How do you run multiple routes?

June 3, 2016
More and more distributors today are looking for another area to increase the size of their business.

It’s not a rhetorical question. As some successful distributors look for the next opportunity for their business, there are a number of challenges that multi-route operations face.

As a mobile tool distributor, you already wear a lot of hats. When you run a multi-route business, you’re adding more variables to the mix. In addition to increased inventory, sales and cash flow, not to mention larger orders and handling more warranties, you also have to consider alternative products stocked on each truck based on the customers served. Don’t forget about managing and tracking that inventory. Plus, consider who and how to hire for your staff.

This month’s cover story subject was particularly insightful. Georgia-based Goliath Tools & Equipment owner Myron Colley faces a unique set of challenges on top of this, because he not only oversees two routes with hired drivers for both (without running one himself), but also operates a storefront location.

Colley and his wife, Lisa, instead focus on the storefront location for Goliath Tools & Equipment. He also oversees two routes with hired drivers for both.

Since Colley isn’t running his own route, he’s constantly on the move visiting the storefront in Metter, Ga., or one of the two routes he manages in Augusta and Savannah, which are both 60 to 80 miles away, in opposite directions. Logistics and communication are key to his operation.

While talking with Colley, there were two distinct challenges I noticed, which can be attributed to any multi-route operation: hiring and inventory tracking.

Hiring employees

Any successful business operates with the right staff. But how do you recruit and maintain employees? They need to be self-starters, sales-driven, customer service-focused, and have the ability to work on their own.

You have to consider salaries, bonuses, and even benefits. Vetting drivers to ensure they meet your criteria, and will continue to perform even when you’re not with them on the route also means finding reliable and trustworthy candidates.

And as we go to press, Colley just brought on a third driver for another route established in Statesboro, Ga.

Tracking and operations

Colley will tell you, it’s difficult to have a streamlined means of tracking inventory and sales on the trucks. There’s no software available to independent distributors, that he (or I) am aware of that’s made specifically for multi-route operations that allows the manager full access to the system, while providing his drivers access to only some aspects.

As an example, inventory management should be controlled only by the business manager or owner.

Also as we go to press, I followed up with Colley and he mentioned he’s working with a software company to help develop a custom platform to service these needs.

Your businesses are always changing, and it’s thrilling to witness this evolution first-hand. 

About the Author

Erica Schueller | Editorial Director | Commercial Vehicle Group

Erica Schueller is the Editorial Director of the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group. The commercial vehicle group includes the following brands: American Trucker, Bulk Transporter, Fleet Maintenance, FleetOwner, Refrigerated Transporter, and Trailer/Body Builders brands.

An award-winning journalist, Schueller has reported and written about the vehicle maintenance and repair industry her entire career. She has received accolades for her reporting and editing in the commercial and automotive vehicle fields by the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA), the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), the Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Azbee Awards.

Schueller has received recognition among her publishing industry peers as a recipient of the 2014 Folio Top Women in Media Rising Stars award, acknowledging her accomplishments of digital content management and assistance with improving the print and digital products in the Vehicle Repair Group. She was also named one Women in Trucking’s 2018 Top Women in Transportation to Watch.

She is an active member of a number of industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC),  the Auto Care Association's Young Auto Care Networking Group, GenNext, and Women in Trucking.

In December 2018, Schueller graduated at the top of her class from the Waukesha County Technical College's 10-week professional truck driving program, earning her Class A commercial driver's license (CDL).  

She has worked in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry since 2008.

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