7 Timeless Business Lessons Aspiring Food Truck Owners Need to Know

The business responsibilities that come with being a food truck owner can be a tall order. Filling that order takes a willingness to work on your entrepreneurial mindset and character. If you’re hungry to advance your entrepreneurial know-how, look no further than online entrepreneurs.

Why this breed of entrepreneur?

Because online entrepreneurs face similar business challenges and possess similar attributes as food truck owners. And they specialize in an area of commerce that’s becoming increasingly important to food truck business: the web. Overall, their stories of perseverance, customer-focus, and brand value overflow with business lessons you can profit from.

The first story begins where many food trucks start: the loss of a job.

1. Embrace the Unknown


Pat Flynn lost his dream job as a San Francisco architect in June 2008. Facing unemployment in the midst of an economic crisis, Pat was scared and confused about his professional future.

Before being let go, and while studying for an industry certification, Pat unintentionally created a popular blog filled with notes and exam preparation tools. Now that he was unemployed and looking down the entrepreneurial path, he wondered if he could turn his blog into a business. Pat decided to take a risk; he would try working for himself.

This early project seeded the foundation for Pat’s success as an online entrepreneur. Today, he runs a popular website and podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com, speaks at conferences, and has authored a personal memoir that tells the story of how he persevered through adversity to achieve success in his business and his life. He’s also the founder of FoodTruckr.com, which you can learn more about by reading Pat’s story.

Food Truckr Takeaway:

Whether you were recently laid off or you’re simply looking for a career that will bring independence and purpose to your life, it’s time to embrace the unknown and make your own path.

There’s no way to predict whether or not your food truck will succeed. You’re entering a competitive field, and life as an entrepreneur requires discipline, dedication, and a healthy dose of hard work. But as Pat Flynn’s story proves, great success can be born from adversity. Seize the chance to succeed on your own and give this opportunity your all.

2. Believe in Yourself

KellyRaeRobertsA self-proclaimed “possibilitarian,” Kelly Rae Roberts makes art that emphasizes honesty, dreams, courage, love, and faith. Kelly Rae is no stranger to possibility and opportunity—after spending years as a social worker, she started painting at age 30. Through art, she found a new way of looking at the world and experiencing life.

In just a few short years, Kelly Rae’s art and her blog turned into a successful online shop, a book deal, magazine features, and a multi-million dollar retail venture. She’s also created a series of e-books and an online course designed to help creative entrepreneurs awaken their own inner possibilitiarians.

Food Truckr Takeaway:

Find your inner confidence and allow it to drive everything from your creative menu to your unique brand to your conversations with customers to your entire dream.

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Kelly Rae believes that one of the keys to becoming a successful entrepreneur is to believe in yourself—and she’s absolutely right. You’re going to have a tough time building a food truck that has customers flocking to your line each day if you don’t believe in yourself.

3. Be Unique

ChrisGuillebeauChris Guillebeau started his blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, for three reasons: he had something to say, he wanted to help people, and he wanted to sleep through the night without waking up to write down his ideas.

Chris’ biography doesn’t read like most: between 2002 and 2013, he visited every country in the world, built a website that is among the top 15,000 websites visited in the U.S., wrote two successful non-fiction books, and organized a popular annual conference—the World Domination Summit—that meets each summer in Portland, Oregon.

Some folks think Chris is crazy to do all that he does. It all works though because Chris maintains relentless focus on a singular, original brand—a brand built around the ideas of leading an unconventional life.

Food Truckr Takeaway:

Go ahead and do what you love—no matter how unconventional it may seem.

As a food truck owner, your goals might not be the same as Chris’—after all, taking your truck to every country in the world would get expensive quickly—but you can benefit from his message of non-conformity and his commitment to changing the world. Whether you decide that you’re only going to use gluten-free ingredients or you promise to give a portion of all your proceeds to a favorite charity, don’t be afraid to defy business expectations and try something new. In fact, you should. Being original is the one of the best ways to stand out in a crowd.

4. Keep It Simple

image by Jeremy KeithJason Fried is the co-founder of 37signals—a celebrated software company responsible for web applications like Basecamp, Campfire, and Highrise. Some companies add endless new features to their software as a means of encouraging customers to upgrade. Not 37signals.

Jason believes in keeping products simple. Instead of trying to build more features into each new product, Jason and team focus on what’s truly necessary and cuts out everything else—a principle he emphasizes in both his 2010 book, Rework, and his company’s blog, Signal vs. Noise. This line of thinking has culminated in a suite of highly efficient products that are used by more than 3,000,000 people worldwide.

Food Truckr Takeaway:

Focus on what you do best and don’t complicate things.

