The pressure is on as an owner-operator – you’re excited to own a business, earn more than ever and venture outside of the employee comfort zone, but there is much, much more to manage and plan for. It’s important to establish the right routine, structure and spending discipline that will help your business grow, rather than the opposite.

5 Ways to fail as an owner-operator

  1. Fail by choosing the wrong truck
  2. Fail by letting debt pile up
  3. Fail by trying to do everything yourself
  4. Fail by not saving for a rainy day
  5. Fail by neglecting to take care of yourself

5 Ways to succeed as an owner-operator

  1. Succeed by treating your truck like a business
  2. Succeed by networking and branching out
  3. Succeed by budgeting carefully
  4. Succeed by preparing for the future
  5. Succeed by continuing to learn and grow

Many owner-operators develop bad habits at the start of their careers that stay with them and end up affecting their business negatively, sometimes to the point of failure.

Although the business can be highly rewarding, it takes careful planning, a business mindset, discipline, and organization in order to reap the highest profits possible and minimize losses. 

Below are 5 ways you can fail as an owner-operator, all of which you should avoid to keep your business running smoothly:

#1 Reason Owner-operators fail is they choose the wrong truck

There are few decisions that will impact you as much as your choice of truck. From your repair costs, to your potential downtime, to your monthly payment, fuel efficiency, warranty coverage and more, this decision has far-reaching implications. 

Making the mistake of buying a lemon, not doing your research on a particular model, buying the wrong specs for the type of loads you want to haul (too much or too little engine power), or buying without plenty of advice can cost you heavily once something goes wrong.

If you’re about to buy a truck or add a truck to your fleet you should let a professional mechanic look the truck over. The cost of having someone open the top and take a look could save you thousands down the road. If you need someone you can trust to look over the truck you’re about to buy, please call the shop at 972-590-8565.

#2 Reason Owner Operators Fail is they Let Debt Pileup

Sure, you might be getting to the point where you are bringing in plenty of revenue each month, but it can all be negated if you are piling up your expenses on credit cards and neglecting to pay them off. Starting your business off with large debts will make it even harder to keep your balances low. 

Credit cards serve an important role for owner-operators as they allow access to initial capital for a variety of different upfront expenses, along with an easy way to track expenditures, but they should be paid down as quickly as possible. Put as much of that big check right to your credit card bills as possible before you give in to the temptation to splurge.

#3 reason owner-operators fail is they try to do everything themselves

Any successful business has a smart team behind it. As an owner-operator it’s not just you versus the road, you need a great accountant, lawyer, and experienced mentors who can guide you along the way and show you the best ways to operate your business efficiently and profitably.

Here is who you should have on your team at the very least:

  • A great CPA who can advise you on the structure of your business. They can help you answer questions like, should I be an LLC or an S-Corp
  • A great banker will take you far. If you build a good credit history and show solid revenue your relationship with your banker will be one of the most important
  • A great truck shop will keep you out of bankruptcy. If you’re not a mechanic you need someone you can trust that will show you what needs to be done to keep you on the road. Preventative maintenance in the trucking is super important.
  • A good freight broker will get you started on the right foot. At first, you’ll likely need someone to help you get loads and show you how to do it. Find a good freight broker or you might go broke.

#4 Reason Owner-Operators Fail is Not Saving For a Rainy Day

Unexpected expenses pop up in any business, from maintenance issues to major repairs, downtime when you aren’t working, illnesses and more. If you don’t have a rainy-day fund of 6-12 months of expenses, you need to start working on one. 

Live within your means and keep your personal expenses to a bare minimum if you need to build this fund up, but do it as quickly as you can. You never know when you might need to break the bank, and if you don’t have the option available, it can add a lot more headaches to an already bad situation.

#5 Reason Owner-operators fail is by neglecting to take care of themselves

With all the minor things you have to manage, the long hours, and the heavy workload, it can be easy to forget about your own health and exercise. 

This is always a mistake, and it could cost you a lot in the future, compared to the small amount of time and effort it takes to manage your health proactively. Find the time in your schedule for regular exercise, avoid the temptation to eat junk, and keep your health as a top priority along with everything else.

Avoiding the above-mentioned mistakes is a must. But, just as importantly, you’ll need to establish some good habits that will drive your business growth.

Succeeding as an owner-operator

#1 Reason Owner Operators Succeed is By Treating Your Business Like a Business

It’s easy to want to shut out all the distractions and fall in love with the work itself, but that won’t get you very far as an owner-operator. Of course, you enjoy being on the road, but you’re in this to make more money than ever, and everything that you do should move towards that goal. 

Whether it’s making sales calls, carefully tracking your expenses, or cutting waste from your monthly budget, you’re in business now and it should be treated that way.

#2 reason owner operators succeed is networking and branching out

Early on, find a good broker, but if you want to avoid working with a broker, you’re going to have to network to get contracts, and that means going to industry events, trade shows, conferences, picking up the phone, and building up a list of contacts. That list you build up is going to become a major asset for you – something you’ll be able to rely on for work in the future anytime you need it. Focus on building long-term relationships, not just getting loads for the short-term.

#3 Reason Owner-operators Succeed is by Budgeting carefully

Work with your accountant to identify what your expense budget should be for the next 3-6 months in order to build your business to a profitable level. Look for ways to cut expenses down such as limiting the number of times you eat at a restaurant or using a fuel card to get additional fuel discounts.

#4 Reason Owner-operators succeed is by preparing for the future

Failing to plan is planning to fail, and that holds true in the trucking industry perhaps more than anywhere else. Have a fallback plan for when things go wrong, whether it’s having enough savings for several months of expenses, an emergency repair fund, and even a sales strategy with different ways to drum up more business if work starts to slow down for you.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Ben Franklin

#5 Reason Owner-operators succeed is by continuing to learn and grow

The process of growing and learning as an owner-operator should never end. Attend trucking events and expos, learn from industry leaders, and stay on top of technological trends. GPS, trucking software and vehicle technology is always evolving, and you should keep up with it all. Find skilled, proven mentors and spend some time picking their brain and getting feedback on what you might be doing right and wrong.