In this episode I speak with Gary Christensen, owner of Christensen Delivery Service. Gary delivers all sorts of things for various companies in the areas south of Portland, Oregon. I talk with Gary about how he got started as a driver, how he made the transition to driving for himself (including what skills and resources he used from his time as a driver for his old company), how he picked up new clients, advertises, makes contracts, and how he maximizes his efforts.
Listen to the Podcast
Here are a few snippets from Gary’s story:
I was beginning to advertise, and to solicit jobs, for my own Delivery Business, while working full time, doing deliveries for another company. That company called one evening and said “Your services are no longer required.” Suddenly I was out of work, but I had already started to build my own business on the side, part time, I then started giving my part time business my Full Time effort. It paid off! I now operate my own “Christensen’s Delivery Service” as my full time business. It began as a part time venture, but, once I was laid off, I doubled my efforts. Now I have 3 contracts with local firms and I am continuing to seek other contracts. In this economy, one has to be thinking ahead, and try to be prepared for “something else” should you lose your job. Be seeking out something you enjoy doing. Start part time and do that, as much as you can, while continuing to work your full time job. Once you have the chance, double your efforts to develop your part time interest into a full time job.
Gary also shares some tips for people who want to start doing this on the weekends.
Read the transcript: click show
Welcome to the Part-Time Money Podcast, Episode 3: Making Money with a Part-Time Delivery Service. I am your host, Philip Taylor, creator of PT Money Personal Finance.
Part-Time Money Podcast is designed to help you discover new and interesting ways to make extra money and to learn the ins and outs of those money-making methods, not from me but from the people who are actually doing the work. Along the way hopefully you can pick up a few entrepreneurial skills to help you in whatever money-making pursuit you take on. In today’s episode I will be talking with Gary Christensen, owner of Christensen Delivery Service. Gary shares his story and provides some valuable insights into running your own business.
Philip Taylor: Alright, today I am here with Gary Christensen, and Gary has started a delivery service company. This is something he did in his career, and then he started doing it part time for other people and then was eventually let go by his main employer but was able to then use the side business to turn into a full-time business. So, we are going to learn today about delivery companies, how that business works, and Gary’s story. So, Gary, welcome.
Gary Christensen: Thank you.
Philip Taylor: Good to have you here today. So I guess maybe a good way to start would be to talk a little bit about your previous career working for other companies as a delivery driver and maybe how you got started doing that.
Gary Christensen: Well, it was back in 2003. I was applying for different companies, and one company called and said they would like to hire me but I needed to provide my own van. I didn’t have a van at that time. I shopped around and found a van. Really without knowing for sure if I would have the job, I went ahead and invested in the van. They put me to work the very next day, and I was driving for them. I would get up to the next city above Corvallis and pick up the number of packages that they had ready for me. They would take orders by phone and get the packages ready and then send them down to this other city. I would drive up there each morning, pick up my assortment of packages with kind of a list of different addresses where they had to go and head down and start delivering them, usually finish by 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Next day I would get up, go up there and get the next group of packages, and deliver them. I enjoyed it, being on the road and not really having a boss breathing down my shoulder, not really having a time clock as such. I was paid about $1.50 per package. So, there was quite a bit of delivering to do each day.
Philip Taylor: Awesome! Did you just make 1 main delivery every day?
Gary Christensen: Yes. And I had anywhere between 50 and 100 stops in a day.
Philip Taylor: I see. What type of business were you delivering for?
Gary Christensen: It was an office supply company. They would take orders and package them up and then have them ready for me each day.
Philip Taylor: Awesome! So, how did you find out about the job?
Gary Christensen: I think it was through an ad that I saw in the newspaper and called and applied as most people usually apply for work. I heard at that time that they needed me to have my own van, so that made me kind of think a bit, but once they hired me I said, “Yeah, let’s go for it.”
Philip Taylor: Okay. Awesome! Do you mind me asking how you went about getting the van? Was it a used van that you found somewhere? Did you go out and buy something new? Did you take on some debt? How did that happen?
Gary Christensen: Oh, it was a used van. I had seen it in a lot here in Corvallis. My wife and I went over there. I forget whether it was about $10,000 or $11,000.
