Most pressing question answered
Please leave your comment below and join the discussion.
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Have you ever thought there would come a day when life stopped dishing out lessons for us to learn? Well, if you are like me we can always hope so. What I found last week instead was false thinking on my part.
You see, I thought when I left the job at the bank and started building my own auto transport business security was a done deal, locked in. I knew that jobs in corporate America were no longer secure in the new economy. By reading the headlines in the morning paper or watching the evening news I see evidence of the insecurity in working for someone else.
My husband and I lived through the very insecure timber industry here in northern California when he lost his job not once, but three times to it. Learning to live on twenty-five percent of a mill workers income when the bills did not decrease accordingly stunk! This was one more reason we wanted to be independent, work for ourselves, control our own destiny.
Auto transport market changes in business
Part of the lessons I learned early on in our broker business was we must be aware and have our finger on the pulse of the industry. Keeping our head buried in the sand like an ostrich is not how a business owner builds a successful business. In fact, if you do not watch what is going on in the rest of the country you could easily go broke.
Just like when Hurricane Katrina hit and we almost lost the business. If it were not for our owner-operators, who love and cared for us giving us advice we would have closed our doors. It certainly was a tough lesson and one we will not soon forget.
During the darkest of times back then is when we decided we had better look at alternate ways to make money if I wanted to keep the business going and stay home to work. If you recall we were building a part time vitamin business at the same time. It was at a networking breakfast meeting that one of our members questioned me about what an auto transport broker did. When I answered the question, they asked for a business card and said their uncle was looking for my type of service.
The following week we received a call from the uncle of the member of the networking group. It did not take long to figure out that they had misunderstood my explanation of what I do. This man was looking for a dispatcher.
However, I agreed to meet him and his wife for coffee to discuss what services I could offer them. The rest is history, thus was born “The Dispatch Center”, a division of Carla’s Transport Services.
Do not put all your eggs in one basket
The next phase of the business grew right along. Soon after accepting one owner-operator job, others followed. Even though the customer side of auto transport had slowed down, the dispatching of auto carriers kept me hopping.
I found I loved working with the variety of clients, from car owners, other brokers to the drivers themselves. Relationships grew, as did my circle of professional business partners. Soon I found myself inside their lives helping them with their health, too. How could that be you might wonder?
One of the drivers I had dispatched a car to for one of my auto transport customers transports went missing in action. Panic began to set in when his company called me looking for any updated information. His wife called me asking when the last communication we had was, what time of day and the like.
All I can say is thank goodness for relationships, companies who care for their employees and the GPS systems some trucking firms use on their trucks. After a whole day of investigating, he was finally located at a truck stop, in the back, face down having suffered a stroke. He is all right today, thanks to everyone’s effort and relentless phone calls.
As the seasons change so does the volume of business, both on the brokering and dispatching side of the business. It made perfect sense to diversify and build our vitamin business due to the difficulties of the market.
However, I neglected one detail. I settled into the false thinking of security. The mindset of if brokering slows, I have the dispatching to fall back on. Doesn’t it seem logical and safe? Wrong.
Depending on someone elses business for security
In this current economy, government agencies are looking for ways to boost our economy. Now, I am not saying anything is wrong with that it does need help. However, let me share with you what happened to one of the trucks I dispatch. Please, share your thoughts and help me understand the logic of this situation.
This truck has been running the same route for over six years. What this means is he hauls a load of cars from California to Texas and back again using the same interstates. For our safety there are inspection stations manned by Highway Patrol officers trained in semi-tractor safety and highway law. Stay with me here as I take you through my thinking.
On the last load-in the inspector tells the driver that his equipment is one foot too long. Now, after six years his truck is illegal to run the state of California, he is done. What does this mean to his business and mine? One of two things can happen. He can purchase new equipment that is the right length for the state requirements at a great cost or he is out of business.
What did this teach me? The light bulb went off in my head and it exploded. I had allowed my thinking to slip back into a comfort zone that had gotten others and me into trouble before. I thought I was secure in my auto transport broker and dispatch center. I thought even if one side generated less revenue it would be okay because I had the other side.
