Today’s story answers a question not asked often enough: Am I able to successfully go into business on my own? Do I have what it takes or should I remain an employee instead of an owner?”
Meet RD. Now in his mid-50s and driving big rig trucks all of his adult life across the country, RD, “Saw the money that owner-operators were making and I felt this is the time for me to get into my own trucking business,” he explained, his wife sitting next to him, her face communicating deep worry.
To my paralegal Anne, RD’s face had three words written on it in flashing neon: I AM A SUCKER! And she told him that.
Now, in order to become an owner-operator trucker, you need a truck, so off to “Diamond Motors” went RD, finding a 10-year-old Volvo big rig, “With a 90-day guarantee from Diamond,” making me feel very secure,” he explained.
Maybe that was why he never took the truck out for a test drive before buying it, signing up for a predatory interest rate loan and outrageously expensive insurance for the vehicle.
You need to take delivery of the truck in Las Vegas
“My salesman, Cody, said that we should all drive to Las Vegas, take delivery and register the truck there to save California tax and registration fees. I didn’t understand that but agreed because I trusted Cody and off we went. But the truck broke down outside of Las Vegas! I told them I’m not accepting this truck, but they made me sign all the contracts!” he related.
He was lied to. RD would still owe those fees here and as the truck’s smog certificate showed that it was not California permitted, it could not be legally driven in this state. He didn’t know this nor did he take the time to research “Diamond Motors” before dealing with this outfit. Their name, as well as “Cody's”, appear on internet reviews that are not flattering.
We phoned Cody at the lot and Diamond’s corporate office, asking for comment. “Oh they will get right back to you,” a charming receptionist told us. Responsible management would have.
We are still waiting for those calls.
Something that can’t be taught
“You can’t teach savvy and street smarts,” Dr. Lyle Sussman, author, consultant, and professor of management at the University of Louisville commented when I discussed RD’s unbelievably naive decisions.
“While there are many things that can be taught, you can’t teach a sense of how to do things correctly and to consider the potential consequences of your behavior. All of the other material about finance, marketing and management, these are simply to-do lists which rest upon common sense, which can’t be taught,” he stressed.
“When aware the truck was not legal to drive in California, that he could save money by registering it in Nevada and especially when the vehicle broke down when asked to sign the contracts, anyone with common sense in RD’s situation would have said, ‘Do you think I am crazy? I’m not going to do this!”
“You see this lack of common sense with people shopping for a car, looking at the MSRP price sticker. Surprisingly some people actually pay it, unaware that it is only a starting point for negotiations over price. To me, this is the complete absence of common sense. Car dealers make money off of people who lack common sense,” he observes.
We asked Sussman, “So, who should not go into business?”
“It is someone who walks through the world as if everyone can be trusted as if everyone is good and everything that is said to you doesn’t have to be questioned or challenged. An important aspect of having common sense is critical thinking. If you lack critical thinking, do not go into business for yourself.”
Desperate to get into business - a dose of reality sorely needed
The longer we talked with RD, something so sad became apparent. Here was a man desperate to become a better provider for his family, seeing what owner-operators can earn.
“Do you really think that your husband has the skills to be in business?” Anne asked his wife, “Well, I guess, I mean, he wants to,” she replied.
With one weak, naive partner in a marriage, it can survive. With two, you’ve got a real problem.
“Listen to me, RD,” I said. “You guys knew me for years and yet did not come here before buying that truck. You are not cut out to run a business, so don’t!”
“No, Mr. Beaver, I will! I will make it. But I have a question for Anne. How can I change my face?”