To honor Black History Month, we are pleased to highlight two exceptional carriers who have been long standing clients of Thunder Funding; Shalena Armstrong from S. Armstrong Trucking and Mike Johnson from MAJ FreightHaulers and how they have excelled in building their trucking businesses.
Shalena’s trucking journey began when she found herself in search of a new path after her post-military plans fell through. She was a company driver for Schneider for about a year and leased her first truck a year into trucking.
Shalena faced some setbacks at the beginning of her trucking career. She was having trouble acquiring a loan to buy her first piece of equipment because she was still new to the industry. When asked if she would’ve done anything differently with the knowledge she has now, she said that she would’ve done more research about the industry. Knowing the importance of having experienced drivers and how to effectively run a business is extremely important when starting out.
Shalena feels very strongly about spreading the knowledge and is happy to share her experiences with those interested in breaking into the trucking industry. The following are Shalena’s top pieces of advice to future trucking business owners:
- First and foremost, learn as much as you can about trucking, “don’t jump into it.”
- Business owners should get their Commercial Drivers License right away and understand the driving laws..
- When hiring drivers, make sure you hire more seasoned drivers.
- And her most important piece of advice - NEVER purchase a truck in full. In trucking, it’s important to always have cash in hand because you don’t know when something is going to breakdown, truck motors breakdown all time and if you don’t have money to fix it (it can be as much as 30k to fix a truck motor) your whole operation will suffer and you can go out business.
Through it all Shalena really loves what she does, and the thing she has enjoyed the most in her trucking journey is to see how her business has taken on a life of its own. She has been able to scale her business very quickly and buying trucks has become a sort of addiction, she started purchasing 3 trucks in one year and then she found herself with more than 10 trucks in the years that followed. “I just couldn’t stop buying trucks!” - Shalena Armstrong, S. Armstrong Trucking
Mike Johnson’s trucking journey was a bit different from Shalena’s. Mike wanted to be in trucking ever since he was a “tiny grasshopper”. Back in the day Mike planned to go to college in his hometown of Chicago, but he moved to Atlanta, Georgia and his plans changed. He had a management position at a Waffle House for a while. It was at the restaurant where he learned good leadership skills and how to be business savvy. Although he was doing really well, it just wasn’t what he was truly passionate about.
He worked in construction for some time where he got a chance to see the tuckers coming and going from the construction site and noticed how happy they looked all the time. In 1996 he took the plunge and got his first job as a driver. He worked as a company driver for 20 years, during this time he got a chance to talk to a lot of owner-operators and learn about the trucking business. Mike came to understand from his interactions with these business owners that although he was making decent money as a company driver, being an owner-operator was where the REAL money was at.
Mike did his due diligence and researched as much as he could about owning his own trucking business, fast-forward to 2017 when he finally opened his own trucking company! When asked if he would’ve done anything differently in the beginning, he said no because he had done his homework and was able to avoid major hiccups along the way.
His advice to people wanting to open their own trucking business is to PREPARE AND DO YOUR RESEARCH! Also make sure you have a support system, like your family and friends, who can keep your spirits high even when things get tough. Trucking is an unforgiving industry so you need to educate yourself as much as you can and keep your expectations in check. You want to remove as many obstacles as you can because “it’s a downward slope once you start losing money”.
Mike's trucking business continues to expand, but he still keeps all of the admin work up-to-date by himself. With all the technology available like apps, load boards, and accounting software, being a business owner has never been easier.
“The best thing about trucking is the FREEDOM” - Mike Johnson, MAJ Freight Haulers
Although both of these trucking entrepreneurs took very different paths to success, their stories reveal that hard work and a willingness to keep learning and adapting can take your business to new heights!
For more information about Thunder Funding services be sure to check out this blog post: The Importance Of Broker And Shipper Credit Checks