What I had not counted on were the regulations changing. We try not to think about trucks breaking down, trailers being too long. This all caused an immediate loss of work, revenue and comfort.
We were comforted knowing that while we were building our business we did not put all of our eggs in one basket. We had begun building another business part time, our anti-aging vitamin company.
Your ideal auto transport client, the rewards of listening
You are so lucky
Today was a day of reflection for me. Looking back over the past year and a half my life looks very different today than it did then. Our auto transport business is thriving when others have closed their doors. Our part time health business is growing and the excitement is mounting as others achieve their dreams and goals, too. Was it so for either business last year? No.
Some may say we are lucky. Trust me luck has nothing to do with it. Hard work, perseverance and determination are the reason we are still in business today.
Why is it that we always want everything now? Who taught us that we are entitled to have what someone else has and not have to work for it? I used to think just like that, too. My desperation to make money overshadowed my desire to serve others. Once I learned that my focus was unbalanced, my learning process began to compound and make sense. The pieces of the puzzle started to fit together.
Chatting with a good friend the other day our conversation turned to just that thought. Both of our businesses are growing, we are beginning to earn a good income. That was not the case when we started though. What changed, what made the difference in our businesses between last year and today?
We both figured it out. What did we figure out? The rewards of listening to your ideal client will make your business a success. When you do not listen to what the market wants it will break you.
When you combine that one gold nugget with the "how to" of putting a business together online you will find your answer. What we figured out is that it takes each business owner a different amount of work and time to reach results.
Can someone else do the work for you? NO!!! For long-term success we all must learn the "how to" ourselves. We must put in the time, pay the piper ourselves in order to reap the rewards waiting in the shadows for us.
Figuring out what they want
When I first started our auto transport broker business, I knew nothing about the industry at all. The lingo in the auto transport industry is different. Some of the titles for jobs seemed to overlap it was so confusing. It would have been much easier had I known of someone who could coach me and show me the ropes.
However, the broker who sponsored me (provided the information to get started) did not have my best interest at heart. Her focus was unbalanced as well, centered purely on money. Coming from a banking background, I was naive to the dealings of the outside business world. My first year in business was like a Hollywood movie in the making. Several hours training and then tossed to the wolves. Now it was sink or swim.
The same went for our health networking business. Sure there was training, "Do it this way, say this, act like this, be like me and you will succeed". The problem was I did not have a personality like theirs. My goals and passion was different, I was not like them. Try as I might to conform to their methods it did not work for me. Later I would figure out that duplicating the system is what would work, not duplicating them.
In both our auto transport and health businesses, we found similarities. Building a business is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Starting with the basics like giving our customers a free quote. That seemed simple enough, yet the sales did not come. What were we doing wrong?
Later we found that calculating the free quote was an art. Specific key elements comprised the perfect auto transport quote and this resulted in a sale, our first. Finding an auto transport carrier to transport that customer's car was like the next piece of the puzzle. Again, there were specific measures we needed to take to cover our business as well as the customer's car. Now that puzzle started making sense.
Finally, after fourteen years in network marketing the puzzle pieces became clear. The missing piece to success was not in the puzzle at all. I was the piece of the puzzle that needed to be refined. Our ideal client did not want what we were offering. Aha! That is why there were no sales.
Just like in our brokering business, some and not others desire the health business. By leaning in, listening to what others wanted instead of being so bull headed and narrow-minded, I heard what they were saying. I realized that the inner student within me was ready to learn.
It all takes time
What do auto transport, health and jigsaw puzzles have in common? They all take time to learn. In business, there are options available sometimes that can take the learning curve and toss it on its ear. By taking advantage of those options, like a business coach or trainer, you can shave years off the time it will take you to learn the intricate details. This can set your business up for faster success and bigger profits. It can also save you precious time and valuable assets allowing you to avoid the traps and pitfalls already experienced by those who have gone before you.
What my friend and I discovered in our conversation is this. We never thought a year and a half ago that we would be where we are today in business. The one thing we both learned and put into action was to listen to our ideal client and give them what they want. We learned it is not about us and our wants and desires. When we help others get what they want, serve with a pure and honest heart, our desires and goals happen because we helped someone else.
