A business plan is exactly that: a plan for your business. It tracks your business goals, company milestones, operating costs, and profits. It is a road map on how you want to grow your business. Consult and tweak your plan often to keep your goals in sight. When setting your goals there are a few questions to keep in mind –
What Is Your Trucking Niche?
On the bare minimum, your business plan should include details on your type of business. Trucking is a large industry; it encompasses several types of trucks and freight. To run a successful trucking company you need to be specific about what best fits into your wants and lifestyle.
How often do you want to be home? Are you currently a 1-truck operation and want to be home every night? Then you probably do not want to open an over-the-road, long haul company. Pick the amount of home time that fits into your lifestyle.
The amount of home time you want will determine the size of your operating area. If you are home every night, you will focus more on to local runs. Alternatively, do you want to travel across the country? You will have less home time but a larger operating area.
Type of Freight
Once you determine how far you are willing to travel, determine what type of freight you want to haul. Are you an over-the-road company with dry van trailers or are you a regional company that hauls refrigerated goods? Do you own a flatbed trailer? Are you a boxcar company? Determining your trucking niche will influence your freight type. For example, if you only have dry van trailers you probably should not haul ice cream across the country.
What Are Your Operating Costs?
Trucking is more than freight hauling. There are also several upfront and continual costs to consider. Calculating your operating costs ensures the loads you haul are profitable for your business. Underbidding on loads will make it difficult for you to pay for the equipment, permits, or bills necessary for your business to stay open.
Make a list of all of your business expenses (fixed and variable): estimates on fuel costs, equipment maintenance, permit fees, insurance payments, etc. Determine how much money your business will need to make a year/month/week in order to stay open. Use this number to determine your cost-per-mile. This is the amount you need per mile to break even and should be used a base when determining how much you need to bid on loads. Knowing your cost-per-mile helps you track your profits as well and helps you determine your growth goals. For example, when you know how much profit you will make each week, you can estimate how soon you can add another truck to your fleet. Pay attention to you profits and expenses.
You will also want to pay attention to your market. If you want to haul produce, be aware that you will probably have an easier time finding loads during harvest season (summer and fall) while spring and winter may be slower for you. Plan your finances accordingly and adjust them on a regular basis.
How Will You Find Freight?
You determined your type of trucking company, the distance you are willing to travel, and your base cost-per-mile. Now it is time to find freight fitting within those parameters. If you are a reefer company, you probably do not want to bid on lumber loads. Be aware of your limitations.
Load boards are designed to help you find freight within your hauling capacity. You can also utilize a dispatcher who will comb the load boards for you. Both of these options are great for finding customers. Do you have goals of turning these customers into steady clients? If the answer is yes, and even if it is not, focus on providing great customer service. This will help build your reputation in your industry and make it easier to build a customer base, if this is your plan.
Make yourself a goal. How long do you want to continue using a load board or dispatcher? How many customers do you want to convert to regular clients? How long do you think this will take? How do you plan to keep customers interested in your business? Keep these types of questions in mind as you continue grow your business.
Remember these topics when making a business plan. A business plan is fluid and should change over time. Refer to it often to make sure you are on the right track for continual business growth.
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