By Ryan Suchomel
CRST International, Inc., one of the largest transportation companies in the nation, continues to grow both in size and profits, as well as internally, thanks to a successful leadership training program.
CRST’s success and high profile in the Corridor were all factors leading to the company being voted Best Trucking Company and Best Commercial Fleet Dealer/Manager in the 2014 Best of the Corridor competition, said CEO David Rusch.
“We don’t do business with many people in the Corridor on a day-to-day perspective, but people recognize our successes with expansions and with the people we hire,” Mr. Rusch said. “They perceive us as a successful company and enjoy working with us.”
People who work at CRST aren’t shy about telling their friends and relatives what a great company it is, and CRST continues to make it even better. The company recently announced a new leadership program to give current employees more opportunities for promotion.
“We had 70 internal promotions last year,” Mr. Rusch said. “Prior to five years ago, we didn’t do a good job of that. We spent too much time hiring people from other companies and re-training them to the CRST way.”
Heading up the big shift was Brooke Willey, now a vice president overseeing human resources.
“We realized, we’ve got exponential revenue growth, but we have to have employee growth as well to get us to the revenue targets,” Ms. Willey said. “For the past 18 months, we studied the best practices of other companies that do it very well, and this fall will be starting our customized leadership development.”
With nearly 7,500 employees, including drivers on the road, CRST’s new leadership program has been tailored to the company’s unique needs, and is intended to create what Ms. Willey calls a “holistic approach to training.”
“It is not just employees sitting in classrooms nodding at a trainer,” she noted. “We do mentoring, on-the-job training, as well as some classroom work.”
Mr. Rusch noted CRST often hires graduates from local colleges and universities. Some of them are natural leaders, but other need help having that skill brought out in them.
“Some people think leaders become leaders through time, but what Brooke installed is more than that,“ Mr. Rusch noted. “It gives them experience and trains them and teaches them how to be leaders. Some of that is internal, but some of it is learned and taught. We want to build the next generation of directors, vice presidents and CEOs.”
CRST is investing so heavily in training the next generation of leaders because its growth demands it. The company generated an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue in 2013 and is growing with a 15 percent compound growth rate, driven by a series of acquisitions including the Special Products Division of Allied Van Lines in 2013 and BESL Transfer Company in 2014.
“Our goal is to hit $2 billion in the next four years,” Mr. Rusch said. “The next five years should be very exciting.”
TIMES ON LIST:
7 Times Best Trucking Company
1 Time Best Commercial Fleet Dealer/Manager (new category)