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President and CEO Robert Low, left, and Vice President Steve Wutke stand in Prime’s $12 million plaza under development. SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
President and CEO Robert Low, left, and Vice President Steve Wutke stand in Prime’s $12 million plaza under development.

SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON

2017 Dynamic Dozen No. 7: Prime Inc.

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SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Steve Wutke:  We have a high level of service for our industry. People are driving that. We have a really great customer base.

We have the capital to add additional equipment, and we’ve been able to draw really good people.

The shipper customer – any Fortune 500 company, Kraft, General Mills, Kellogg’s, we work with all of them – just for the demand side, on-time service, the technology we provide them and the manner in which our people handle their freight is a superior offering.

SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Wutke: We truly invest in our people. We have a health and wellness program we’ve invested in that is next to none in our industry. Siphiwe Baleka is our health and wellness guru. We teach it and we live it.

Beyond that, we want to have the very best, most efficient, safest equipment that money can buy. Drivers want good equipment to drive. Economically, it’s more efficient to drive new equipment. We generally turn our equipment out in three years, on the power side.

SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Wutke: Without a doubt it’s sustainable. We continue to invest in technology, in our facilities and in our people. One of the unique things about Prime is we’re incentive-based. All of our people are on some type of incentive-based compensation. We want people who want ownership of their position. We measure the results on a weekly basis. We’re completely transparent. They know if we’ve had a really good week or a horrible week – we don’t have many of those.

Robert Low, our owner, wants everyone to feel the entrepreneurial spirit. We want everyone to have skin in the game and be accountable for their performance.

SBJ: Is there such a thing as growing too fast?
Wutke: Absolutely, there are companies that try to grow too fast. We have a  growth plan, and we understand the market conditions. There’s a time to grow big and a time to grow small. We’re just reading the conditions.

We’ve been fairly successful at recognizing what the economy is doing and what the administration in Washington, D.C., whether it’s business favorable or not. We’ve weathered the storm with an administration that wasn’t, in our opinion, that favorable for entrepreneurs. I think the new administration will right that for us.

SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
Wutke: This past year we were off slightly. We’ve had double-digit growth for the last 11 years until this past year. It was a good time to slow down. Even with our results, we were proud to say we beat our peer group significantly. Our flagship is our refrigerator business. We think the new health standards and requirements for food safety will put us in a better position because that requires a lot of record keeping and technology. There are a lot of carriers that don’t have the technology to do that.

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