When New Horizons Thrift Stores first began their pickup and delivery route, they managed everything on Google Maps, paper printouts, and a trusty GPS on the dash of their truck. In the days of a startup hustle, this worked wonderfully. However, as the business began to take off, this system became a dizzying whirlwind of paper forms and printouts.
When they first approached me about this challenge, I was still on staff for the organization. I developed an initial solution to not only eliminate much of the paperwork, but also provide an easy way to set up and order each daily route. With the help of this solution, they were able to more quickly plan their routes, keep their drivers in sync with the office, and access their route on their cell phone, integrating into its GPS navigation.
This solution worked well for years with minimal adjustments as the business continued to grow. Even though it was never designed for multiple drivers, they creatively found ways to adapt, allowing them to schedule multiple routes on those occasions they overran their capacity.
As their growth continued, the second driver became more frequent, and those creative ways became more burdensome and time-consuming. Recently, they finally hit that threshold. They needed to be able to quickly and easily schedule routes for multiple drivers across multiple weeks.
Today, they have a scheduling dashboard that provides an overview of their route. With a simple click of the mouse, they can drag and drop their appointments not only to the right date but also to the right driver. They can tell at a glance whether they’ll be able to keep their time commitments to each customer, and they can arrange their stops in the most efficient order.
While this is hardly a new project, I thought these recent enhancements provided a great opportunity to pull this project out of the archives and highlight three important lessons.
First of all, start with the simplest system as possible. Use sheets of paper and a Google Map if necessary.
Second, grow your systems as you grow your business. Systems that don’t grow with your business will ultimately stifle it.
Finally, the best system is the one that fits most closely into your workflow. It must fit your way of thinking and working.
And that’s something worth driving towards!