Springfield Business Journal: What has been key to your recent growth?
Darrel Hopkins: One, there was a regulatory change in December 2017 requiring electronic logging devices that thinned some competition out. More importantly, it restricted the productivity of all trucking companies. It’s just part of the laws of supply and demand. Because of the shortage, rates pushed higher, and that really created the right environment for trucking companies to grow.
The other thing: We pay our drivers dramatically different. In our company, because most of our drivers are independent contractors, they get a percentage of revenue – actually 72% of revenue. That is a powerful model for us, and drivers recognized that.
SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Hopkins: If you add drivers too fast without the capacity to support them, they will not be getting as much from their truck as before. We don’t want to outgrow the amount of freight that’s out there. Also, we’re tightening our standards to say who is going to drive for us. That’s unusual in trucking. We are making sure we have the best candidates available to run a safe and profitable business.
We also keep growing out of our buildings, so we’re strategizing on how and where to accommodate in-house growth. We added office space two years ago, and it was a five-10 year plan. We’ve already filled it up.
SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Hopkins: We have realized a greater ability to leverage ourselves with suppliers and vendors, so we get better pricing for drivers. We’ve been able to add amenities for our drivers including a new plaza facility and a body shop for repairs. On the innovative front, we are about to open our own tire recycling facility. We used to send 60,000 tires to the dump. Now, we will repurpose those tires into mulch, outdoor pavement and other things that beautify the area.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Hopkins: It’s interesting. I started here 23 to 24 years ago. Prime has grown every year I’ve been here. Some of those years, the economy was not very nice, yet we still grew.
It’s an entirely different thing to grow at $2 billion in annual revenue. We’re projecting 10% to 11% growth again. Double digits will be hard to maintain at our size. But I think we’ll grow strongly for many years. Part of it is because we continue to look for new avenues. We started out in the refrigerated business, then added flatbed, tanker and intermodal, which is on the rail.
SBJ: Is there such a thing as growing too fast?
Hopkins: Growth percentage will slow. But I see us continuing to find opportunities. Our culture is one of ownership and entrepreneurship. That’s the type of people we hire. As proof of that, the idea of the tire repurposing facility came from one of our accountants. He did the research, budget, etc., and proved it was a concept that would benefit the company and the area. Now, he’s running it. Our structure is flat. Every one of our salaries is based on some sort of incentive component. It’s like being an owner. You make good decisions; you get rewarded.
HappyFeet Soccer franchisee says program prepares youth for sport and business.
Becky Thomas, co-owner of Third Street Sportswear, gives her advice for maintaining good relationships with clients. Drawing on her experience working with customers coast to coast, Thomas says equity and fairness are some of the best ways to build trust and respect.
Don Helms, co-owner of Munchie Moe’s, says it's important to know your business and to think ahead of your supply chain. Helms says COVID-19 has changed the way he has experienced business operation. He says foresight is key.
Janet Susdorf, business consultant and founder of Brain Power for Hire, LLC, discusses the importance of adapting and learning from failure. Drawing from the struggles she has faced in her own life as a sixtime cancer survivor, Susdorf talks about when to fight and when to accept change.
Jennifer Charleston, a 20-year veteran of the Springfield Police Department and the only female lieutenant in the department, talks with SBJ’s Christine Temple about her career in law enforcement and her new position in the department as a liaison to the LGBTQ+ community.
Moving from physical meetings to digital meetings can feel like a barrier, but Mackenzie Scherer, an independent technology business consultant, says it can be an opportunity. Scherer says that with good moderation, a digital meeting experience can make people feel more included in the discussion.
Abby Glenn, development director for Habitat for Humanity, says corporate partners are a huge asset to the work they do. Corporate donation matching programs help individual donors feel they are contributing more and help Habitat for Humanity cover the large costs of their projects.
Alex Neville-Verdugo, museum director at the Discovery Center in Springfield, describes the opportunities the Discovery Center has through partnerships with other educational organizations. Neville-Verdugo says the Discovery Center’s virtual learning program reaches across multiple countries, with traffic mostly coming from the U.S. and Canada.
Elizabeth Hurst, business development manager at HR Advantage, says we do see fewer women in the workforce today than before the pandemic. Hurst says many women want more flexible work environments and that is one way employers can capture the female labor force.
Curtis Marshall, CEO of Tie & Timber Beer Company, says he sees work-life balance very differently. When he was younger, he would push himself to take on more and more responsibility, but would stop and put his career on hold for months while living in New Zealand or Mexico, or to start a pet software project. He says he lives by the philosophy of work hard and play hard.
Brent Cochran didn’t think he would become a retailer, but when thinking of ways to keep his young adult son with Down syndrome intellectually engaged, he came across a father and son team that did just that. Cochran, now owner of Al’s Pals Pet Place, says both the needs of his son and his affection for the family dog with a sensitive stomach led him to the world of e-commerce.