Archive for May 5, 2011

Weekend Trip Ends At Beach Access


How could our weekend trip end at beach access?

We had planned for months

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with our best friends. Rick and Joanne have been through thick and thin with Rich and me. As with all friendships, I am sure they have not always agreed with our decisions just as we have not always agreed with theirs. Because we love each other, though we can agree to disagree and move on with our activity and friendship.

As we reminisced about the adventures we have experienced together, one story popped out in our minds as if it were yesterday. This particular weekend trip has become today's storyline.

We need a trip to the coast

Prior to getting started in our auto transport business and while still at the bank Joanne and I decided, we were ready for a trip to the Pacific coast. The drive over is scenic and very relaxing. The northern coastline is rugged, accessible and drop dead gorgeous. Whenever we needed to unwind and just relax this was our favorite spot to visit.

She and I put our heads together and made plans for a great, long weekend. Four days of adventure, relaxation, good food and great friends all within driving distance and within both of our budgets.

We each packed our ice chests with water, soda and beer. Our snack packs were full of nuts, fruits, and cheese and crackers typical traveling foods and excellent for packing to the beach for the day.

Tragedy strikes

The night before we were to leave the phone rang. It was 11:30 PM and who would be calling at that time of night. It was my friend in absolute hysterics. In between sobs, she was trying to tell me that we would have to postpone our trip. I could barely make out her words and then it all came together in one frightening sentence.

A friend of ours had been in an accident, a fatal one. They had headed home from their weekly Bible study. Barely gone from my friend's house 15 minutes, there had been a big black bull in the middle of the highway. Too dark to see and unable to stop in time, they hit the animal and it catapulted up into the car. Her husband died instantly and the ambulance took her to the critical care unit of the local hospital. We were all upset and decided it would be best to put our plans on hold.

Loving decision to move on

However, the next morning they called and said we should continue; go to the coast to relax. Family would be surrounding our friend. Nothing we could do would help her.

After work, we loaded the SUV, piled in and off to the coast we went. As we drove through the mountains, darkness fell. Highway 299 is a narrow, steep and windy road you must pay close attention or you could be the victim of the steep terrain. The tall, thick pine trees masked any moonlight there might have been. As I continued the long drive, I kept mentioning that it sure seemed dark. Did anyone else notice something wrong? All of the passengers agreed that I was just tired and to push on toward our destination.

The trip over the mountain highway took about three hours, give or take a few minutes. As we neared the intersection of Highway 299 and Highway 101, the warning light came on the dashboard. When we pulled into the campgrounds and unloaded for the night, all lights went out. I had a sick feeling in my stomach; we did not need car trouble, not on vacation and not with our newly purchased SUV.

As the sun rose and morning dawned, the coffee smelled wonderful. As we wiped our eyes and sipped the hot, dark cup of Joe the men went to check out the engine light issue. Sure enough, it was the alternator and we needed a new one.

After breakfast, we packed up and headed into town. Although Eureka is not a huge town, it certainly is not small either. A dying lumber mill town there is always action and tourists traveling up the coastal highway yet there was not the usual traffic. After driving from one end of town to the other, we finally found a mechanic shop that was open.

This weekend was the classic car show in a neighboring town and everyone was up there. We were so thankful that one smart businessperson decided to stay home and open for business, he saved our vacation.

Several hours and an alternator later we were off driving north on the coastal highway to our next overnight camping spot. We enjoy the out of doors and camping but this time, we cheated. We splurged and rented a cabin at the KOA Campground. I cannot remember the last time I had slept on bunk beds, nor on a pine wood bunk bed and a sleeping bag. Yes, hard as a rock and stiff as a board we all were the next day.

Determined to watch the sunset

We were determined to find a road to take us to the beach to enjoy the sunset. With each road came a dead-end. Finally, we found a road with a sign that said, "Beach access". Following the signs, we found ourselves driving through a farm. It seemed a bit odd that the beach access road would go through a private farm, but that is what the sign said.

By now, my husband was getting nervous and irritated. He wanted to turn around and go back. My friend and I assured him that it was fine, a public road and beach access. We were determined to watch the sunset and be on the beach to do so, very focused.

Next, we came upon the gate with the padlock. At this point, I was in agreement with Rich. Maybe we should go back, but then we would miss the sunset. Joanne hopped out of the car and walked up to the gate. Yes, it had a chain, but the padlock did not lock. So, off came the chain and through the gate we went. In retrospect, we should have paid closer attention to our surroundings, but we focused on our goal.

The public road now turned to ruts in the field grass. The solid ground turned to sand; yes, we headed for beach access all right. By now the men were about to burst and their blood pressure was skyrocketing. I dared not stop for fear of being stuck.

At this point, I thought Rich was going to shoot me. He very calmly said, "STOP. Do you see where we are"?

We were smack dab in the middle of an old Indian burial ground. My heart nearly stopped! We turned around and drove out of there faster than a speeding bullet. My heart was pounding and Rich was swearing and saying that the ancestors were going to get me. Talk about making a bad situation worse…packing on the guilt.

We finally found the correct beach access road. As the sun set on the horizon we enjoyed the only sunset of the trip. Our husbands never have let us forget the debacle of the weekend at the coast.

Lessons learned

After our adventure, what did we learn? The four of us in attendance learned several important lessons.

First we learned to respect and honor our friends and family's feelings. My first clue should have been to listen to my husband instead of going along with my girlfriend.

Secondly, better planning could have helped us avoid what could have been a disaster with only one mechanic shop open. Last but certainly not least, never ever drive through a locked gate even if it says "Beach access".