Philip Taylor: Okay.
Gary Christensen: It only had 1 previous owner, and it was in good condition. We went to our bank, and we were able to get a down payment and put it on a loan. After about 3 or 4 years I think we had it paid off.
Philip Taylor: Awesome!
Gary Christensen: So it belongs to us now.
Philip Taylor: Good. So that was your main investment up front?
Gary Christensen: That was the biggest investment up front, yes.
Philip Taylor: So even just working for another company you had to invest some money initially?
Gary Christensen: Initially yes.
Philip Taylor: So were you a full-time employee for this company? Like you said they just paid you per package, right?
Gary Christensen: They just paid me for the package delivering, and it was a pretty good full-time job. I was usually up there by 6:30 or 7 to get the packages, all day delivering, and finished by 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
Philip Taylor: Okay. So was this full-time job enough to support you and your family financially, or did you have something else going on? Does your wife work?
Gary Christensen: Well, I had a part-time business that I was running out of my home. I was selling things through the mail.
Philip Taylor: Okay.
Gary Christensen: So, it was a good job, but the price per package or the amount of money that I earned per package just wasn’t that great. And then they started reducing. It went down to $1.15 per package and then down to $1.10 per package. I said, “This is crazy! We are just continuing to do the same thing for less and less money.”
Philip Taylor: Right. And I am sure gas prices weren’t helping you out there either.
Gary Christensen: No. No. Gas prices were still high, so I was just on the lookout for anything else that I could do.
Philip Taylor: Okay. So, how did you make the transition from working with only 1 company in this business to then taking it to a bigger level, looking for more clients and things like that?
Gary Christensen: Well, I knew that if I continued going at that rate, if they continued to drop the price per package that I was delivering, I would be out of work pretty soon or I would be to the point to where I just couldn’t afford to do it anymore. So, it kind of encouraged me to look around. And, of course, I said, “Well, I do have my own van, and if this company just doesn’t work out and I have to leave at some point, I do have my van, so what could I do with my van?” So I thought for a few moments and said, “Well, I’m already delivering. Why not just do my own deliveries, try to find customers that need me to deliver things for them?” So even then I had some cards printed up, and I was already starting to pass them around. As soon as my day’s work was done, I would stop in and visit with prospective clients and let them know that I was starting my own delivery business and was looking for work.
Philip Taylor: Okay. And how was that received, that approach? Obviously you were able to pick up a few clients that way?
Gary Christensen: Yes. In fact, one of the first places that I walked into, I guess they had a couple of college students that had a truck. It was about March or April, school was getting out, and they were deciding to disband, so they had just given their notice that Friday would be the last day. I walked in on a Thursday and said, “Yeah, I’m starting my own delivery business and wanted to find out if I could help you.” And they said, “Wow! We’re just losing our driver. Can you start tomorrow?”
Philip Taylor: Perfect timing.
Gary Christensen: So it was just perfect timing, yes.
Philip Taylor: So, I don’t know if you said it or not, but were these other office supply companies or what type of businesses did you go to?
Gary Christensen: I just began to think, “Well what kind of businesses do deliveries? What kind of businesses would need someone to deliver things for them?” Well, thinking along those lines, I said, “Well, furniture companies, they probably need somebody to deliver furniture for them. People come in and buy something, and they don’t have a way to get it to their house. Maybe they would need me to help them to bring that item from the store to their house.” As it worked out this one company was a used furniture company. They said, “Well, not only do you need to do deliveries, but we often get calls from people saying, well we have something we want to donate to your company, a used furniture item. Could you also go out and pick up those items?” So, it was kind of a double whammy. It was not only getting deliveries, but it was also doing pickups.
Philip Taylor: Okay. So just to clarify, you were still working for the office supply company, but then you were starting to do these other gigs on the side, right?
Gary Christensen: Yes.
Philip Taylor: Okay. So the office supply company, they seemed to sort of dictate to you what your rate would be. When you went out on your own, how did you decide how to set your rates in terms of delivery?
