Best Practices, Delivery & Installation, Operations, V10I2

Guts, Stamina, Willpower, and Just Flat-out Stupid Luck

(Photo courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

Someone asked me this question: “Recently, I’ve heard from some haulers who are having trouble staying motivated to keep going with hauling. Whether it’s regulations, customer challenges, or equipment problems, they’re feeling beat down and worn out. 

“What tips can you offer? How do you stay motivated to keep hauling?”

What a great question. I’ll start with a story. 

Somewhere in the middle of three years of running 100,000 miles a year and delivering off nine lots scattered over 400 miles, I had a really bad day one day. 

And I really wanted to throw in the towel.

It all started reasonably well. Tuesdays and Thursdays started at 3 a.m. in order to make the big 600-plus-mile loop and cover my Georgia area. 

Leaving at 3 a.m. would help make sure I got through Atlanta before all the zombies landed on the highways … most of the time. It would also put me on my first lot before daylight for an early start. Most days I would crawl back in my bed between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

On this day, it was going to be tight. Two deliveries in Columbus, a playset in Cuthbert, two deliveries in Albany, a pickup in Cordele, and a delivery in Madison. The Madison one would be set in the dark, no doubt … if everything went perfectly.

So much for that. The second one off Columbus would shatter that plan. 

Now here’s the deal. I pride myself in training my sales guys to do a good job selling a barn, and if they detect any hesitation, they go do a site check. I mean, I hired them, and trained them, they should be good, right? 

This lady had proven to be questionable, so both the sales guy and the manager had gone out and done a site check. They were concerned but assured me that we could get it in there. I mean, it was only a 12 by 24. (That was a decent size shed in 2014. Our largest available was 12 by 36.)

Pulling into the gated driveway, I just sat there and stared. Right in front of me were two huge gnarly old Southern oak trees. There was no way this shed would fit through them. 

As a small business owner, the first thought that went through my head was, “If I can’t make this delivery today, this whole day is bust.” 

Because not only do I lose the delivery, but I also lose the sale. And this was a good cash sale. Nice, upgraded shed. But there was no way.

Grumbling to my son, I got out and grabbed my tape. “Do I measure the trees or the shed first?” I muttered. 

The shed roof metal was 12 by 6 ½. I scowled and then moved the ladder over to the trees. Yep, 12 by 4. My cloud got blacker.

I stood there on the ladder and watched the ants run around on the rough bark, scampering this way and that. Heard the wind whisper in the trees. Birds were chirping cheerfully. Bessie’s diesel was purring. 

And then, I heard gravel crunching. Someone was walking toward me. Crunch, crunch, crunch. With a slight limp. Old. I looked down from my perch. 

There stood a little lady looking like she had stepped right out of a Southern Living Magazine. Brilliant white hair wrapped up in a swirl bun right on top of her head. I mean, she even had the apron on. 

“Is there a problem?” She looked very worried. Man, I was glad those two crooks I had hired weren’t standing right in front of me. No wonder they sold her this shed. This little gal was sweeter than a meadow of clover on a hot summer day.

“Your shed won’t fit,” I sighed miserably. 

She jumped a bit. “Oh, but it must!” she cried.

“Well, it won’t,” I said. “If we take the metal roof off, it might, but I do not have time for that today.” 

“Oh, but I must have my shed today!”

I studied her for a moment. This little lady was the gal who was worried about me driving over her cat cemetery.

Worried I would hit her porch. Worried that I would damage her shrubs. 

“I can do it under one circumstance,” I said shortly. “I wedge it between these two trees and hope for the best. 

“It will most definitely make some scratches on your trees up there, and tear up the metal roof, but I can have the guys come replace that later. That’s what I can do today.” 

And I waited. She looked at me, shocked. 

“Ma’am, I need to know.” She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Her brow wrinkled up. 

“Never mind,” I said. “I will take it back to the lot and the guys can take the metal off and we can reschedule for two weeks from today.” 

I turned and folded up my ladder to walk back towards Bessie.

‘No!” 

I stopped. “Huh?” I squeaked out.

“No,” she said again, “do what you must.” 

I showed her the damage waiver I always kept with me. “You know you signed that I’m not responsible for damage to your property, correct?” 

“Yes,” she whispered. “I know.”

Forty-five minutes later, we were headed back out. I managed to only scrape one tree, and only three pieces of metal needed replacing.

Her cats, bushes, and porch were all untouched and safe. She was tickled pink.

Getting back to the lot, I walked into the office. “Okay,” I barked, “which one of you two clowns missed the tree at the entrance?”

“Trees? What trees? There are trees?” 

I could have fired both of them right there. They had both missed the two massive trees. Right there.

At 2 a.m., I crawled in bed. “I quit,” I muttered to my wife.

We need to address the fact that shed hauling takes special people. Abnormal, out of the box, people. People who thrive on a challenge, on variety, on chaos, and just overall hecticness. 

They don’t like mundane, every day same old same old. Don’t send them in to punch and click and sit at a desk, machine, or even a bay in a shop. They won’t be happy. 

They like spice. Chrome. Lights. Flashy. Black coal smoke. 

And, they have an insatiable desire to help others. To do the impossible. Can’t be done? Just say so, and presto, it’s done. To be committed long-term, you must be like that. 

A lot of guys jump in because the money “looks good,” when in reality it is a very complicated piece of the puzzle. 

They see the shiny rigs, innovative equipment, flashy lights, black smoke, and all the positive features of it. So, I’m not at all surprised people are burning out. 

It takes a lot of guts, stamina, willpower, and just flat-out stupid luck some days. You must have the desire to please and to serve.

Throw in dealing with the public all day and you have a recipe for a very interesting time. Every day requires your A game. In this industry, a B game will get you destroyed. C? Don’t even try.

First, you must have it. That knack. That tick. Every day offers different opportunities and different challenges. Yes, from regulations, permits, the DOT, customers, suppliers, dealers, jobs, equipment, and sheds.

Nothing stays the same. Every job is different. Every job has a challenge. Willpower. Stamina. Grit.

Second, pace yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will your hauling business be. Start looking long-term. Not just six months but six years. That’s hard for shed haulers because they are “get ’r’ dun” people. 

You must set goals. Shed guys fuss about equipment costs. They want to pay today. Play tomorrow. But it takes long-term efforts.

Third, remember that you are on a team. Be a part of the team and use that team. 

That goes for your relationships, too. You also must have your own team. A team of people you can count on. A team at home.

Other haulers. Mechanics. Repair shops. There is always a team—if you want to win.

Fourth, diversify. Find something else, a side gig, hobby, some project, anything, to take your mind off the constant stress. Maybe start selling sheds, too. 

Build window boxes. Shutters. Ramps. Cupolas. Windmills. Wood ones. Metal ones. Install your ramps, boxes, and shutters. Start washing trucks. Polish. Install lights. Radios—learn how they work. 

There are all kinds of things to do and make extra cash and take your focus off shed hauling. Learn how to sell online. I did, and I can help you. Always try to learn.

Fifth, learn to say no. Say it. No! Every morning, practice in the mirror. 

You can’t do everything. Sure, sometimes you must. No.

Finally, slow down. In everything. 

Live. Breathe. Smell the flowers. Hold a kid. Kiss an angel. It’s a good life, after all. 

You will be amazed at how much difference it makes in your equipment, also. Your customers. Your team.

Phew. I could write a whole book on this.

Note: If you turn a shed up on edge, much like a couch, you can gain just a little breathing room at the top where that dad-blasted metal insists on sticking out too far. 

Just a squeak.                  

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Current Issue

June/July 2024