Is it possible to be consistently successful with your delivery business as a contractor with Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats, Postmates, Instacart, Amazon Flex, or any of the others?
Especially in a year like 2020??? It’s like this year was created just to shout out to us how out of control we are.
And we are out of control of so much. But that’s okay.
Here’s my thinking on this: I think 2020 just proves to us how much more important it is to BE in control.
The key to surviving and thriving in 2020 is very much the key to surviving and thriving in any other year. It’s just that this year it becomes more important.
It’s all about what you CAN control.
I look at my wife’s garden in the midst of this Colorado drought. Some plants just wilt away. Some, you know they’re going to make it, and be so much stronger.
It’s all about the roots.
We can control what we’re rooted in. We can control our attitudes and mindsets. As individuals, and especially as independent contractors, we can learn from these characteristics of a good business owner.
Because you realize you’re a business owner, right?
1. A Good Business Owner Takes Ownership
It starts with embracing the role of a business owner.
You ARE a business owner. Don’t listen to the people who tell you otherwise.
Yeah, gig companies set up the independent contractor model to take advantage of us. Seriously, it was so they could weasel out of their obligation to employees. We all know that.
Because of that, you can give me all sorts of reasons I don’t seriously run a business.
And you’d be right.
IF I believed you.
But if I embrace my role as a business owner, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s all about your mindset. How you CHOOSE to see yourself makes all the difference.
Their choice to designate you as a business gives you the freedom to BE a business.
I’m the first one to tell you that Doordash, Grubhub and Uber Eats are weasels. They did not choose the independent contractor model for our benefit.
But that doesn’t matter. They contracted with you as a business. When they made that choice, they forfeited the right to control you.
Instead, they entered a business to business relationship with you. They can’t control another business. You have the freedom to make your decisions on how to run your business.
Ownership means taking ownership of your own destiny.
I heard this earlier this summer on the Gary Vee podcast:
“Everything is your fault. That’s a good thing. That means you’re in control.”
There’s a huge lesson in that.
I think this is THE most important mindset for us as independent contractors.
It’s important even if you aren’t one.
This isn’t about dragging yourself down and beating yourself up when things go wrong.
It’s about recognizing that you are in control.
Like I said earlier, there’s a lot we cannot control. However, there’s far more than you realize that you CAN control. Once you take that attitude, you’ll be amazed how much you accomplish.
Simply by controlling things you CAN control.
These companies will try to screw you over. As long as you take the attitude they are in control, they’ll be able to do it.
But when everything is your fault and not theirs, that means you can’t be their victim. It means you get to make the decisions, the pivots, the changes that you need to make.
You get to decide what to do.
When people started being able to get their videos without going to a store, Blockbuster dug in on the store model. Some of you are saying “who’s Blockbuster?” That’s my point – they’be been out of business long enough that some people may not recognize them.
The time might come when the things out of your control make your business model obsolete. Blockbuster couldn’t change the technology that made them obsolete. But they could decide when to change the business model.
Doordash isn’t cutting it any longer? Why do you only have one customer? What IS cutting it? How can you pivot?
Everything is your fault. That’s a good thing. It means you’re in control.
2. A Good Business Owner is Purpose Driven
Another key to your success is, you understand your why.
Is this a thing to do just because it’s a thing you can do?
Or is it something bigger and deeper? Is there something deeper?
The episode I maybe tell people to listen to more than any other is Episode 3: Know your why. Understand why you’re doing this.
The whole point of it is, go deep with that question. Seriously, dive in very very deep. Why are you delivering? You might say the money. But why do you want the money? To feed my family. Why is that important? My family means everything.
See where I went with that? The why there wasn’t the money – it’s family.
Why is the why so important?
Because the thing is, the more you are in tune with what really matters, the more you can do something about it.
It motivates you.
It keeps you centered.
When the crap happens on deliveries – bad tip, horrible restaurant experience – you can choose. Do you focus on the crap or on your why?
Dwell on the why, not the what. Because then you’re not just dropping off food here and there. Now, you’re doing something to help you with your why.
