Each year I attend several tow shows offering seminars on the topics covered in this column. As I put my schedule together this year, I am reminded of just how difficult it can be for a small business owner to commit to attending a show. The expense of travel and the time away from the shop when who knows what is going on can all be powerful motivators to skip the show again this year.
But it is also important to remember going to a tow show can be a great break from the daily grind. It can give you a moment to consider longer-term business planning ideas and a chance to be exposed to new products and ideas that can improve that daily grind. Then kick in the fun of spending time with the only other folks in the world that truly understand what you go through each day, and maybe the idea of hitting the show this year isn’t so far out of reach.
Over the past couple of years many towers have made the difficult decision to forego the show in light of the struggling economy— and with good reason. It is difficult to commit to all of the costs associated with attending a show when you’re hearing the phone ringing less often, or you’ve been forced to send idle employees home early recently, or you haven’t taken a paycheck in a while.
Targeting just one of your biggest expense items, like advertising, employee pay, equipment mortgages, liability insurance, or fuel for savings can make your tow show trip pay off big time. With a little planning, and a commitment to having a few challenging conversations at the show, these ideas can you help you turn a tow show visit from an expense item to an expense saver.
Equipment Financing- A bank that attends a tow show is targeting towers—and not just the big guys. They have experience lending to the industry and understand the financial realities of a small, local tow company. So if you are planning to add a piece of equipment this year, bring a copy of your latest corporate tax return and sit down for a few minutes with each bank at the show. Chances are they could secure more favorable financing terms for you than even your local bank can. It may seem a little odd, but banking is no longer a local business, so take advantage of a lender who understands towing and is looking to work with the towing industry.
Liability Insurance- Insurance underwriters are once again interested in providing coverage to the towing industry. With the downturn in the construction trades, insurance providers are hungry for new customers, and the towing industry is one of the biggest benefactors. If you have relatively clean loss runs over the past five years, bring a copy with you along with your current policy. This will demonstrate you are serious about obtaining a competitive quote even if your renewal isn’t for a few months. Then follow up with each company 60 days before your renewal to get their final quotes. Insurance companies attending local or regional shows will have the ability to write coverage in the states from which attendees come.
Safety Apparel and Equipment – Safety apparel and equipment have made huge advances in recent years, and as more competition enters the market, prices are coming down. We all know the best investment we can make is in ensuring the safety of the team, so come to the show with a list of employee sizes and needs. Make a large purchase of reflective gloves, hats, vests, jackets and pants—even if employees are responsible for providing their own apparel. You can offer the items to your guys for a discount or to reward good behavior throughout the year. Reflective gear can loose effectiveness over time and show prices are some of the best around, so extend the savings to your guys who could not make it to the show.
Make Your Voice Heard - Another way to make sure you get the most of your tow show trip is to communicate with the promoter. Let the show organizers know what issues and challenges are most important to you. If you want to see more seminars on advertising or employee management or accounting software solutions, let then know. Organizers are eager to provide valuable seminars and demonstrations to attendees and they always value feedback from those on the front lines of the industry.
A successful tow trip should be able to help you address a business challenge or two and provide you with some much needed rest and relaxation. So start planning now, because tow show season is right around the corner.
Dennis Wencel developed “The Black Book of Towing” and accompanying DVD set to help independent towers be more profitable. The book and DVD set detail simple and proven ways to run a towing company from the business end. You can order them on his website at www.towprogram.com or by calling 888-834-1123. TowProgram.com also provides affordable online advertising solutions for the towing industry. Wencel has divided his time over the past 20 years running his own tow company and working in marketing.