Many professional drivers dream about owning their own tractor. For many, it’s a way to have more control over their schedule, but for others it’s more about the pride of ownership. Either way, the difference between moving from company driver to owner-operator involves more than a name change on the vehicle title.
An owner-operator is no longer a professional driver as much as he or she is a business owner. Instead of making a phone call to your carrier when your tire is flat, you make a phone call to a repair shop, and that involves a credit card number. In fact, nearly everything you do as an owner-operator requires a credit card or a healthy checking account.
The challenge is in managing more than your schedule; you now need to manage the business side of the operation as well. Joe Robinson, author of “Work to Live,” identified a list of characteristics shared by the most successful entrepreneurs. Using a University of Maryland study by J. Robert Baum and Edwin Locke, the researchers found the following seven traits successful business owners share.
Tenacity, or determination and persistence, is vital for anyone who decides to take the financial risk of owning a truck. There will be a lot of setbacks and obstacles that will get in the way of your progress, so a focus on the long-term goal is vital. A mechanical breakdown or personal setback will make you question whether you can survive the challenge, but tenacity will keep you going.
The second trait is passion. Without “an intense desire or enthusiasm” for your business, you’ll fail. If your goal is merely to make money, you might be able to accomplish that in other ways. Most owner-operators have a passion for the lifestyle or they wouldn’t invest a large amount of money into a big truck.
The authors use the phrase, “tolerance of ambiguity” to describe the characteristic toward risk-taking, or an acceptance of potential failure. Ask any business owner what keeps him or her up at night and they’ll quickly give you a list of their fears. From paying bills to making a career mistake, the uncertainty over your future success keeps many people from taking a risk as an owner-operator.
Without a vision, an entrepreneur wouldn’t be able to see a better future as a business owner. Identifying an opportunity means looking forward and making that chance into a reality. Maybe it’s a great deal on a truck that made you start thinking about leasing to a carrier instead of just driving for them. Every trucking company today started with someone who had a vision when they bought that first truck.
An entrepreneur must have self-confidence and the belief that he or she can and will succeed in their new venture. Knowing that you are going to provide a service that is desired and needed should give you the security in moving into a new opportunity. If you lack belief in yourself you won’t succeed.
The sixth characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is flexibility. You must be able to react quickly and respond to changes in your business. If you depend on one customer and lose that contract, you’ll need to be ready with a backup plan to implement right away. Being flexible means you will be more adept at dealing with change.
The final trait needed to be successful as a business owner is the tendency to break rules. No, this doesn’t mean running over the speed limit or lying on your tax return, it means that a tendency to take risks will help you move beyond your peers’ comfort zone. That’s what makes a good entrepreneur: the ability to defy conventional wisdom.
If you’re thinking about becoming an owner-operator and you are concerned about whether you have it in you or not, consider these traits of successful business owners before you take the first step. If you feel confident that you can be flexible and self-confident in making your vision a reality, then go for it!
Ellen Voie CAE, President/CEO
P O Box 400 Plover, WI 54467-0400
888-464-9482 920-312-1350 Direct
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Mission: Women In Trucking was established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.