Focus on your why. It’ll get you a lot further.
3. A Good Business Owner is Strategic
You have a plan.
You aren’t just going from one place to the next. It’s not just doing deliveries.
You are looking at the big picture.
Your why is your vision for the picture. Your plan is how you’re getting there. You’re figuring out how to get there.
We had to do a project in wood shop in Jr. High. I decided on a bookshelf – something that would especially fit around my stereo.
Jr. High, stereo, wood shop… I’m really dating myself here, aren’t I?
I had a vision. I knew what I wanted. So I started cutting boards. And sanding and finishing… and putting it together.
It kind of resembled a bookshelf. In a very lopsided abstract way.
I didn’t create a plan. I never stopped to think through how I was putting it together. And how would everything be stable when I got it done? When I put weight on the shelf, it kind of did this sideways like a house of cards collapse.
What part of the bigger picture is this delivery business for you?
Where do you want to go?
Do you know where you want to go yet? Have you played your why out to its fullest extent? What’s the ultimate end to that why?
What do you want to do when you grow up?
How do you get there?
A good business owner doesn’t just settle on the current existence. There’s a bigger picture. It’s all part of getting somewhere. There’s an exit plan. There’s a ‘what’s next?’
Where do you want to be? How will you get there? How does your delivery business fit into that picture? At what point does your delivery business no longer fit? What’s next?
You don’t have to know all the answers right now. I don’t know all mine.
But you should be searching. And take advantage of all this drive time – do you realize how much with podcasts and audio books you can do to prepare for that next step?
Always be working on your plan. And working your plan.
4. A Good Business Owner Understands Their Value
Know your worth.
Set your price.
One of the biggest arguments against the idea that we run a business is you can’t set your price. Grubhub and Doordash and Uber Eats set the fees and we have no say.
We absolutely do have a say. When the fee they offer isn’t enough, we say no.
How do you determine your price?
You can start with your goals. What do you need to make? Have you thought that through?
How much time are you willing to put into this to get what you need to make? What do you want to have left over after taxes, your REAL car expenses and other costs?
There’s no one way to set your price. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that dollar per mile is the only way to go. Don’t listen to me when I tell you my fifty cent rule is the only way to go.
When I was in telecom, we set our equipment prices as a percent markup from what it cost. It was easy that way. I knew another guy who, when cigarettes went up in price he raised his price accordingly. It was quirky but he actually did a lot better than we were because he was more willing to charge based on what people were willing to pay.
I took what I wanted to earn and the time available and came up with 50 cents a minute or $30 per hour.
Using that 50 cent rule I judge deliveries by that rate. It has to pay 50 cents a minute. The decision’s quick an easy – double the dollars of the offer and ask if I can do it in that many minutes or less. For example, a $5 delivery needs to be done in 10 minutes or less or I won’t take it.
My price is 50 cents per minute. If the delivery doesn’t meet that price, there’s no sale.
You’re a business owner. Set your price.
5. A Good Business Owner is Decisive
How do you determine what orders to take and which ones not to? What’s your criteria for determining when you go out and deliver? How do you decide if Grubhub or Uber Eats is the best platform for the moment?
Is it a coin flip? Do you just go by your gut?
Or do you make business decisions?
A successful business owner is constantly making business decisions that are centered around the goals and purpose of the business.
Hey, selling these widgets could make a lot of money for us. But our business isn’t about selling widgets. (Does anyone remember McDonalds selling fried chicken?)
Start being intentional about the decisions you make for your business. Measure your business decisions against your business purpose (your why) and your business goals (your big picture).
Does this decision help you meet those? Or does it get in the way?
In telecom we used to have a technology mission statement. We’d advise our customers that a technology purchase should help them be more profitable or more competitive, and if it doesn’t do either, they shouldn’t buy it.
I use my 50 cent rule to help me with certain decisions. Every minute that I’m losing is 50 cents that I’m losing. If a decision is going to cost me time, is the reward going to make up for the fifty cents a minute I’m losing?
