If you have experience as a home delivery contract carrier and the ambition to advance, you may be thinking about starting your own last mile carrier business. From driver to business owner: Here’s what you need to know to be successful.
Starting any business requires experience in your industry. You need to have the skills to understand what makes a last mile carrier effective. Ariel, a last mile carrier in Maryland whose company partners with FIDELITONE, learned from his dad: “My dad was a diesel mechanic and worked on trucks for a last mile carrier. He would drive for the carrier on weekends and help make deliveries. My dad learned more about the business and decided to open his own trucking business.” Ariel learned by pitching in. Later, he took over and grew his dad’s business.
Nery, another last mile carrier, started out as an extra helper on a truck his cousins ran. Then he became a one-truck carrier. Later, he grew to operating six trucks. Nery’s last mile carrier business in Virginia contracts with FIDELITONE, too.
Know what it takes
Running a small business takes courage, ambition, and comfort with taking risks. Carefully analyze your costs, potential income, and profit. For costs, remember to include salaries and benefits, payroll taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs, and other essentials. See the Small Business Administration guide to calculating your start-up costs.
Nery says, “I recommend having extra money for start-up. It will be a couple weeks before the first check. Also ensure you have money to cover any emergency expenses or unforeseen expenses.”
You will also have to choose a legal structure such as an LLC or corporation, and register your business with appropriate authorities. You will need a valid MC and DOT number.
As a business owner, you’ll have many new things to learn. You will have problems to solve. You will have the extra work of running the business. Nery tells how his life has changed: “I am not on a truck every day. I will jump on a truck occasionally for a special delivery or as coverage for a driver who is unavailable.”
Entrepreneur emphasizes that you have to be very self-motivated. Ariel suggests, “Avoid the misconception that owning your own business is easy and you just sit back and collect money.” To help manage the business, Ariel tracks everything on his computer. His wife helps with administrative tasks.
You can tap into the free advice of experts with free mentoring from SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors. Just type in your zip code, and SCORE will connect you with a volunteer who can help you with any stage of your business.
Develop your network
Gaining business happens by knowing people. USA Today cites any old saying: “It’s not just what you know but who you know.” Joining business and industry groups and keeping a high profile online can help. Also, USA Today advises, have your “elevator pitch” ready. This means be ready to tell what you do and why companies would want to partner with you—in one or two sentences.
Making connections also helps you run an effective business. Nery advises, “Network! It is very important to network with other last mile carrier teams and find the right vendors for repairs, parts, equipment, and drivers/helpers.”
Find the right partner
The right partner can make all the difference for your business. Look for someone like-minded, who approaches service the way you do and shares your values. Look for a partner who is financially stable and can provide a steady stream of business.
Nery says, “I look at the relationship, the ability to grow, and whether it’s a good fit for my people—customer focused, high-end furniture, white glove service.” Nery also turns away business when the fit isn’t right. “I have a good relationship with FIDELITONE management and openly discuss the opportunities. My relationship with FIDELITONE has been a major part of my company’s success,” he adds.
Ariel likes the family feel of partnering with FIDELITONE. “Out of the companies that I contract with, they always treated me the best. They listen to our feedback and offer open communication and that is greatly appreciated. They also have an understanding of real issues of my business as a last mile carrier.”
To grow your business, you have to continue to plan and manage money. Ariel says he is selective, because, “To grow, maintain, and attract good people requires cash flow. Electronic logging devices and hours of service regulations require extra effort and resources to maintain compliance.” He also suggests: “Pay attention to good credit and good driving records to help contain your costs for loans, rentals, and insurance.”
Nery says, “When timing is right and I have the people—I choose to grow. The opportunity has to be there and I stay close enough to the business to know when opportunities may present themselves.”
Ariel likes to pace business growth. Growing quickly can bring on headaches with settlements and routing, he says. He currently operates seven trucks. Like Nery, he is very selective about his partnerships.
The right decision?
Nery likes feeling “part of a big family”. He says, “FIDELITONE is a good company that has provided me with the opportunity to provide for my family—and my teams can provide for their families, too. This makes me feel even better about what I do.”
A decision to start a last mile carrier business is personal, and there’s plenty to consider. Take a look at some basic requirements—“Could you be a FIDELITONE Last Mile Carrier?” And visit the FIDELITONE website to learn more about opportunities. If you have what it takes, we’d like to hear from you!