By focusing on your strengths, you’ll master your signature dishes quickly while avoiding wasted time with recipes that simply aren’t your best. As a result, you’ll attract customers with your no-frills, high-quality offerings that are unmistakable. You can’t create everything for everyone. Some people will be more attracted to your menu than others. That’s okay. It’s much more worthwhile to build a strong appeal with a small group of people than to appeal slightly to a huge crowd. (Image of Jason by Jeremy Keith)

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5. Prioritize Quality Above All Else

RamitSethiBest-selling author and personal finance expert Ramit Sethi is recognized time and again for this devotion to quality. His work has earned him featured mentions in major media outlets like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, NPR, and CNBC.

Ramit’s financial advice is different from the mainstream tips offered by the so-called experts in his field. Instead of telling people to cut back on lattes and movie tickets, Ramit believes the key to personal wealth is earning more. To help his students earn more, he emphasizes value and quality above all else. He advises job applicants to prepare proposals for their dream companies in advance and advocates giving away your best material for free. Ramit knows that when you deliver exceptional value consistently, the customers you want will always be willing to pay.

Food Truckr Takeaway:

Quality should always come first.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to offer quality to your customers. Maybe you want to give away a free sample of your signature menu item or perhaps you’ll ensure that each dish you serve is consistently top-notch every time. However you emphasize quality, make sure it exceeds your customer’s expectations.

You can make sales by serving decent food in the right place at the right time—but you’ll build a reputation that keeps people coming back and recommending you to their friends by creating reliably delicious dishes.

6. Build a Team

ChrisDuckerAs an entrepreneur, it’s extremely easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do everything on your own. A few years ago, Chris Ducker found himself in this place. He was burned out from working 14 hours a day, six days a week—and he had little time to spend with his family. However, Chris was afraid to trust someone else with any aspect of his business and he worried that hiring someone else could be too expensive. In reality, he was costing his company money by continuing to do tasks that he wasn’t well suited for and by spending time on menial jobs that took his energy away from the strategic work that would help his long-term goals.

Then, in 2010, he set a goal to remove himself from his business as much as possible. He succeeded by hiring a team of virtual assistants to help him run his business—and along the way, he even created a new company, Virtual Staff Finder, to help other people do the same thing. Today, Chris works no more than six or seven hours each day and is able to take Fridays off entirely, which gives him plenty of time for his family.

Food Truckr Takeaway:

Surround yourself with people who can help you build your business and support you in your areas of weakness.

You might benefit from adding another cook who can help you get meals out faster, or you might just need someone who knows how to build a website and run your social media accounts. Either way, it’s time to start building a team of qualified, committed people who share your vision and passion and, ultimately, who can help take your food truck to the top.

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7. Do Business with a Purpose

HughMacLeodCartoonist, blogger, and author Hugh MacLeod began his career as an advertising copywriter in the 1990s. Though he has a background in marketing, Hugh believes that business isn’t just about selling—it’s about creating something that matters and building a culture around your beliefs.

Hugh’s business, gapingvoid, aims to help companies change their corporate cultures and inspire their employees through art, branding, and social objects—the company’s self-described “secret weapon” designed to get people talking about businesses and sharing their stories. By focusing on purpose, innovation, and creativity, Hugh’s cartoons and writing have inspired businesses and entrepreneurs alike to focus on the meaning in their work.

Food Truckr Takeaway:

Once you’ve defined your purpose, allow it to inform the choices you make each day in your business—and then share your company’s mission with the world. Share it loudly. Share it proudly. And share it in easily recognizable forms.

You didn’t get into the food truck industry because you were looking for a complacent career. Most likely, you came here because you wanted to do something you love or you felt you had a gift to share. Allow your personal motivations to bleed into the company’s philosophy. And allow your customers to join in on that worldview.

Finding Your Path

Each entrepreneur in this list began their careers in a place similar to where you are now—passionate about a life of independence and purpose but uncertain about how to make it a reality. Through hard work, commitment, and resourcefulness, each of these entrepreneurs found success and managed to build a unique, sustainable lifestyle on his or her own terms.

Whatever your terms are, fight for them. Nothing worth having comes easily—a celebrated principle the FoodTruckr team believes in deeply. Business, any business, comes with great responsibilities. Embrace them. Master them. When you do, you’ll find that your patrons can’t get enough, and that your customers have become raving fans. Every business in the history of the world began as a risky entrepreneurial endeavor. Make yours into the next tasty success story.

Have entrepreneurial lessons above and beyond what we’ve touched on here? Outstanding! Please share them in the comments below so that we can all learn from your story.

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About the Author

FoodTruckr is the #1 online destination for current and aspiring food truck owners looking to succeed in the mobile food industry. Self described “food truck devotees,” the FoodTruckr team enjoys reading about successful entrepreneurs, salivating over photos of burritos on Twitter, and long walks through food truck parks. Chat with FoodTruckr on Facebook or check out the FoodTruckr School podcast for more awesome tips to level up your business.

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