expert in generating revenue for your company. This means being willing to drive, and deliver cars.