Building an Owner-Operator Trucking Business Plan

Your business plan will have

  1. an executive summary
  2. a company overview
  3. a marketing plan
  4. a set of goals or milestones
  5. a list of the current staff
  6. a financial plan.

TruckingOffice can help you as we break down each step of writing your owner-operator trucking business plan for your success.

Today we start with goals and milestones – the future you decide now.

Plan the Build:  Goals and Milestones

Many goal setting plans include looking at your “why” – your motivation – to help you decide what to do.  If you’re here, your reasons are probably pretty clear:  you want to build a business plan to build your business or to get financing.  If you’re not going to a lending institution to get money, your business plan can be a lot more informal.  But this step – setting goals and milestones – isn’t about your why.  It’s about the how.

What do you want?  It sounds like such a simple question.  But when we talk about goals and milestones, suddenly, it’s not so simple.

Deciding your ultimate goals helps you decide what to do next.

An owner-operator trucking business plan asks you to lay out your expectations about your

  • loads
  • time
  • money
  • equipment

for the future.  Essentially, it’s about the growth of your business.

Build the plan means you decide what you want to accomplish and the structures you need to put into place to achieve them. It may be easiest to start high level and work down to specific milestones you want to use to measure your progress.

Start with the thing you’re most passionate about or what concerns you the most.

For a lot of truckers with families, it’s about making enough money to pay the bills and support the family, plus adding to savings for the future.

We’ll work with round numbers and percentages, but you’ll need to drill down and be more specific on your plan.

Living Expenses

As an owner-operator, you’re self-employed.  That means you’ve got a lot to cover.

How much does it cost for you to live?  Housing.  Food.  Clothing.  Insurance.  Entertainment.  Family vehicles.  The list you create can be intimidating.   Do you really make that much per year?  Are you really covering all of those costs either in cash or in credit?  It’s eye-opening to look at a year’s worth of expenses.  But that’s where to start.

Dave Ramsey has a great program for getting people to create budgets and examine their expenses, so we’re not going to go there.  We’ll just recommend that you take a look at your expenses – cash and credit for the past year – and start with that as your baseline.

Business Expenses

Companies don’t run without money.  You have taxes to pay, expenses to keep your rig on the road, insurance, and loans to be covered.  What are your business expenses right now?  Do you anticipate them changing in the near future with a new purchase or by selling off equipment?  Calculate a number that will keep you in business next year.

Add the living and business expenses together.  Now you’ve got a picture of your finances.  Do you want to earn more next year?  How much more?

What Time Is It?

How do you want to manage your time?  Do you spend a lot of time hunting for papers or trying to figure out your billing?  Organization makes the difference between quick payments and losing money.  Even something as simple as having the right tool where you can find it can save you money and time.  (Ask me why I own 7 pairs of scissors.)

For truckers, time is everything.  Getting the load delivered in the shortest possible time is how we make our reputations and our livelihood. Are there tasks you can complete quicker – like getting your invoices out – by using a good software product like TruckingOffice Trucking Management Software?  Can you track your maintenance to be able to schedule repairs – and reduce your risk of an emergency repair on the road?

Setting goals for time might include

  • finding a good trucking software that will handle the business paperwork (we recommend TruckingOffice)
  • organizing your tools and trucking supplies so you have what you need where you need it
  • controlling your maintenance schedule by tracking repairs, regularly scheduled maintenance
  • tracking your time off the road that’s not productive (social media) and adding more productive activities (exercise.)

More Loads or Better Loads?

You won’t have to listen very long and you’ll hear some trucker say he doesn’t move unless he’s got $3 per mile.

Just how many of those are out there?  Maybe not so many.  Probably not enough to support an owner-operator trucking business.

Why not discover what you need to get per load – profit per load – and work from there?  Instead of looking only for the top dollar, try to collect a number of loads that get your profit number over a period of time.  There’s no point in taking a big pay freight load and having nothing to bring back.  Taking two loads – one there and one back that gets you the revenue you need is far better than deadhead miles that don’t bring in anything.

Once you have decided, this goal then helps you decide whether or not to take a load.  For that alone, it’s worth the time to spend and quit worrying about what you didn’t take.

