Adam Goll is a pet transporter on CitizenShipper operating under the LLC American Pet Transport. He’s been successful on the platform, having booked well over 100 pet transport jobs while traveling the country — in fact, he’s been to every state in the lower 48 and has visited over 200 National Park units. We wanted to learn more about the techniques and strategies Adam has used to build his small business and what advice he has for other drivers. In part one of our two-part discussion, we talk about his background, what led him to start transporting on CitizenShipper and what major factors have led to his success.
Getting to Know Adam Goll and American Pet Transport
CS: Can you give us some background on your life and career before you started working as a pet transporter on CitizenShipper?
Adam: Before I joined CitizenShipper I was working at home for a bit for Apple. This was before COVID. I was just really depressed and in a bad place in my life. I used to work with exotic animals, going to different conventions. The business was Hedgehogs by Adam and I was on World News with Diane Sawyer and a bunch of newspapers. I stopped that business in 2015, after a divorce I liquidated [the company]. I was just going from job to job to job, I was getting tired of working at home and was fighting a lot of mental health issues. So I was like, ‘Well let me see what I can do animal-wise.’ Or really, anything just to get me back on the road. Because I went two years without a car.
So I started looking at Uber, Lyft, Roadie and other ones. And then I think CitizenShipper popped up in my Instagram feed and I was like ‘This is [a] different [type of] transport,’ but I didn’t really look at it like cats and dogs. So I signed up and within a week I had four or five bookings. I pretty much told my boss I’m not coming back to work and was on the road for two weeks straight before I got home.
I already had previous experience because I was transporting exotics across state lines and going to Repticon Conventions. So I had that past experience plus I used to be a professional photographer so I had marketing, advertising and graphic art. And then the customer service side of things, just from working at Apple, they have a whole thing on customer service. So that’s kind of how I got started. So I’m new to CitizenShipper as of January of last year but I’m not new to the industry.
Building a Stand Out Profile to Win Initial Shipments
CS: If you’re a new pet transporter you may have a hard time winning bids at first. Sounds like for you you got a bunch of shipments that you won right off the bat. Is that correct?
Adam: I mean yes and no — I guess it just depends on what people consider as ‘hard.’ With me, I had previous experience with exotic animals but had to move to a mostly cat and dog realm. So that was a whole different requirement. The USDA works differently with exotics, plus I had a Florida Fish and Wildlife license — when you deal with exotics you have to deal with the Fish and Wildlife side of things. So there was a little bit of a learning curve doing dogs and cats.
My biggest thing is when you first sign up for CitizenShipper, it’s literally just your identity check. You’ve got no reviews, no transports, nothing. To win that first transport you’ve got to make sure your profile is really good. And that’s what I highlighted, like ‘Hey I’m not new to the industry, this is my past [experience], this is what I provide.’ For a new person, you’ve got to have a really strong profile to be able to win a bid. I know some people will go months without winning and they’re in competition with seasoned pet transporters.
I was the same way starting off at first but the thing is, I had a very strong marketing and sales background, plus how I wrote my profile. If you only have a couple of sentences you’ve got nothing else to back yourself up — because your business and your integrity mean everything. You’ve got to prove to these people that you can take care of their loved ones as a stranger. I mean, you’re a business but you’re still a stranger.
CS: Having a really great profile is something we try to emphasize to the drivers. Like you said, when you start on CitizenShipper it looks like you don’t necessarily have a background as a pet transporter. But your profile can show them you’re somebody they can trust.
Adam: Yeah and I mean, anything works. If you’ve got — even if you haven’t done animal transport — but you helped a shelter as a volunteer for transportation, that counts. A lot of people don’t think about this but volunteering counts in your work history.
The Benefits of Incorporating Your Business
CS: So when you started out, did you use American Pet Transport as your business name?
Adam: No, when I started out I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t have high expectations. I thought like, ‘Hey I’ll just do this on a day off,’ I thought this would be a hobby kind of thing and see how it goes. When I looked into it and I started booking really quickly I was like, ‘I don’t think I can come back and work…’ So I literally, I think I had $300 dollars in my bank account and I left, I told them I’m not coming back to work. It was originally Adam’s Pet Transport and I ran it as a sole proprietor. By March I think my business was getting bigger than I expected. So I needed to start moving liability over. I went in, got a registered agent and applied for an LLC. [Editor’s Note: CitizenShipper has partnered with SwyftFilings to make incorporation a seamless process.]
CS: Do you find that forming an LLC business has positively impacted the number of shipments you’ve won?
Adam: Yes, definitely. I made a Youtube video — I have a Youtube channel with educational videos. It’s me talking about animal transportation, scam or legit? Because there’s a lot of scamming that goes on. People are looking for a legitimate pet transporter; they’re not going to go with someone that just has their first and last name.
I’ve never done a business that was just my first and last name. I’ve always done a DBA [doing business as]. I did Hedgehogs by Adam and Adam’s Pet Transport. Having a business name and creating branding for yourself definitely increases your chances of booking. I’ve got American Pet Transport — I could have had that as a sole proprietor but I worked it into an LLC and it works great.
My business is registered in St. Petersburg, FL but I’m physically staying near Pensacola. The great thing about having an LLC and automating it with a registered agent is anonymity. I’m nowhere near my house to check my mail, so my registered agent opens my mail, scans it and then emails me the images.
The other caveat is that I have a professional website and a professional email address. People aren’t going to be prone to emailing or talking to someone that has an @gmail or an @yahoo email. It doesn’t cost that much — a domain name’s like $9 a year; an email address is like $6 a month.
