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Able Courier is not hiring employees or independent contractors at the present time.

History and Outlook

Able Courier has been in business since 1995. Before 2000 it had several employees (not independent contractors). Since then it has been a one-person operation.

Business operations have generally proved simpler without employees. There is less administrative work, less expense and more profit. If Able Courier ever again hired employees, there would have to be a reasonable belief that the drawbacks of increased administrative work and expenses would be out-weighed in some way by the benefits co-workers would provide.

There are many possible directions someone desiring to work as a courier might take. Some examples:

Join an Existing Company as an Employee

It must be admitted that there are advantages to a multi-person as opposed to a one-person operation. The first that comes to mind is the ability to take time off when necessary (perhaps even a vacation!). Others include being able to offer customers more - more hours of operation, more vehicle types, more services, etc - which enables a larger potential customer base and thus the possibility of larger and more stable revenue.

Having said that, Able Courier's own experience with the employer/employee model is that it is a burden to be responsible for someone else's financial welfare. Also that employees complain a lot about wanting more money. Also that generally only two types find their way into courier work: those who are not terribly capable but show up every day, and those who are good at the work but do not show up every day. Neither provides the kind of service that is easy to sell, and service is at root all that a courier company has to sell.

The employer/employee model also comes with regulatory burdens. One example is workmen's compensation insurance. Another is the necessity of complying with the many mandates designed to ensure the pleasant and diverse workplace always so conducive to personal and professional growth.

If despite this legally guaranteed warm and nurturing environment an employee fails to thrive, that is usually considered the employer's fault. Dismissal by reason of inability to satisfactorily perform job requirements, for instance, does not avoid an increased unemployment tax rate.

Nevertheless, there are courier companies in the Twin Cities area whose drivers are treated as employees. If those companies also use a commission-based pay structure, the commission rate is typically less than at independent contractor companies. The difference is generally explained as tax withholding and other government mandated payments required of the employer. Since such payments must always be made whatever the company structure, this does have the advantage of relieving the employee from worrying about them.

Join an Existing Company as an Independent Contractor

Independent contractors are typically treated as sole proprietors providing service to a courier company. It is a common business model among small to mid-sized companies in the Twin Cities area. Perhaps the purest expression is at those companies where contractors bid on available deliveries and then bill the courier company for jobs won and completed.

In contrast to employees, independent contractors are responsible for paying all government mandates themselves. This includes the normal income tax and both halves of the social security tax.

This model can work, but it can also be abused. The value of any vehicle gets "used up" over its lifetime. When it is used for business purposes that value has to be recovered by the time it dies in order to be able to purchase a new one. Some companies pay compensation that is sufficient to live from paycheck to paycheck, but not enough to replace a dead vehicle. Essentially its value has been transferred to the courier company in order to fund its own operations.

There is also some danger that the courier company itself might be at risk if the IRS decides that the "independent contractors" are actually employees. Should this happen (and it has), someone somewhere is going to be responsible for unpaid back taxes.

These are extreme examples, of course. Still, anyone considering working as an independent contractor should make it a point to become familiar with exactly how the finances work before signing on anywhere.

Start a New Company as a Sole Proprieter

Prior to 1995, regulatory barriers mostly kept new entrants out of the local transportation market. Obtaining a license to operate meant paying an artificially high price (tens of thousands of dollars) to transfer an existing license to a new operator. In 1995 regulatory changes meant anyone who pays the appropriate license and insurance fees can obtain a state permit to go into business as a courier.

For some people this might be an appropriate choice. Long-term couriers tend to be an independent lot anyway who are certain they can do a better job than their idiot bosses. Nine out of ten are wrong and quickly go out of business (Able Courier so far being an example of the tenth).

Often this happens because they underprice themselves in an attempt to gain market share. They neglect to account for the fact that their vehicle is essentially an asset that is being used up and must eventually be replaced. When their vehicle dies their capital is gone, and so is their company.

But while they are alive they drive down prices and endanger everyone's ability to safely maintain vehicles and still make a profit. It should be noted that the safety issue was precisely the rationale offered for the pre-1995 transportation regulations in the first place.

Able Courier's position on new entrants is that as long as they play by the rules, including licensing and insurance requirements, they can't be stopped. They are however encouraged to take into account all operating costs - fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation of their vehicles, plus administrative expenses such as marketing and bookkeeping - when setting prices. If after this they still want to seriously undercut existing prices, all that can be said is "Hey, good luck with that!"

Start a New Company as a Co-operative

Able Courier is intrigued by the co-operative model. In this form of organization the employees are also the owners. They are thus responsible for their own economic welfare. They cannot simply demand that ownership cater to their selfish desires, but must also come up with a responsible way to meet them.

The advantage to members of a co-op is that they are not alone. Many expenses become shared, reducing their impact on any one member. In general the impact of any aspect of operating a business is shared by all.

Co-operative ownership is an established business model, particularly in agriculture. Able Courier is not aware of any courier co-operatives currently existing in Minnesota. Across the nation there are a few taxi and bicycle courier co-operatives.

Perhaps the ideal member candidate would be someone already operating as sole proprieter of thier own small courier company. People who know the business and have established customers, but are looking for ways to share the burden. These are not the only potential members, but knowing the business they might have the most realistic expectations.

Ownership requirements in co-operatives vary, but always include a substantial personal investment. The investment can often be redeemed, but only after a waiting period that is determined by co-op rules. The legal structure of a co-op requires a five-member board of directors. These do not necessarily have to be members, but if not they are typically legal and accounting professionals.

To the question "What could Able Courier offer to a co-operative?" the answer is some capital, a existing client base of both scheduled and on-call customers, an established marketing presence of over fifteen years, and a driver with even longer experience who enjoys the work and shows up every day willing to do what it takes to get the job done. What have you got to offer?