So, if you have a desire to build a business, whether it is in auto transport or a health business, lean in, listen to your ideal client. Decide to work with a business coach, avoid the pitfalls and traps waiting in the shadows for you. Set your business up for success and your hearts desire will come true, too.
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New Auto Transport Business or Business As Usual
Facing our fear head on
Over the past six years or so of building our auto transport business, I have spoken with thousands of prospects on the phone. Each day brings new types of people into my life in one way or another.
Having always worked in customer service talking with people over the phone is nothing new. Except today was different, we hosted a conference call and I was the guest speaker. That was different; I was scared out of my wits.
My stomach tied in knots. I was weepy all day long for no apparent reason. Answering many phone calls, my normal tone and service came through just fine. What was the matter with me?
Paralyzed with fear it hit me. This fear was about how this conference call would turn out. Would I give them what they wanted? I wondered if they would like me as a person? Where did these doubts come from? Do you suppose it is resistance?
Finally, my coach's voice rose up from the recesses of my brain. Sandi emphasizes that we need to FOCUS! It is NOT about YOU.
She was right; this conference call is about helping those that have reached out in desperation. They want to get their most pressing questions answered about auto transport brokering. They want what I did not get; they want to be sure, they are making the right choice in business before jumping off that bridge.
All right, it was time. It was time to call the number and begin. (Deep breath)
Time flies by when you are prepared
As my fingers dialed the phone, well actually punched the keys (can you tell I am still shaking and old school) I fumbled to find the right number. Instant Tele-seminar emailed me the link, why can I not find it now.
Setting my Outlook Calendar to remind me of the time, I checked it regularly. Regardless if a client calls came in, I did not want to answer and get tied up only to be late to my own call. That part of my day went very well.
It was 3:30 PM, thirty minutes before the call began and there is a knock at the door. Who could it be the UPS deliveryman? Maybe it is someone unfamiliar with our area and they need directions.
No, it is neither. It is my mom who lives next door. She has pictures of my great-nephew to give to me. Adorable as they are and appreciative as I am it interrupted my schedule. The meditation I had done earlier flew out the window. These types of interruptions happen all the time while working from a home office.
It was a nice break to get my mind off the butterflies multiplying in my stomach. The nervous reaction of tears falling concerned her. The oldest of her children, I am the strong one and tears are rare to be seen falling down my cheeks. I explained what I was doing and why.
She smiled and said, "It is no different than standing in the front of the room giving a demonstration like you did in 4-H. isn't it the same as giving a business presentation for your vitamin company? You will do just fine. Take a deep breath and start". With a hug and a kiss on the cheek out the door, she went leaving me to face my fear.
There will always be firsts
The crackle of the phone line indicated I was in. As I said hello others responded in kind. Fumbling to find the right control in the seminar control panel, we chatted to break the ice. Callers introduced themselves and mentioned what state they were calling from.
After introductions, I told them we would be recording this call. Go to a quiet place and grab a piece of paper and pen because there was a ton of information to cover all within an hour. With the recording started, lecture mode chosen I started with my personal story.
Ten minutes into the call something made me question if the recording was right. Clicking back into group call, I asked if they had heard anything, I had said. Across the board the answer was NO. Great, now what would I do?
My instant reaction was laughter. Actually, it was more of a very nervous giggle, but I hoped that they could understand. Within minutes, we continued the call in a group setting asking them to hold all questions to the end.
Finally, on a roll, my throat started to get dry. Thanks to my coach, sharing that she always had peppermint water sitting by her phone when she talked to keep her voice crisp and clear. Yes, it worked.
As anything we do for the first time, it went so-so. Doing my best to control the perfectionist in me I patted myself on the back and said well done. I know that the next call will be better. Each time we overcome our fear and conquer it, we become stronger and more confident.
The same will happen for our coaching students who were on that call. Once they make the decision to go for it, the rest will get easier. There will always be a first for everything, one first client, one first booking, and one first phone call. I still remember the first dispatch call that secured the first dollar our auto transport business made.