I’ve also got advertising. I was passing Christina [a fellow pet transporter] on the interstate and she said, ‘Wow your car is really wrapped in graphics.’ My rear is wrapped, the front of my hood is wrapped and I have magnetic signs on the side of my car. If I ever rent a larger vehicle, I’ll pull those signs over to the rental.
Use the Messaging System to Win Bids
CS: You mentioned that you always ask a question in the initial messaging to gain the trust of the shippers. Do you have any other advice or suggestions for a pet transporter writing an initial messages to shippers?
Adam: Yeah definitely. A lot of questions on the CitizenShipper Facebook group, there are people that say ‘I’ve been bidding for months — there’s nothing.’ Well, don’t send a bid immediately in the message — you’re going to look like a robot. If you just type in a bid without following up or an intro, you’re going to sound like a robot.
Your initial message is your first impression. My intro message is probably like three or four paragraphs. Yeah, some people don’t read it, but the ones that do I usually built a rapport with right off the bat. I say, ‘Hey I’m Adam from Pensacola — this is my history, working EMS, firefighting and working in exotic animal transport. I’ve been on local and national news, I’ve been in newspapers.’ I’ve put in, ‘Hey I do door-to-door transport, I need a health certificate.’ Speaking of health certificates, if you put in your intro that you require some legal stuff, it’s going to look a little more appealing. I point out who I am, my business and my benefits.
Don’t just write something like ‘Hey, how are you?’ or ‘Hey, I can pick up your dog ASAP.’ or ‘Hey, I’m John from Tallahassee, I’ll take great care of your pet.’ You’ve got to put a little bit more effort into your messages. A lot of times what I do with follow-ups, because I say the same thing over and over, I create templates. Not to sound robotic but it makes sure I get everything covered. A lot of the templates have legal information in there so I know I don’t miss it if I copy and paste it in.
CS: That makes sense, and then you just change it around…
Adam: Yeah, individualize it.
The Importance of Route Planning
CS: Do you use the different tools on CitizenShipper like the one that allows you to stack shipments? Do you try to stack shipments or just transport one animal at a time?
Adam: When I’m in Florida I try to look for routes within 600 miles. And a lot of people aren’t getting routes because they’re limiting themselves to their border states. Most of my routes, I’m going to drive eight hours plus to get to my first route, but once I’m on the road, I’ll start booking like crazy. I mean I can be at home for two or three weeks and I don’t get a bite — nothing. But as soon as I hit that first route I book them back to back to back. I go from a week on the road to six weeks on the road. But I do border states within around 600 miles, so Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, if I’m really hurting I might pull in Tennessee or South Carolina or Arkansas.
I use those filters, the multiple routes. If I’m renting a bigger vehicle I might look for bigger shipments but I’m mostly strictly just cats and dogs. Or, I’ll do multiples… right now I’m in my car because I haven’t stacked anything in like three weeks but next month I’m going to have to rent a minivan because I’m getting more shipments pulled up. The reason I’m using my car is I literally got it two months before I even started doing this. So you know how negative equity works, I can’t get two things at once. I rent vehicles all the time.
A Pet Transporter Can Rent a Vehicle for Larger Shipping Volume
CS: Do you find that it makes financial sense as a pet transporter to rent a vehicle and take on more shipments?
Adam: It’s a financial gamble. Because usually when I’m renting a minivan I’m gone for a month. So the overhead is close to $2000 a month for a rental. But when I’m in my car I do more hotel stays. When I’m in a minivan what I would normally pay for a hotel I’m paying for the day on that van so I sleep more in the minivan. But the only way for it to be cost-effective to rent a vehicle is to have multiple shipments and multiple stacks. When I do Florida to Washington state, I probably have three or four stacks there and back. So when you’re making $5000 to $6000 gross profit and then paying $1800 for a couple of weeks in a minivan, it makes more sense than me just having me in my car doing one or two pets at a time.
CS: So when you’re renting a car, does that affect your bids at all? Or are your bids based on what the shipper’s budget is?
Adam: Well when I’m renting a vehicle I don’t really change my prices per se. I just know that I’ll have to have more [shipments]. I try to give everyone from the start, not even the full retail. Most people can’t afford my retail prices because it’s a competitive bidding system like eBay. So it’s like someone just goes to my website and they’re like ‘Hey, how much?’ and I’m like ‘$1.25 a mile’ and they’re cool with that because chances are they can’t find anyone near them or the competition’s not really there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped to pull over and they say ‘I didn’t know this was a thing!’ or ‘Thank you for your service.’ People don’t know outside of CitizenShipper, it’s a lucrative phenomenon that no one knows about.
In CitizenShipper I’m lucky to get $.80-$.90 a mile just because of all that competition there. But every once and a while there will be someone that will book me for $1-$1.25 [a mile] just because of my integrity, my reputation, my selling. There are a lot of different factors in play but I usually charge around $.80 a mile [on CitizenShipper]. I ask everyone across the board that price, but if there’s budget constraints and I’m going that direction, I’ll try to work with them on their price. Or I might drop it down from like $.80 to $.60 a mile if I’m already going that direction. I’m a lot more lenient on pricing when I’m renting a vehicle because of the overhead costs. So I might purposely drop my prices down to fill that vehicle up.
In part two of our interview with Adam, we discuss booking from the road, scheduling and responding to reviews.
Content Writer at CitizenShipper