While it’s true that some of the largest haulage enterprises started from very humble beginnings, the one thing virtually all successful ventures share is a strategic, well thought out business plan. Often, writing a business plan can be perceived as being a tedious, time consuming chore only knocked up when the bank manager insists on it, however it is an exciting opportunity to establish a clear vision and direction for the future of your new business venture or strengthen the foundations of your existing haulage operation.
Plan the Plan
A good business plan needs to be written with a purpose in mind. Is it simply a road map for internal use, or is it to be used to seek funds from a financial institution or other third party investor? While a well-researched plan can be diversified and adapted to different purposes, the focus may change depending on what it is to be used for.
Covering the Basics
Whether you are planning for a large business or an owner-driver operation, taking on a limited number of haulage jobs, the basics of a business plan will cover the same: structure, strategies and financials. Before you begin, make sure that you have as much information to hand as possible, to ensure transparency and enable you to analyse and forecast accurately.
While the summary comes first in a business plan, it is best written last. It should be a clear, concise overview of your business – an ‘at a glance’ statement of who you are and what you do. Simple – if you do the hard work first!
The operations plan includes the details of the structure of your business; your premises (even if you’re an owner driver and your lorry is your mobile office); number and roles of members of staff; a review of your services in particular, what kind of haulage jobs you take on (do you specialise or diversify?); and any licenses, accreditations or registrations you hold, or are required to hold. The latter should also include memberships to any relevant industry bodies.
The marketing plan should include details of both your clients (potential and existing if applicable) and competitors. Ideally, you should also include a brief analysis of your sector of the haulage and logistics industry. Document any successful marketing strategies you have undertaken in the past and your key strategies for achieving future marketing targets.
This section includes your vision for the overarching future of your operations, your growth strategy for increasing the amount of haulage jobs you can take on and being able to sustain them, and all your key business goals. This section can be in the form of a vision or mission statement, or documented more formally.
The ability to analyse financials and forecast future projections comes down to accurate documentation in your business plan – from costs of premises and vehicle maintenance, volume of haulage jobs, right through to wages, cash flow, and creditors and debtors lists. If you’re just starting out, it is very important to indicate that the financial figures you’re including are forecasts only.
Any information you include in your business plan – including registrations, memberships, financials, and operational procedures – should include copies of documentation as verification of authenticity.
The Best Laid Plans…
The most successful business plan is an organic, ever-evolving document. Plan, just like rules, are made to be broken, and you should never be afraid to adapt your plan to changing circumstances. In fact, updating your business plan regularly is vital to keeping it relevant. The act of writing a business plan for a new business from the ground up, or dissecting an existing one, holds you accountable and gives you the opportunity for review, clarity and deeper insight into your market.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the world’s largest neutral trading hub for same day haulage jobs in the express freight exchange industry. Over4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe ‘wholesale’ environment.