In Start Your Own Transportation Service, the Staff of Entrepreneur Media explains how you can launch a profitable transportation service, whether you want to start a long-haul operation or an in-town service. In this edited excerpt, the authors outline four things you should consider before starting a transportation business.
Deciding whether or not the transportation business is the right business for you is critical to your success. A lot of time and likely considerable expense goes into creating a thriving business of any magnitude. In fact, a lot of the success in the transportation industry comes from excellent, detailed planning and good old-fashioned hard work as you take your plan from a concept to a reality.
Here are a few ways to tell if a transportation business is right for you:
1. Test yourself.
One of the best ways to find out if a business fits your personality and lifestyle is to work in it for a while before plunging in and setting up your own shop. That may be harder if you already have a full-time job, but there are possibilities for part-time work. It can be insightful just to take a part-time temporary position during a particularly busy season for the segment of the industry you’re interested in -- driving limousines during prom season, for example -- or pull a few weekend shifts in the scheduling office. Or use your free time to take passengers to their destination with a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, using your own car.
Before you start your business, think about the following:
- Do the typical hours mesh with your preferred lifestyle? If you’re interested in starting a limousine service, do you need to be up late at night when being a night owl isn’t your usual style? Even if you aren’t doing the driving, if you’re the boss, you’ll need to be accessible in the event of a late night call from a driver you employ.
- If you’ve always been accustomed to taking off on a trip whenever the spirit moves you, you need to think about a business that will allow you to build it but not run the day-to-day operations.
- Someone with a gregarious personality might not want to open a one-person business where you’re by yourself all the time. Someone who’s not fond of spontaneous interactions with strangers probably isn’t a good candidate to drive a taxi.
This isn’t to suggest that every possible aspect of the transportation business can be self-selected around your personal idiosyncrasies. But don’t set yourself up to get into a business that’s just going to make you regret your decision or not feel like putting a 110 percent effort into your new business. That’s a recipe for failure before you even begin. Of course, all of this is moot if you have a business that can afford to hire employees to do everything you don’t particularly enjoy doing. But that’s atypical of a startup business of any kind, which is more typically “all hands on deck” -- including the owner’s -- for a certain period of time.
2. Determine if you have the right personality traits.
There are six traits that are conducive to small-business success according to a study by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute:
1. Being collaborative. Knowing when and how to delegate and motivate others on staff.
2. Being curious. Having an interest in scouring the world for ways to improve their business.
3. Focusing on the future. Business owners that planned cash flow and succession planning did better.
4. Having a desire for self-fulfillment. Those who would rather be in control of their own destiny than feeling secure in a corporate environment.
5. Being tech-savvy. It’s here, it’s the world, use it to your advantage and make your business more efficient.
6. Being action-oriented. Adversity actually makes strong business leaders work harder and motivates them.
It’s unlikely that any one person is strong in all these traits. But think them through and think about your own approach to any one of them. Then figure out how you might strengthen the ones you’re weaker in, even if the solution is something like delegating “tech savvy” to someone else!
3. Decide if you can handle the pressure of schedules.
Transportation of goods and transport services is fully entangled with scheduling. Clients will expect to have themselves or their goods get from one place to the other on time. If you’re shipping that just-in-time inventory of Christmas lights from a manufacturer in Indiana to dollar stores across the upper Midwest, the manufacturer won’t hire you again if the shipment gets there December 26 (or even August 26, for that matter).
The point is, if you aren’t good at the scheduling itself, let alone being on time, this kind of pressure is going to keep you up all night, every night, and you may not want to start a trucking business. Or you may want to delegate that part of the business to someone for whom juggling schedules is a dream job come true.
Whatever you do, you need to figure out if you can handle the pressure that comes with schedules that must be met and if you have the organizational and planning to skills to ensure you have satisfied customers.
4. Figure out whether you want to on the road again … and again.
If you plan to be a driver in your transport business, then depending on what kind of transport business you start, you may find yourself on the road a lot. Make sure that suits not only your lifestyle but your family’s as well. This is the kind of thing you need to think through how it will impact your life.
After thinking through all these things about the business you’re considering starting, do you still feel as good about the idea as before? Don’t ignore those nagging feelings -- this is a huge life-changing step you’re about to take! If something’s bothering you about any aspect of what you thought you had decided for your niche in the transportation market, it doesn’t mean you have to think of something else -- think through what it would take to address that particular issue. Enlist help if you need to, because there’s always a workaround, even if you can’t come up with what it is yourself. Then you can begin to create your business knowing that you’re headed in the right direction for you, your family, and your lifestyle.