By facing my fear of speaking to those interested in becoming an auto transport broker on the call another level of confidence rose within me. The next call will be easier, more relaxed and hopefully my technical skills will improve, too.
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Angry Auto Transport Customers and How We Learned to Empathize
The preconceived ideas left behind
Our trip to Ireland, the land of my husband's family and the euphoric state we were still in was soon to end. Heading back home to our auto transport business had to take priority now. The memories we held in our hearts of the touch of our little granddaughter's hand brought a smile to our faces. The thoughts of past times and people living in the monstrous castles of Ireland burned in our memory for good. Those preconceived ideas of old castles and life in Ireland were left behind.
Those were the good memories we brought back home with us. However, the trip was not over yet. The lessons we were about to learn would be way out of our comfort zone. We would soon find out that we did not know the true meaning of being humble. Do you find lessons in the oddest places too?
Heart-wrenching sad goodbye
Our flight out of the Cork airport left early in the mist of the morning. Unlike airports in the U.S.A., there are no services available when the first flights are boarding. Leaving our family and the lovely island of Ireland was hard enough, but without coffee, it was horrible.
Final hugs and kisses were flying all over the place as all three of us tried to get to our daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law one last time before disappearing out the door to the tarmac for boarding. Tears froze on my cheeks as I tried my darnedest to hold the floodgate of tears back…it did not work. As you can imagine, the sleeve of my coat was sopping wet by the time we found our seats and buckled our belts.
As the plane took off, the landing gear lifted up into position, I caught one final glimpse of the emerald island before we disappeared into the billowing white clouds above. Just like that, our family and Ireland were behind us.
Connecting flight and customs
The route our return trip took us through was different from our trip to Ireland. Our connection was in Amsterdam, Holland instead of Paris, France. After having found our way around in Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, we thought it would be simple on the way home. Wrong.
Amsterdam is an international airport and larger than Charles De Gaulle, or so it seemed. Wandering through the large terminals we almost got lost. All of us were hungry and looking for the food court.
At that time of the morning, McDonald's was not on our list of food choices. However, look as we might we could not find anything that remotely resembled an American breakfast. I am adventurous, but my son and husband are not. It turned out that we settled for a hot cup of coffee and a pastry or two.
Next, it was time to shop for souvenirs. Tulips are gorgeous and each dish came with its own soil just perfect to grow them indoors. Cute little wooden clogs painted white with tulips adorning the toes would serve quite nicely to prove we had at least been in the airport inside Holland.
The time came when we needed to locate our gate and get ready to board the plane for the long flight back to the U.S.A. This leg of the trip would take us through customs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As we rechecked, our baggage and entered customs the attendant flagged me over. I had no idea why they pulled me into the clearance area; nothing had changed since we left Ireland, or so I thought.
Do you remember the little bowl of tulip bulbs I purchased at the gift shop? The soil that came with the bulbs could not leave the country. Do you wonder why it is a set if it is not allowed out of the country? I sure did. Regardless, the soil was confiscated and they allowed me to keep the bulbs and bowl. I was not happy that I had lost the perfect soil to grow my tulips. I grudgingly handed the attendant my boarding passes and entered the plane.
For the next nine hours, our flight was uneventful. Settled into our seats we leaned back, closed our eyes and slept most of the flight exhausted from our whirlwind trip to Ireland.
This leg of our trip home reminded me that we should never take anything for granted. Just because the vendor in the airport sold the package of tulip bulbs with dirt in a bowl, it did not mean the package would pass customs inspection.
The same goes for owning your own auto transport business. We can never assume or take a customers auto transport for granted. We always need to work with a servant’s heart, providing the best possible customer service we can. Even if our customer is grumpy or yells at us over the phone our response needs to be calm cool and collected. It is our job to maintain a professional attitude and demeanor when serving all customers.
Come back next time for the concluding story of our flight home and the lessons international travel, old Irish castles and a new granddaughter taught us about the auto transport business.
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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
How To Serve An Angry Auto Transport Customer
Here to Serve,
Carla J Gardiner