Gary Christensen: Yeah, it was something new that I had to try to figure out, and the neat thing was that this previous company who was doing the deliveries for them, they kind of gave me an idea of what prices they were charging, so that kind of gave me a base idea starting point what I could charge. They were charging people $25 for deliveries, so I said, “Yeah I can do it for $25.” And then this coming year, January 1, 2011, I am going to raise it up to $30, but it was a good way to start because I had someone that I could lean on, someone that I could ask questions, and then kind of go from there.
Philip Taylor: Right. So how long did you do the main gig with the office supply company while also handling other clients?
Gary Christensen: Well, it wasn’t too long of a transition because like I say they continued to drop our rates, and it was near the beginning of the year. I think it was March. I could kind of see it on the horizon that it wasn’t going to last much longer. Either they were going to fire me or I was going to quit. I just felt it in my bones that it was not going to last very much longer, so I had better get out there and do some things on my own.
Philip Taylor: I see. Well great. So, how would you say the side business helped you and your family financially? In other words, you were sort of making a steady rate there with the office supply company, but then you started going out on your own. Did you see significant gains financially, or did you sort of maintain? How did it take off for you financially I guess?
Gary Christensen: Well, I did have a second income coming in from this one company who needed me to take over and provide a delivery service for them because they had just lost the truck and drivers, so it provided a means of a second income. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it showed me number one that if I did lose my job, at least I had something to fall back on. It wasn’t a full-time position, but it showed me that I could find work on my own, and it I guess gave me confidence to believe that if something did happen, if I lost the job or decided to quit, that I probably could start this new business on the side. I could turn it into a full-time business.
Philip Taylor: I see. So, as far as time of day that you had to do these deliveries, I am just trying to think in terms of someone who might have a normal 8-5 job, is this a side business that would be good for someone with a normal 8-5 job, or would it really not work for that type of person?
Gary Christensen: Well, it kind of depends if you have some extra time during the day. Maybe you have a lunch hour you can go out pass out cards and talk to people. Possibly if you have a day off during the week or maybe even on Saturday, if you are not working on Saturday, go out there and promote yourself. Go out there and pass out more cards. Talk to people. Call businesses on the phone. Introduce yourself. Tell them what you can do for them. Anything that you can do on the side extra hours, part-time work, anything that you can do to build your business up is going to help you in the long run.
Philip Taylor: Right. So that is on the promotion side. But on actually doing the deliveries, do most companies require you to deliver during normal business hours?
Gary Christensen: Oh yes.
Philip Taylor: Okay.
Gary Christensen: My wife was a big help because when I did get a delivery, and if I was already on the route with the other company doing deliveries and I couldn’t do that delivery, I would call my wife and say, “Hey, can you go over and pick up that package and deliver it?” She had a van also. It was a family van. It had seats in it of course, but we took out the seats so she had room to carry larger packages, and she was doing some of those deliveries on the side while I was out in the route truck doing the normal stuff.
Philip Taylor: That makes sense. Okay. So, maybe if someone had an evening part-time job or evening full-time job, this might be something that could work for them because they could deliver during normal business hours?
Gary Christensen: Oh, I believe so.
Philip Taylor: Or maybe they could just start with a Saturday and do deliveries for a furniture company or someone who just needed maybe a delivery driver once a week?
Gary Christensen: Yeah, I was probably working more on Saturday than I was any day during the week because that was about the only day I had that I could do my own deliveries and try to supplement my income and try to build a customer base so that if I did lose this position, I would have something immediately to go into. And that is exactly what happened when I got notice that my services were no longer required. I immediately just the next day was out there beating the pavement even more and passing out more cards and talking to more people, so the transition was fairly easy.
Philip Taylor: So, for someone new to this idea, you said passing out the cards. How did you go about getting to the business owners? Did you just walk in a day or did you make an appointment? How did this process work of selling yourself to these businesses?
