Chips & Dips: What we Learned in Year One

Updated: Aug 12


Happy August, friends! It's Laura again (and let's not forget my trusty keyboard warmer, Bubbles the cat).


You may have noticed that our blog has taken a little hiatus over the last couple months, but I wanted to commemorate the start of the new month by picking things up again and sharing a little something with all of you.


I think by now that most of you are already aware of Ox's ownership transition made in the fall of last year. It was a fateful day when our beloved founders, Clint and Krystina, made the tough decision to leave Blue Ox behind as they embarked on a new adventure in California. While I, Mike and John were sad to see them go, we were excited for the opportunity to take over operations ourselves. It still seems like yesterday that we gathered around my kitchen table for our inaugural owner's meeting to make a plan for our first year as business owners.


What was on the agenda? A large number of things; we must have sat there for at least a few hours. (I recall cleaning up a good number of empty beer cans afterwards.) But one topic we kept circling back to was our mutual desire to purchase a chip truck as soon as possible. We crunched numbers, ran financial projections, built spending budgets, and tried to anticipate every unexpected expense we might face in the coming months and years. And in the end we set a goal for ourselves to pull together the money we'd need to buy a chip truck within one year.


And nine months later...

...we are beyond thrilled to add our first chip truck to the fleet!


Since taking over operations, we've had a lot of ups and downs, we've learned a lot of lessons, and we've met a lot of new and interesting people. So we wanted to recap the time by sharing some of what life's been like in the last year with you.


Lesson One: Set Goals, and Reset Goals


Goals are a necessity both in business and in life. What are we doing here if we don't have a goal? Where are we going if we haven't thought about what we want for the future?


Mike, John and I set a lot of goals at that first owner's meeting, and we've probably already failed as many as we've achieved. At first, failing was difficult, and long-term goals started to feel unreachable. I remember something apt Mike said once: "it's hard work wading through mud every day."


But over time we learned that in addition to setting goals, you need to have a healthy enough attitude about them to know when and why one has become unachievable, and then reset it to something more realistic. The three of us have learned (and are still learning) to readjust our attitude or readjust our goals; to keep moving forward, but also to stop, take stock of where we are and what we have, and be grateful for now.


Chip trucks don't happen in a day, so be thankful to have any running trucks at all. Which brings me to...


Lesson Two: Stop Pretending You Can Expect the Unexpected and Just Save Up a Rainy Day Fund


Remember back when I mentioned that we tried to anticipate unexpected expenses when we started budgeting as new business owners? Well we definitely did not budget for Mike's truck to get a new engine this spring. We didn't budget for our prodigal chip truck to need a new injector pressure regulator mere hours after purchasing it. We didn't budget for a new windshield on the car I use to get to and from job sites.


One very tough lesson we've learned this year is that when you run trucks and equipment as hard as we do every day all day, they're going to need lots and lots and lots of maintenance. Unexpected maintenance. Because believe me, we did make a budget for truck repairs, but we were woefully short of reality.


Mike and I learned to be extra grateful for John's extensive mechanical know-how, but when it came to the stuff even John couldn't repair, we were practically stranded. See, we didn't go into this business-ownership thing with a list of trusted, fairly-priced, quality mechanics in our contact book...


Lesson Three: Even Service Providers Need Service Providers...And Quality Ones Can be Hard to Find.


When we first put together our plan for the future of Blue Ox, I compiled a list of the advisors/vendors/service providers we'd need on our team. I felt pretty confident that I had covered my bases almost right away: financial, legal, insurance, blah, blah, blah. I mean, we're a team of three over here—three uniquely experienced, individually intelligent, enthusiastic young people. Surely between the three of us we could handle just about anything that might come up.


No.


We have required the assistance of a surprising variety of professionals in the first year of business ownership. And hunting for those professionals is a stressful chore all on its own! Not to mention re-hunting after deciding one of them just wasn't the right fit for you.


Not only have we learned some lessons about how to better identify those who will be an asset rather than a liability to our business, but we've also gained experience in keeping our eyes open to networking opportunities even when we don't immediately need them. How do you like your tax preparer? Do you have a favorite mechanic shop? I love your shirt, please tell me who does your screen printing!


And more than that—here's that gratitude lesson again—we've come to value the relationships we have with our service providers as highly as we do our employee and client relationships.


Lesson Four: Don't Forget Why You Do What You Do


The last thing I'm going to say is this: at the end of every week—even a week spent wading through the thickest mud—Mike, John and I like to take a small moment to stop, send each other virtual high-fives in our group text for making it through another week, and remember all the good things that came out of that week. And almost every single time, those good things are the clients we worked for.


We have been blessed not only to maintain the tight client relationships that Clint and Krystina established in their time, but to almost double that number of relationships in just our first year of business.


This responsibility that we've taken on has not always been a fun one. Some days are challenging. Some days are stressful. Sometimes, those challenges and stressors are passed down to the client in various small ways (like when your schedule is fully booked and suddenly a storm sweeps through and knocks down three clients' trees and you have to reschedule the entire week). But we have some of the greatest clients any business owner could ask for, and the level of understanding and loyalty they've shown us has been truly bolstering.


The deepest, most meaningful reward for the work we put in comes when the people we're providing our services to take some time to express the fact that they've recognized our commitment and they appreciate it. And we've been lucky enough to work for many very perceptive clients. This metroplex is full of amazing, warm, and caring people, and we're so glad we get to travel around it every day to meet them.



Coming Up...


Want to know what you can expect in the coming months for the Blue Ox blog? Click on the pictures to check out the introductions to two brand new series' below!




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