LTL

Load management takes time to master and needs a good tool to help you arrange your trip.  If you handle LTL, it gets more complex. TruckingOffice Pro provides a load management tool that will help an owner-operator maximize your income while minimizing the miles.  With PC*Miler, you’ll know your best routes and be able to plan your trips quickly – even putting together the LTL puzzle pieces will be smoother.

Hauling small loads for multiple shippers can be very profitable.  Instead of waiting for a full load, learning how to manage LTL shipping may be a way to increase your income per mile.

More loads or better loads is your choice.  There is no right or wrong answer – only what’s best for you.  Here in the goal section of the owner-operator trucking business marketing plan, you will make some decisions about what you intend to do in the future.  Will you try to score more golden loads, or will you try to increase the number of loads you take and average out the income?

Write out your thoughts about this choice.  Look at what you’ve done in the past year – can you increase it by 5%  What steps would you have to take to reach that goal?  Do you think you can achieve it, or should you raise your goal higher to 10%?

Equipping Yourself for Success

Equipment wears out.  Replacing it is a fact of life – and one we should be prepared for.  What does that look like?  Enough in the bank to pay off a new rig?  When we’re talking a new cab running $80,000 or more, that’s a lot to save.  New trailer? It depends on what you want.

Buying used?  Not a bad idea.  You still need money for them.

The entire conversation about equipment has to focus on time.  Maybe you’re good right now, but want to get ready.  Maybe you’ve got what you need but you need to keep it up, if not for your investment but for the DOT requirements.

In the tech world, they call it shiny syndrome.  Everybody wants the latest gadget.  An announced upgrade gets them drooling.  Trucking has the same thing but on a much bigger scale.  Go to MATS or GATS and you’ll see miles of the latest, newest, must-have equipment.

Invest in Today

The best investment in your owner-operator trucking business is what you’ve already got.  You’ve already put money into it and unless you’ve got a strong reason to believe that you’re throwing good money after bad, maintaining your rig is smart.  (That’s a discussion between you and the mechanic.)

Keep your equipment in shape by absolutely keeping to the maintenance schedule.  Track your mileage for your tires and oil changes, your months for brakes and suspension.  If you have a mechanic you trust, schedule your work with them.  Is this a goal?  It can be.  Some truckers get oil changes while they’re on the road or buy tires when they have to because of a flat.  That’s up to you which you pick, but maintenance scheduling should be a goal, not just a second thought when the oil light on the dashboard comes on.

Invest in Tomorrow

Starting a regular savings plan to put aside money for an emergency fund and for future equipment can be as simple as going to your bank and setting up a monthly deposit into a savings account. Then learn how to use credit to build your credit rating so if you need to borrow for a purchase or a repair, you’ve got the best options available.  Can you set a goal to set aside a certain dollar amount per month – say $200 – toward your emergency fund and then, when it’s full, start saving that money for the long term investments you’ll need to make in the future?

Now that you know what you want, let’s talk about how to get there.

Milestones

Too many times, we see goal-setting advice stop once the goals are written down.  They say that goals are SMART:

  • specific
  • measurable
  • achievable
  • relavent
  • timed.

So we set goals but with just a deadline.  That’s actually not very helpful.  What does help are markers along the way to tell how well you’re doing to get those goals completed.

Just like mile markers along the highway, milestones are indicators of where you are and how far you have come.  They give you some sense of how much longer it will be until you’re done.  Milestones on the goal-setting highway help you get there by eliminating discouragement and encouraging achievement.

For every goal, you need a deadline.  Take a piece of paper and draw 4 lines down the page.  If we start with today’s date, where do you want to be with your first goal in 3 months?  Write the date and the milestone you want to achieve. Each of these steps is a milestone.  They’ll help you evaluate if you’ve moved toward your goal.

If you haven’t, don’t give up.  You can start again at any time.  You can also reset your goals.  Too ambitious?  Not ambitious enough?  Milestones are signs of your progress.  Adjust them as you need to.  Save enough for your emergency fund?  Start another fund for future equipment purchases.

Goals aren’t meant to be chains to tie you down – they’re ladders to move you up.

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