Today, in business we must learn to listen to that inner voice. Our conscious will guide us to make the right decisions if we just listen close enough. Our auto transport business has continued to thrive in a market when a lot of others are closing their doors. Sometimes I wonder if they chose to listen to their friends instead of their inner voice, too.

Join us won't you? We need your help to spread the word about these lessons. If you have learned anything at all from our story, send a tweet to your Twitter friends; drop a short post to your FaceBook friends. You can bet they will enjoy and learn right beside you;)

Here to Serve,

Carla J Gardiner

Carla J Gardiner is an ex-banker turned entrepreneur who built an auto transport brokerage and dispatch center from the ground up. With half a days training and little else Carla learned the business inside and out the hard way…by doing it. Her passion and purpose lies with the people she works with daily; the client, dispatcher, broker and truck driver. Her frustration within the industry has birthed a new division of her company; one to properly train, encourage and mentor other professionals in auto transport.
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Why Is It Critical To Have The Mindset Of A Business Owner Not An Employee?


Why is it critical to have the mindset of a business owner

Stop thinking like an employee

This past weekend provided time for reflection. Much needed time away from the hustle and bustle of the ringing phones and doorbell. I have often wondered if other business owners are like me, up to their necks in work with little time to reflect on decisions they have made or need to make. Do you schedule time out for just thinking?

Reading your comments on Face Book about whether or not to invest in your business training reminded me of how I used to think back when I got started in the auto transport business.

Looking into opening our auto transport business was an exciting time, until we learned the dollar amount needed to get started. See, I am right back where I started, talking just as I did back then…"the dollar amount needed".

Are you kidding me? When opening a business you do not think or talk like that. That is speaking a death sentence over your business before it is even given birth! A business owner invests into starting the business. A business owner has the mindset of building the business, using cash flow and deciding to learn while earning a living.

However, coming from corporate America no training was provided to help me think or change my mindset from an employee to a business owner. The journey would take me down several wrong roads before I would learn that the mindset of a business owner is critical for long-term success.

You do not spend you invest

Who really is to blame for brainwashing us into thinking it is too scary to invest into our own business? Should we blame our parents, grandparents or maybe the schools; better yet why not blame the government?

Wait! Why not start thinking like a business owner and take 100% of the responsibility for our own decisions! Now, there is a novel idea, what do you think?

You see, some of you wrote to me begging for coaching, to help you start earning money in your auto transport business. That is a mindset of a business owner. However, then in the same breath some of you spoke death into your business the same way I did over six years ago.

How you ask? Well, I can best explain it by sharing how I felt, talked and acted when we opened our doors in January 1995. Although I was hungry to build a business, I did not have a clue what it would really take. Coming from banking all procedures, products and customers were in place when I entered the work place.

When we jumped out of the pot and into the frying pan, no one explained that it would take an investment into the business to start it. Three months and $18,000.00 (U.S.D.) later our doors opened to our first client. There were no guarantees that our business would succeed no guarantees that we would even make our first sale! Yet we did make our first auto transport order; that first sale netted us $145.00. It was an exciting time in our office; however, now the reality of running a business would set in.

Next, the monthly overhead, as phone bills, bond payments, load board dues, leads purchases, office supplies and more poured in. Combine those expenses with repaying the loan we took for start up and our bottom line did not look so grand.

How could we continue to spend more money? We needed to make money, when would that time come? Rather than focus on serving our clients we were scared to death about making money. It did not take long to figure out that my mindset was that of an employee and not a business owner.

Risk versus worth

Looking back in retrospect I wish someone would have pointed me to a business coach that first year. Why? Had I known how business works before jumping in feet first I could have made better decisions. Would I still have started the business? Absolutely! The freedom our whole family enjoys because of being a business owner is priceless.

Had someone explained that investing into our business and our skills would provide stability in our business it would have made each month make more sense. With the proper training, we present a certain air of confidence to our clients.

They sense that you know what you are doing, in more than just providing free quotes for their auto transport. They can feel that you have the mindset of a business owner who knows how to run a profitable business. They sense that you are there to serve their needs and not just make a fast buck.

Now, do not get me wrong. We started our auto transport business to make money, just as any other business owner does. However, the focus cannot be on the almighty dollar, it must be on serving your clients needs long term.

You can sum it up like this. You can make a dollar today providing minimal service to your customers; or you can roll up your sleeves and serve your clients with extraordinary service to gain a lifelong customer. A lifelong customer will return repeatedly and refer their family and friends for years to come. Which example makes more sense to you? Which example is the mindset of the business owner and not an employee?

What brought these thoughts back to me?

A client called to schedule two vehicles with us this morning. He reminded me of his original transport and asked if I remembered him. Thankfully I did remember him, his transport and the circumstances revolving around it.

That transport was back in May of 2005! When he found out he needed to move again next month, he went through all of his records, emails and bank statements to find our name. He remembered the pleasant auto transport he experienced with our service to him. He also remembered the BAD experience he had with the other company, and their name, too.

Had I been thinking about how much money I was spending to purchase leads or systems to operate our business, I never would have met this customer. We never would have had the honor of serving a wonderful client who returned six years later with pleasant memories.

With kudos to our business coach and thankfulness to wonderful clients who have grown and shared our service with others, we are here to continue serving our auto transport clients with the mindset of a business owner and not an employee.

Here to Serve,

Carla J Gardiner

Carla J Gardiner is an ex-banker turned entrepreneur who built an auto transport brokerage and dispatch center from the ground up. With half a days training and little else Carla learned the business inside and out the hard way…by doing it. Her passion and purpose lies with the people she works with daily; the client, dispatcher, broker and truck driver. Her frustration within the industry has birthed a new division of her company; one to properly train, encourage and mentor other professionals in auto transport.
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