The 5-Truck Hump

James Van

“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.” – General James Mattis

Why does it seem that new startups have trouble getting past a five truck fleet? Ok, it may not be exactly five, but there’s a good chance there’s a number that’ll push your business over the edge.

But, why?

Your business is doing well. You’re picking up a lot of work. Your customers are thrilled with the great quality of service. Obviously it’s time to add another truck or two to the fleet. The problem is, once you start bringing on all this new work, your dispatcher (you?) is having trouble keeping up with the volume. Your techs need your support, but you’re consumed with administrative work…and you (we all) hate administrative work.

Maybe you started off with just you and a couple friends hitting the streets and finding work. Maybe things were going well and you decided to hire a couple techs and a secretary or dispatcher to handle things in the office. You’re doing what you love, what you’re good at, and everyone is happy. But if you keep growing, things are going to change.

It might not be the sixth truck that puts you over the edge, but there will inevitably come a point where you need to invest in the overhead to support your growth. That’s not the answer you want to hear, because you hate overhead. You want techs, because techs are the ones that bring in money; you’re selling service after-all.

But to get over the hump, you’ll need some help; otherwise say goodbye to any chance of a night or weekend off, you’ll be putting in more hours that you thought possible…you’ll start to wonder why you started your own business in the first place.

But, here’s the thing (ever notice there’s always a “thing”…)

The good news is, adding that extra dispatcher or field supervisor isn’t just to cover that one extra truck. The new support will be able to handle several more trucks before you hit the next hump. So it would probably be a good idea to think about where you want to take your business. Do you want to grow? Do you want to expand into new markets or offer new services? Either way, your overhead structure is going to have to keep up…unless you love work so much that you want to live in the office 24/7.

But hey, family’s overrated anyhow…(insert Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the cradle” song here)

Not too many businesses want to get smaller, and status quo is not an option in a dynamic market, so think about where you want your company to be in the short and long term.

Think about the people, facilities, equipment, and other support you will need. Planned properly, it won’t just allow you to grow, it will allow you to continue to grow into the future.

Oh, and you’ll have a life too (cut to Harry Chapin song….)

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