Hello people of Driverseat, or as we call you, our #PODS (you will see this term throughout my blog). Driverseat Sault Ste. Marie has been a labor of love. If you have read my previous post, you are aware of some of our story. This location has been an investment of love and dedication. In 2013 Driverseat SSM started as a business providing primarily designated driving services. This is important to remember, because where you start in your business is not necessarily where you will stay or even end up. As you read previously, this business concept in a small city back in 2013 was not easily accepted. It took many nights with a 6-month old bundled up in a blanket and snowsuit. As it grew from one trip; to several hundred; to several thousand, it took up our entire weekends. We were the fun couple that always hosted parties. Our friends will attest that our gatherings were over the top, but fantastic. So losing our entire weekend also changed the dynamics of our friendships and our lives.
Driverseat SSM wasn’t an immediate success or accepted. This close knit community was very suspicious of us. Even though Stephen was born and raised in the Sault, we had to earn the community’s trust. How did we do that? It started with that one ride in the middle of the night in the freezing cold, and then the second call and the third. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool you will ever have. If you are looking to start a business or build a brand, remember, word of mouth is essential. We will talk about that later on. Let us talk about why we started our business.
2013 – The Vision.
Okay PODS, if you are anything like me you believe in something. That something is what you rely on when your anxiety gets the better of you. It is the thing that grounds you when you are stressed and overwhelmed. For me, it is my belief in God. I am a Christian, and have used that to fuel a lot of my values and decisions. I believe that if you do things in truth and honesty and put your complete best into what you do, it will pay off in the end. I believe that for my life and in business. The term Christian can be scary for many people who see Christianity in a different light, but this blog isn’t about religion. It is about believing in something; what ever that thing is that fuels you and keeps you motivated in the tough times. Trust me you are going to need that thing, whatever it is or whoever it is, to keep you grounded, and help to guide you through.
Many people want to start a business but are afraid to do so. They allow all of those inner and outer voices to persuade that it is never the right time. We heard those same voices from others and from ourselves. But sometimes something happens that changes everything.
Let us travel back to 2013 for a minute.
I was a first time mom and although I was interested in Driverseat, I had no intention of purchasing this location franchise just then. My mind was still reeling from a valuable lesson I learnt from my wedding business as I battled postpartum, and then it happened. A vibrant young teacher named Christa Michaud was killed by a drunk driver as she rode her bike. This was the same area that I walked my son every day – as many do. The city was shocked and devastated. I thought to myself that could have been me that day; pushing my stroller as my son slept. The fact that I had just walked with him there that afternoon was surreal to me. What happened to Christa was the final straw for me. She was the catalyst in my mind and heart to know that the idea that Stephen had brought to me months before was the right one. The fact that the Franchise was started by two brothers originally from Sault Ste. Marie made all of the pieces fall into place.
We all have a vision, but if you do not execute it with consistency you will fail. Remember that word of mouth marketing that I talked about earlier? Well that happened because we were consistent. We took those calls no matter what time of the day or night. We fulfilled the promises that we set out to our PODS. We promised you that when you called we would answer, we would get you and your vehicle home safely. That promise did not come with a quota. Whether we received one call or 1000, our goal was always the same. That consistency and reliability was what built the trust. We are there when you need us, not just when we feel like it or when it is more valuable for us. Bundling up a 6 month old late at night to get someone home safe was not an easy decision to make. Many nights I wrestled with mom guilt; people didn’t support our decision and that played a huge role in my depression back then. Never tell a postpartum mom that she is not doing the best job by taking her child out in the middle of the night to work. Thank goodness I was able to block out all of the external noise; I had enough noise internally and did not need others adding to my guilt. Now I had no choice but to prove the vision was right. That meant we had to continue through the noise. We remained consistent.
Do not be afraid of failure.
Yes, I said it. You have heard it so many times before. Failure brings lessons (you are probably rolling your eyes at this one). I hate those fluffy inspiration posts about keep trying and life is a journey, blah blah blah. Life is a journey, but every journey isn’t roses and sunshine. Some of us have had some very difficult times. We do not need happy mantras. Failure can ruin lives and destroy families. Be afraid of failure, but do not let it stop you from fulfilling your mission. If you read my previous blog post (yes I am going to keep saying it because it’s a pretty good story about having and fulfilling your life mission, so read “Don’t Stop My Hustle,” okay!?) you know I am a woman on a mission. I believe strongly that we all have that mission, whether it is in business or in your career and your family life. The mission in all of this is to fulfill the goals in life that make you happy. Fulfilling those goals doesn’t mean perfection. It can come with some mess, some failures. In those failures comes progress. That is the secret to surviving failures in business. You have to actually learn something and then implement that lesson into your business so that you do not make the same mistake again.
Let me tell you a story. It was our first New Years Eve in business. Stephen’s parents (seriously love them so much) are helping us out once again. They are strapping in their boots and going to help as designated drivers. Stephen and I with our son, a few friends, some seriously dedicated drivers all got ready to go. We had no idea what we were in for. It was a crazy night. Our phones would not stop ringing for rides, we didn’t have an app at the time and the phone system was a mess. Phone calls were being dropped, so customers were not aware when our drivers arrived. It was pure chaos. Let’s add in an immigrant (me) that although was here for many, many years, still didn’t know the city that well. Now imagine pulling up to a house in a blizzard with two identical vehicles, you get where I am going with this. Yes, Stephen was driving a customer and two identical vehicles pulled out of the driveway at the exact same time, heading in two completely different directions. Guess who followed the wrong vehicle with cell phone connections down? I am pointing at myself right now. Thank goodness the original drop off was close to our home and Stephen was able to walk home for warmth as he tried to get through to my cell. Finally he was able to and had to direct me how to get to our home from where I ended up. Those poor people to this day must have wondered why this strange vehicle followed them and parked outside of their house. Well guess who implemented changes so that never happened again?
Stay in your lane; but explore new routes.
Since we mentioned customers, here is another lesson. Do not start a business expecting to gain every customer, to be liked by everyone, or have the perfect business. Not everyone is going to like you. Know your core audience who sees your vision. Be consistent with your business and with who you are in business. Do not allow competitors to change your values (I have a few stories about that in another blog post). Strive for perfection but remember true perfection does not exist. If my story above taught you anything, let it be that no one is perfect. You can still strive for perfection, but allow that strive for perfection to create progress.