How to Achieve Explosive Startup Growth
Many people assume that starting a business means working 16-24 hours a day for the first few years. While some people take this approach (and even think it helps!), it is not necessary. In fact, it might actually be counter-productive.
One of our readers, Tony D., raised the question about startup hours, and my response to him turned into a treatise on the basic steps to starting a courier and delivery service business and designing that business to fit your lifestyle goals.
After all, what fun is starting your own business if you can’t work decent hours and get eight hours of sleep a night?
Tony D. wrote:
“What about my hours, can I make a profit if I don’t operate 24hrs a day like the big guys? I mean I have to get some sleep in sometime, At least until I can hire additional help.”
Here is my rather lengthy reply:
No, you don’t have to work 24 hours per day like the big guys to make a profit.
In fact, I would think that you would kill your profit if you try to do that – and more importantly, you would have no life.
I started my courier service 20 years ago and can say that I have maybe received one phone call late at night for somebody who wanted a delivery. It just doesn’t happen that often.
My hours are a little longer than typical business hours. I generally work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. But this is not constant driving. I have breaks in there. For many years I did all of the driving by myself, and even then it was generally 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. normal-business-hour driving. And these days, I have drivers to help with deliveries, so I drive even less.
Of course, I don’t live in a major metropolis. Maybe if you are operating out of NYC or LA then all-night delivery may be a profitable niche. For the vast majority of courier service owners, however, you would go out of business trying to be open 24 hours a day, because you would never, ever get any phone calls.
What Your Ideal Clients Look Like
Out of all of my clients, 99.9 percent are businesses that are on a set schedule. Rarely do I ever get calls out of the blue from someone who needs a delivery that day. Rarely do I ever get calls from someone needing a one-time delivery. I have intentionally created my business this way.
I don’t advertise for express delivery or same-day delivery and definitely don’t offer 24 hour per day delivery. I only do scheduled deliveries because that is where the demand is and that is where the money is, at least in my part of the country.
When I started my delivery service, I figured most of my business would be from people needing deliveries immediately or within a couple of hours. It just didn’t work out that way.
The clients that I found wanted someone to pick up their mail at the post office at the same time every day, they needed inter-office deliveries every day at the same time, multiple times per day, or a pharmacy wanted me to deliver its medications every day at the same time.
These types of scenarios are what you are more likely to encounter. And frankly, these are the clients that you want. Maybe four or five times a year I get a phone call for a one-time delivery, and I usually refuse to do it.
One-time deliveries screw up my delivery schedule, and there’s no money in them. You do the delivery and that’s it, they may or may not ever call you again. What you want are clients that use you on a regular schedule — that way you can organize very efficient routes and maximize your income, while minimizing driving and expenses.
I have my schedules so tightly packed that one random delivery is just not worth throwing off the schedule and having to deal with invoicing one delivery and then making sure the client pays me.
It may be worth it as a new owner to take anything you can get, but once you’re established, you won’t want to waste your time with these non-scheduled deliveries. Your delivery schedules, for the most part, are going to be regular business hours because you will most likely be delivering things from one business to another business, during the hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
How to Find Your Ideal Clients
The other thing I want you to realize is you are not going to get a lot of phone calls, maybe just four or five A YEAR.
Unless you spend the vast majority of your money on advertising (not a good idea!), you are going to get most of your clients by hitting the streets, knocking on doors, making phone calls and building your network of contacts.
The overwhelming majority of my clients had never used a courier service before and had never even thought about using a courier service until I came to talk to them about what a courier service does and how we can help them in their business.
What this means is most of my clients never would have called me or any other courier service because they didn’t even know they had a need for a courier / delivery service. This is an industry built on relationships. People don’t just pick up a phone and call a random courier service.
You are going to have to make contact with your first potential clients and educate them. Once you get some clients set up, then referrals from existing clients will be your best source of new clients.
The fastest way to get started is to subcontract work with other couriers in your area, then check out our list of “Businesses Most Likely to Use a Courier Service” (in Zero to Sixty Documents Kit) and call these types of businesses first.
Also, join your local Chamber of Commerce and network with other local business people. You will soon be growing a list of contacts that will refer business to you.
Again, let me warn you:
If you think that advertising in the yellow pages and the newspaper, putting up flyers, and setting up a website will make the phone start ringing off the hook, think again. That strategy will not work and you will be out of business before you even get started.
This is absolutely the worst thing you can do! Don’t even think about it!
Why? Your first clients are going to come from active prospecting, not from advertising. Prospecting is getting on the phone, going door-to-door, and finding your future clients. Advertising is getting them to come to you. Prospecting is the fastest way to get new clients – advertising is the slowest.
I know this is probably disappointing news. The last thing most people want to do is to buy a suit and start knocking on doors, but that is the key to startup success.
When I started, “sales” was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. I am not the salesman type. I didn’t like asking for the sale and was frankly not comfortable even making the phone call to set up an appointment.
And “not comfortable” is an understatement. I was pretty much in full-blown panic attack at the idea of contacting clients and talking to them about my business and then trying to close the deal, but I did it. I did it because I was totally committed to making this thing work. There was no way I was going back to the cubicle life.
I was going to make this work if it killed me.
That is the attitude you must have, not only with the courier business, but starting any business or any new endeavor in your life. You must not do anything half way. You must be totally dedicated and determined to succeed.
That does not mean you will sell every client you talk to or that everything you try will work out. Expect to get far more rejections than not, but remember that it doesn’t really matter, it is all a matter of numbers.
If you sign only one out of 50 clients, then all you need to do is approach 500 potential businesses to have 10 clients. And remember, each active client you have is a future source of many referrals and much future business. So you won’t have to go door-to-door forever. But if you don’t, it will mean a long, slow startup for your business.
It’s all in the numbers. You must keep trying, you must keep making mistakes. Think of each mistake or each rejection as a rung on the ladder to success. We learn through trying and falling and getting up and trying again, just like learning to ride a bike! If you persevere you cannot fail.