In the modern Canadian economy, everybody is looking, it seems, for a sure-bet small business to start. Courier services could be that model, if it’s done right. The advantages are hard to deny: Almost every person or business eventually needs something delivered by hand. Sometimes, a few need this service on a daily basis. There are relatively few start-up costs. Overhead is low, and potential profits are high. If you’re any good at customer service, you’re also likely to build up a loyal client base that can help keep things stable over the long term. With all these upsides, it’s worth taking a look at what, realistically, you need to get a small courier business off the ground, who your best customers are likely to be, and whether or not there’s some kind of horrible catch that can wreck your dreams lying ahead.
Business-to-Business Courier Services
Business customers can be some of a courier’s best clients. Daily, high-volume work can be found here by simply meeting with a large company’s Vice President of Putting Stuff in the Mailbox. Not only can it be easy to get a company’s business, the type of things they need you to deliver can vary enormously, from small boxes full of knickknacks to truckloads of piano components to rolled-up blueprints and legal papers. For some of the lighter stuff, such as paperwork and zip drives, you may not even need a vehicle. In built-up areas, such as urban Toronto or Montreal, addresses are close enough together to make bicycle couriers a viable, zero-gasoline proposition. Business customers also tend to budget way ahead of time, so your invoices usually have a way of getting paid on time, at least for the bigger companies.
Customer-Facing Delivery Service
Residential customers are a mixed bag. Some people almost never need a courier, so reaching out to them is usually a wasted effort. Others, on the other hand, may run a small business out of their homes selling items through online retailers. These people may be willing to pay you to haul 40 boxes to the post office every few days. Others may be social butterflies who always need invitations and cards hand-delivered to their acquaintances. Or they may be hyper-litigious and need a good legal courier to serve papers on everyone they feel needs suing. Even if you specialize in low-demand and one-off private customers, you have the advantage of a near-limitless base of potential customers, given that so many people eventually need at least one visit from a courier.
What You Need to Get Started
If you have an idea of who your customers will be, and you’re ready to get going, start by buying all the equipment you’ll need. This usually isn’t much. In cities, as discussed, a bicycle and a backpack may be enough to get off the ground. In more spread-out areas, or for long-distance deliveries to other cities, you need at least a personal car. Look for the most fuel-efficient model you can get remember, you don’t have to go fast, but you are paying for every litre and make sure you carry commercial insurance, not just personal and liability.
Scale Up (When You’re Ready)
One of the really nice things about running a courier and delivery service is how easy it is to scale up when you’re ready to expand. When you reach the happy realization that you’re servicing as many addresses as you realistically can in a day, doubling your capacity is as easy as buying a second bicycle or car and hiring somebody reliable. Teach this person how to build customer relationships, as you have, and you eventually have a manager who can run your second location in another city. From there, expanding into national delivery is only a matter of time. Want to learn more about how to start a business? Read our complete guide and checklist, here.
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