How are you measuring your decisions? Is it meeting your why? Is it getting you where you want to go?
6. A Good Business Owner Has Integrity
In other words, you give a crap about your product.
If you say you’re going to do something, do it and do it well.
There’s a clear line between being an independent contractor and being a lazy slob. I’m amazed at how many people can’t figure that out. Too many people take this stand that ‘you can’t make me do anything, I’m not an employee.’
But you are a business owner. Putting out a good product is even more important in that context than it is as an employee.
Understand your agreement with these companies.
You did not agree to be an employee.
You did not agree to make sure every customer gets a delivery. It is not your job to make sure that every single customer gets their food no matter the price.
That is the job of the employees of these delivery companies.
And you are not an employee.
Remember that you’re in a B2B business relationship. That’s business to business.
I mentioned the technology mission statement above. We sold our services in telecom based on how we could help businesses be profitable. We were providing tools to help them run their business better. But it was still THEIR job to implement the tools.
Your agreement is on a delivery by delivery basis. It starts the moment you accept a delivery offer and it ends when you complete the delivery.
Your obligation is to be damn good at what you agreed to do.
The moment you take a delivery, you agree to get the food to the customer as quickly and in as good a condition as possible. Here’s where your obligation begins.
Make no mistake about it: You DO Have an obligation here.
Don’t be that driver who thinks they can just stack up deliveries from multiple apps and it doesn’t matter if you make everyone wait forever because of it. Don’t be the one who treats the food carelessly or is rude with restaurants or customers.
Be awesome at what you agreed to do.
Once you commit to a delivery, you’ve agreed to a contract. Be a person of your word and do the best damn job you can do under that contract.
7. A Good Business Owner is Financially Responsible
The bottom line is, you have a responsibility to be profitable.
Did you catch the pun there?
Your responsibility is to your why. Your responsibility is to your big picture, to where you want to be. It’s to those who rely on you.
That means you have a responsibility to your business to make sure it can stay in business.
There was a diner that opened up not far from my place. I loved their food, it was a great place and really great people. And it was an incredible value.
I’m mad at them right now. The food and atmosphere were so good, they could have charged more. But they were losing money and they had to close. And because they didn’t take care of their business, one of my favorite places to eat is gone.
Understand your business finances.
Understand that the money you make is not the money you get from Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub or other gig companies.
What you make as a business owner is what’s left over after your costs. Your take home is what’s left over after expenses, taxes, and benefits.
Know what it actually costs to operate your business. If you drive a car, know what it really costs to operate it (far more than just gas and the occasional oil change).
Take money out for your car and taxes as it comes in. I calculated how much my car costs to operate, and I save based on 30 cents a mile. Set that money aside until you need it because you WILL need it. If you don’t do this, you’ll pay the price when your car wears out or when Uncle Sam comes knocking.
I would go so far as to recommend taking money out to cover paid time off. Possibly some other benefits or retirement?
And then pay yourself the difference.
Don’t make the mistake of passing on those things when the money left over isn’t enough. A good business owner recognizes that if that money’s not enough, they either have to find out how to increase it or move on from a bad business plan.
There are two major issues that derail couriers: Car repairs and taxes. If you’re taking care of business with your money, you avoid both of those issues.
Be the Boss.
I think there’s a lot of ways that numbers 2 through 7 are all sub sets of number 1.
It’s about attitude. It’s about saying that I’m taking this on, I’m going to control my own destiny.
I’m going to be the boss.
Because when you’re the boss, you can’t be a victim of whatever these gig companies do with their policies. And you can’t be a victim of circumstances.
This is because you’re taking control. You’re controlling what you can control and not letting yourself be limited by what you cannot.
It’s tough sometimes, you know? Life’s easier when I can blame everything on Grubhub or Doordash, or on Covid or whatever circumstances. But I gotta tell you… it’s amazing the difference that happens when you decide, everything is your fault. Because now you’re in control and you’ve lifted so many of the limitations holding you down.