riley jensen taxi cabs
              Riley Jensen taxi cabs

My Entrepreneur Journey

My roller coaster of problems

(Part 1)

My intentions here are to tell the journey of how I became an entrepreneur.  I hope it will help you through your journey as a business owner, whether you are just starting out or in a phase of uncertainty. I want others to be able to learn from my mistakes and experiences.

I have always known that I wanted to do something different from what others were doing. I wanted my career to provide a stable income I’ve never wanted to have to struggle to pay bills, especially when I start a family. The only way I knew to earn a living was to go to college and land a solid job.  As an entrepreneur, at first you’ll work hard for little-to-no money until your business starts to grow. The goal is to eventually grow your business to a point where the income generates itself, freeing your time up to just maintain and manage the business.

I was always good at managing my money throughout college, even if I didn’t have a whole lot. After college, I moved Sioux Falls.. Day after day I bragged (or joked) about how Wells Fargo was offering me a loan with my credit score. I didn’t think I needed it, as I wasn’t sure what I’d use it for.. A while later, a teammate contacted me, saying he was interested in starting a taxi company but that he didn’t have the money to get started. He offered me a partnership in the company in exchange for capital. I had no idea what to do when it came to starting or running a business. . I’d graduated college with a degree in computer technology. My potential business partner informed me that he had a friend with a successful business, which afforded him some knowledge on how to run a business. After much deliberation, I decided I was willing to try out this business idea. We shook hands on it and Surf Taxi was born.

One lesson we learned right away was how the government processes information. Once everything was submitted everything for the first step, you have to wait for processing before moving on rather than sending everything in and just automatically being ready when they gave the green light. First, we had to obtain an EIN number. This is the equivalent of a social security number for a business. It doesn’t cost anything to get an EIN If I remember correctly, we paid for insurance and waited two weeks for an LLC license after activating the insurance. We also learned that taxi insurance is not cheap. At the time, we were paying $385 per month for one vehicle.

Eventually, my business partner and I hired a mutual friend to work as a part time driver for us. Another mistake we made was not announce our business opening at least a month in advance. This gets people excited about the business and informs them what your business is all about while generating prospective clients. We sent out a driver on a weekend night and were worried we were not going to get any fares. However, during busy bar hours, all he had to do was sit in front of the bar and collect fares that way. He even did all right for the first time going out. We were ecstatic to finally be making some money and seeing some return on our investment.

We were in a struggle as what to do after starting up this business. My business partner’s theory was to learn from the best people in the industry. He started listing to audio books. He then had me listen to those audio books. The first audio book I ever listened to was Sell or Be Sold by Grant Cordone. It gave me an edge because I knew information that others didn’t. I could understand and react in a more efficient manner because I could sell ideas. It was really all psychological, but it gave us some know-how and confidence to be successful. As the book references, you can’t figure every little detail out right away you just have to go for it and figure it out along the way. Author Cordone also teaches the importance or positivity and attitude. If you’re persistent in these ways, you will be on your way to being a great entrepreneur. All great entrepreneurs can agree on certain things.  Another thing I took away was that you don’t fail when you fail at a task or when something doesn’t go through for you. You fail when you quit.

The next great book we read was The 4-Hour Work Week. Essentially it taught us how to remove anything unnecessary and focus only on the things we needed to do, with “eliminate, automate, and designate” as the mantra. We learned to remove unnecessary or invaluable processes. We began finding ways to complete tasks by an automated process. We’ve worked on delegating the things we don’t enjoy doing or are not good to others to get done. As an example, we had just the one phone number listed for Surf Taxi, which meant only one person was in control of all phone calls, making it very inefficient and hindering us from expanding to allow for more drivers. We then found out about Google Voice and ported the business line to it for a mere ten dollars.  We had the drivers download an app called Sideline, which provides two phone lines (numbers) to one phone. This allowed multiple drivers use one phone number to list for our business, and it will ring all their numbers at once. Additionally, any driver at any time can turn one of the numbers off so they won’t get phone calls – with just a swipe of a button.

The next big thing we needed to do was increase our advertisement and get in front of people. We were tired of only getting fares from only busy bar hours. We decided to try out Yellow Pages. For $215 a month, we were supposed to be the top ranking for the word “Taxis.” We signed a year contract. We did see some increase in business, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to justify the cost. We’d also noticed that we weren’t always at the top of the listings under “taxis.” From that day forward, we were definitely more hesitant to get in long-term binding contracts. I also later found out that
“taxis” isn’t a very high of a volume word to be using

Sometimes I almost think people fear getting in front of someone and sell their idea. Being an entrepreneur is like a roller coaster: some days you don’t think you can make it and you are going to fail. The next day, everything changes and you think you will be making a crazy amount of money. Problems come at you and you just get better at dealing with them. You get upset at times, yes, but as you become more experienced, you are able to get over the issues faster, which will ultimately save you money, as well. I know owning a business has changed me – and for the better. I have more of a story to tell, but that will come at a future time. I hope what I’ve shared so far has helped you or inspired you in some way.

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