I woke up at a rest stop on the outskirts of Barstow lying in the front seat of a beat to death Jeep Liberty wondering how in the hell I got here. Just 4 days earlier, I was picking up some kind of commercial generator in Staten Island. It was the first time this Michigan boy has ever been to New York. I had to drop this beastly machine off just north of Napa Valley. Hepatitis invaded my body while using the bathroom at some beaten down gas station just north of town. I don’t have any good memories about Barstow. A really good friend of mine is from there. I wish we could have met then, maybe I would have better memories of this place. This was what running a shipping business looked like for me. Here are the 5 things I learned while running a business.
1: I Thought I Knew Everything
Some of us pretend to be experts. I was an expert at thinking if any idea was good enough to make money then I should start doing it. Being a know it all is a disease that you should eliminate immediately. I believed that unless my customers had confidence that I knew everything about shipping goods across the US then they wouldn’t use me. Truth was, they just wanted somebody to move their goods at dirt cheap prices. You may have heard of uShip and the show Shipping Wars. Yes, I was one of those people. We would bid on shipments and the business would go to the lowest bidder. I had no clue what I was doing. At the time I thought I knew everything and I was going to become a millionaire shipping generators and sailboats across the county. Within 5 months I was broke and destroyed my Jeep Liberty.
2: I Started This Business to Avoid My Ex-Wife
It’s crazy some of the things people do to avoid people they don’t like. Somebody reading this post is interested in starting a business because they want to be their own boss. My Ex-Wife loved to boss me around and control my life. I saw getting into the shipping business as an excuse to leave town and get away from her trying to control me. Being in a life sucking relationship is extremely bad for you. I can assure you that doing something as stupid as starting a business to get away from somebody is a terrible plan. When you hold on to bad relationships you will look to escape that relationship in other areas of your life. I found my escape in finding a reason to be on the road for 2-3 weeks straight. Others may find it in their cubicle job. Maybe you go to the bar to escape. I don’t know. I just know that if you’re currently in a bad relationship you will escape and go somewhere.
3: Honesty Hurts
I was dropping off the generator, it weighed over 5,000 lbs, to my customer and I made an effort to show him that the generator caused excess wear on my tires. He felt guilty and gave me an extra $300 to replace the tires. I felt dirty. The truth was I wasn’t making enough money to pay for the wear and tear on my vehicle. He never called me back to do business again. If you deceive your customers, and even though you may not get caught, they will not call you back. I work in sales and sales people lie to customers all the time. You will not get their business again. Honesty is hard. When your honest, life changes drastically for you and the sun shines on you in special way. When customers trust you, they’re your customer for life.
4: I Hated the Work
Backing trailers up, changing tires, and untangling tie down straps was horrible for me. What in the hell was I thinking. I would go 3-4 days between taking a shower. You’re always tired because you don’t get enough rest living on the road. You’re definitely not staying in hotels every night. I thought it was a brilliant idea to save money by sleeping in my vehicle at rest stops. If you hate the work you’re doing then you need to ditch the enterprise as soon as possible. Some people stay for the money. Some may stay for the security. Others will continue on the path they are in because the fear of change is greater than their fear of being stuck in neutral. If you hate the work you’re in it will eventually eat at your soul. You need to prepare your escape plan right now.
5: I Wanted to Make a lot of Money
I was running on the proverbial hamster wheel of success. The harder I ran or worked then it only seemed logical the more money I would make. Growing up broke taught me a terrible lesson in money management. The more I had, meant the happier I would be. In my mind, starting a business in a line of work that I didn’t enjoy was ok as long as I made a lot of money. Where did this terrible idea come from anyways. I hear parents telling their kids to go to college and study a profession that will make you a lot of money. Who cares if you will like the work or not. I understand we’ve still got to pay the bills. But your need to pay the bills shouldn’t come at the price of your soul. I remember getting my first pay day from the first shipment. Once you subtract the gas, vehicle maintenance, and travel expenses, I was left wanting more for my time. That’s another expense you and I forget about, our time. Time is expensive. Philosophically speaking, time is your greatest single resource. Once you spend it, it’s gone forever. Wasting time only trying to make money or doing work that’s not enjoyable is excruciatingly expensive.
There you go, the five things I learned while running a business. As you can see, I was not very successful in the shipping business. But the lessons I learned from the experience are forever priceless and have guided me to what’s really important in business.