Gary Christensen: Oh, it was a little bit of both. While I was out there, I would pass out a flier that had some of my rates on it and prices for items going to local area or to the next city 10 miles away or another city that was 30 miles away. I had different rates listed for those for deliveries. So I was meeting people, talking to people, passing out this flier, and handing out my cards wherever I could and then was also talking to people on the phone after hours and sending mailings to them and letting them know what I did and what I could offer them. Little by little another company wanted information. I mailed the information to them, and then they called me and said, “We would like you to start working for us.” So, then I had another contract. A little while later another company called me, and they wanted me to do deliveries for them, so then I had a third contract.
Philip Taylor: I see.
Gary Christensen: So little by little it built up.
Philip Taylor: Okay. So what do these sales contracts or service contracts look like?
Gary Christensen: Well, the second one that I worked for was a company that like an urgent care would take in patients and do a preliminary exam, and then if they took a blood draw or some kind of scraping or a specimen of some sort, they didn’t have their own lab, so they needed to send it up to our local hospital which was about 5 or 6 miles away, so I would pick up the specimen and run it up to the hospital. They provided me with a contract. They said, “Well can you do this and this and this, and we will pay you this for each one of these and this for each one of those?”
Philip Taylor: I see.
Gary Christensen: So they printed up the contract, and I looked it over, and I signed it. That is how I officially got that second contract.
Philip Taylor: Okay great. Would there be a time period associated with the contracts?
Gary Christensen: The first, that specimen company, the initial contract was for 2 years.
Philip Taylor: Oh great.
Gary Christensen: From October 2008 till October 2010. Then they renewed the contract just a few months ago.
Philip Taylor: Oh that’s great. So, that can give you some confidence in your business and somewhat of a feeling of stability I guess that you can rely on that client and move forward with them. That’s good.
Gary Christensen: Yes, and you try to do of course the best job that you can do, and whenever they call you to show up as quick as you can, to deliver things efficiently, to get a signature or whatever is required so that you have proof of delivery. They have just been great. They have been great to work with, and like I say, they have just recently renewed our contract at a higher rate, so I guess they’re pleased.
Philip Taylor: Awesome! So how many companies are you working with now to do delivery service?
Gary Christensen: On a regular basis I’ve got 5 contracts. This has been since 2007, so within 3 years I’ve got 5 contracts. Plus, I also get calls from other companies. I have my card out at several locations. There is an antique store owner that said, “Well, can I have some of your cards?” So I put them there. Customers will always be coming in and saying, “Oh, who’s this?” So he would give them a copy of my card and say, “Yeah, this guy does deliveries,” and then they would take the card home and call me in a couple of days, “Yeah, I got your card at such and such a location. Can you do this or that or the other?” And, I would give them a price. So, it helps to have cards out there in different locations. People can pick them up and call you.
Philip Taylor: Awesome! So that has been your primary marketing technique sounds like, local cards.
Gary Christensen: Yeah, that and the yellow pages and of course going out and talking in person. Nothing beats a personal contact.
Philip Taylor: Right. Awesome! So, we’ve sort of talked about the marketing end of your business, but what are some of the other technical aspects of running a business versus initially you were just working for someone else doing 1 delivery a day, but as your business grew and you have the contracts now, do you have to focus on accounting and invoicing these customers? Do you invoice these customers once a month? How often do you invoice them?
Gary Christensen: Most of them are once a month. The specimen company I just keep track of every delivery. I have a route sheet I was able to pick up. The same office supply company I used to deliver for had this particular booklet like a delivery booklet. It had several lines on each page. They had the date and the time, and they had from and to, so it was just a perfect little booklet to pick up. So, every time I do a delivery, I write it down and put the reference number in the reference number line, and it is just a beautiful little delivery booklet. As far as billing goes, I just created my own letterhead and my own bills on my own computer, and then I just type up how many deliveries and say that the delivery sheets are included and send them a bill, and they send me a check once a month. So, that was something I had never done before. I had never done my own billing or accounting, but that is something you learn as you go.
Philip Taylor: That’s great. So what about insurance or any other type of necessity for this type of business? I am assuming you have to go out and get some kind of specialized insurance to be a delivery service?
