Two weeks ago, I was invited to the Montana State Association tow show.  They paid my expenses, and I was a guest speaker at their dinner and held a 3-hour seminar on towing business in general.  Some of the topics were:

  1. The Owner – As an owner, you wear many hats, and you better be prepared to fit in each one of them.
  2. Leadership – Some people were not meant to be leaders, yet, as the owner, you are expected to lead.
  3. Business Plans – It is important to have a business plan, so what does it take to create one?
  4. The Budget – Following a good business plan, we created a budget and discussed at length the importance of knowing your business.
  5. Avoiding Burnout – How many times have you woken up and said, “I do not want to go to work today” especially in an area where the climate might be below zero or over 100 degrees. I guess no matter where you are, there is always something.
  6. When to Sell – This is a topic they wanted to talk at length on. It was not that they were ready to sell but knowing how to sell would make their business better. Here are a few things we discussed:
    1. Know when to sell the business. Timing is everything.
    2. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you put together the sales package. It was the best $500 I spent when I sold my business.
    3. Don’t have high expectations. You can get what you think it’s worth, but you must work to get there.
    4. Tell your employees what you are planning and make sure they are happy.
    5. Make sure your customers are happy and let them know you may be selling.
    6. Pay off as much debt as possible. The first time someone wanted to buy my company I was disappointed because they offered me almost nothing.  They showed me how they evaluated my company.  For the next 6 months, I prepared to sell based on what I was told.  When I sold, I got more than I was asking.
    7. Have a good list of assets.

Even though the tow companies were not ready to sell, our discussions gave them things to work on to improve their business.  I got the feeling towers are in it for the long haul.

I’ll say one thing about the tow companies in Montana–they all were like family.  Their show was small with maybe 500 towers, but they covered a lot of information.  They held several classes besides mine and made valuable information available.  It seemed like we were always eating or drinking.  Their hospitality was 2nd to none, and I can’t say enough about the state of Montana.  I had all day Sunday to explore, and we did.  My wife and I put over 800 miles on the car just on Sunday.  What a beautiful state even if they just got 40 inches of snow!

Let’s get back on track.  The major part of our class was our discussion about employees, especially drivers.  I learned over the years how tow companies are constantly complaining about their drivers.  I never understood that because that’s the biggest asset you have.  I tell everyone in my classes that we all have the same trucks, dispatch software, and we can go after the same accounts.  The only difference between you and your competition is your employees.  I talked to a lot of tow companies and for some reason, they don’t like their drivers or get along with their drivers.  When I ran my company, I would hug my drivers every chance I got.  They made me money, and I treated them like gold.

One of the main topics we discussed for over an hour was “Where do we find the driver of the future?”  We had 40 tow companies in the room, and the discussion was awesome.  It seems like all the associations worry about training, and not the next generation of towers.  Just about every tow company needs drivers.  We talked about things like:

  1. Starting some type of classes in high school like mechanics or anything relating to mechanics will help students transition into tow-related jobs. When I ran my business, I went to a high school in Dallas and took 2 students twice a week for a half a day and let them work at my storage yard.  I ran my own auctions, so they started cars for me.  They got school credit, made a little money, and were happy to be at my storage yard.   My company got recognition for helping the Dallas school district.  Keep in mind that not every student is meant for college.  I recently paid a plumber $145 for an hr. to fix my toilet.  There were two tow company owners in the class that had college degrees, but they were not using them.  There are no degrees in towing.
  2. The second topic of discussion was a trade school for towing. If 40 tow companies in Montana came up with an idea for a trade school for towing, think what a few associations could put together if they tried.  Take three retired towers, pay them a small salary, and let them work with high schools and trade schools to create drivers for the future.  If the national association backed a program that created drivers, it would get the support of all the associations nationwide.
  3. The president just initiated a program to take ex-convicts and find them a good job in society. Since they all have tattoos anyways, let’s make them tow truck drivers.  If we worked at it, we could probably get some government assistance to pay for their education.  We could work with truck manufactures and let the government help buy trucks.  Now you have an educated driver with his own truck ready to make you money.

As an industry, these are the things we should be discussing rather than more testing.  I’m ready to take this to the next level if anyone is with me.