Gary Christensen: Yes, there is what is called, I can’t think of the word, it’s a professional insurance company for businesses, and I have insurance in case anything happens. Yeah, you have to find out what you need, if there are licenses, if there are any other things that you need to make sure that you are operating legally. You have to get those things of course. It takes a little bit of research, and you have to ask questions, and you have to find out what you need. There is not anybody that is going to come over, “Oh I noticed you are starting a business. This is what you need… blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” You’ve got to go out and do the research.
Philip Taylor: Right. So, what mistakes would you say people make when trying to make money as a delivery driver?
Gary Christensen: Mistakes… I probably made some mistakes; of course, no mistakes come to mind at the moment. I am sure I made some mistakes along the way. You just do the best you can. There were a couple of complaints that I received. Of course, if you are running your own business the buck stops here; the complaints come right to me. I have to handle the complaints. If a person says that they did not appreciate how I handled their merchandise, you apologize and you try to do what you can do to make people happy, to make people satisfied because it all depends on customer service. If you please the customer, then they are going to tell other people, and if you don’t please the customer, then you’ve got to do something to make them happy. I have had very few complaints. Like I say, I am a person who tries to do the best darn job that I can possibly do and impress people because I know word of mouth has come through many times. I have had lots of people call and say, “Yeah, I talked to my friend, so and so, and they said that you did a great delivery job for them. Can you do one for us?” So word of mouth is everything. If you don’t satisfy customers, you aren’t going to have much word of mouth advertising going on.
Philip Taylor: That is excellent advice. So, what’s next for you and your business?
Gary Christensen: Well, I’m looking for more contracts of course. I just started one in October, and it’s probably going to be the biggest contract that I’ve ever had. It is working with a mattress company. They were looking for something else because they had a truck that would come up from a neighboring city. As soon as they came into Corvallis, it was an $80 flat fee. They hadn’t delivered anything, but they were charging $80 just to come from the other city to Corvallis to do deliveries, and then they would charge them $40 for each mattress that they delivered when they picked them up, so they were looking for something else. He called me one day and said, “Hey can you come over and talk? I would like to find out about your business and what you charge.” So I went over and sat down with the guy, and he told me the situation. He said, “We’re just paying too much for the deliveries. These guys are charging us this flat fee and then $40 for each delivery.” So I looked him in the eye, and I said, “I can do each delivery for $35, and I won’t charge you a flat fee.” He said, “We’re going to do a lot of business together.” So, some of it is just luck. Some of it is just having your information out there so when someone needs you, they will be able to find you. When they call, if there is any way possible to beat the other guy’s price, do it, even if you have to undercut their prices and make a little bit less. If you can get the foot in the door and you can satisfy the customer with what you can do for less, your business can go on for a long time because there it is again, satisfying the customer, meeting the customer’s needs. That is primary.
Philip Taylor: Man, that’s such good advice. Thanks for sharing that with me, Gary.
Gary Christensen: You’re welcome.
Philip Taylor: One last question, and that is any specific advice other than what we have already talked about for someone who would want to be starting this type of business form the ground up?
Gary Christensen: Specifically related to a delivery business?
Philip Taylor: Yeah, if they wanted to start a delivery business up today, what is kind of your pitch to those people?
Gary Christensen: Well, I think there is a possibility for a good delivery business in most any city. If you check around you are bound to find out a couple of businesses probably are already operating in your city. Look in the yellow pages. Look online. Do some checking around to find out who your competitors are. If they are doing a great job, if there is no opening, and if there is no chance, then look around for neighboring cities. There is bound to be somebody out there who needs a delivery service, a good, quality, customer-oriented delivery service or any kind of business. If you’re not sure what you want to do, start saving some money. Start putting some money aside. Start looking around. Start doing some investigating. Find out what kind of business you want to operate, and go for it. Give it a try. What can you lose?
Philip Taylor: Awesome! Well, Gary, thank you so much for being here with me today. I really appreciate the advice, and I know others listening to this will appreciate it as well, so thank you so much.
Gary Christensen: You’re very welcome. Thank you, Philip.
That does it for this weeks’ podcast. This has been Phil Taylor with the Part-Time Money Podcast. You can contact me at pt [at] ptmoney [dot] com or just visit me online at ptmoney.com. Again, thanks for listening, and see you next week.