Photograph by Paul Sinkler
Krystal Vierkant and her company have been rocking the trucking industry. But she wants to be a role model for hard work, and not just for women.
A Rock-Solid Business
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Krystal Vierkant was the office manager of a trucking company some years back when she overheard one rock-hauling trucker ask another via CB radio, "What kind of rocks you got?" There was something about the sound of that line that she liked. In 2001, when a buddy urged her to buy a repossessed semi and trailer and hire him as the driver, she named her fledgling operation Rock On Trucks.
She had purchased the semi solely to earn extra income to replace the $4 an hour she lost by moving from a trucking-company job in Rogers to a teller position at a St. Cloud bank, which was closer to home. She had no intention of expanding her business. But as other independent owner-operators saw that Vierkant was skilled at landing business and maximizing load capacity, they asked her to find loads for them, too. By the end of 2001, she was finding business for six drivers; a year later, that number was up to 28. Drivers were either using their own trailers or renting them from Rock On.
Nineteen months after buying the semi, she was still working full time at the bank while struggling to stay on top of her growing business. "I did billing at night and called customers during my lunch break," Vierkant recalls. "I was draining myself, so I made the leap to run my business full time."
Rock On Trucks now owns eight semis and more than 30 trailers, and dispatches up to 120 trucks a day with up to 250 loads a day for 50 owner-operators in the Twin Cities metro area and outstate Minnesota. Since 2005, annual revenues have fluctuated between $9 million and $10 million. "I'm not looking to continue to grow," Vierkant says. "We grew so fast that what I'm focused on now is making sure that we have good people in place to maintain our excellent customer service."
Still, Rock On has expanded. Rock On Trucks is now one of five divisions of Rock On Companies, which is based in Waite Park, near St. Cloud. Two divisions handle equipment leasing and vehicle repair; another is a real estate holding company. Then there's Rock On Rocks, a wholesaler of landscape rocks and boulders.
Six years in, Vierkant feels she has finally earned the respect of her male colleagues. "When I started, it was very hard," she admits. "The first slap in my face was when a customer of mine said that the only reason I was working on his company's project was because I was a woman and I helped them meet a quota. But today, I have a very good working relationship with that same customer—and it's because I can help them meet their goals, not because I'm a woman.
"To this day, owner-operators assume that a man owns the company," adds Vierkant. "When they come in, they ask to talk to the owner. When I say I am the owner, they give me a deer-in-the-headlights look. It's kind of funny."
While Vierkant enjoys smashing stereotypes, she considers herself a reluctant role model. "I'm not doing this to make other people happy, I'm doing it to make myself happy," she says. "I'm just trying to be me, work hard, and do something with my life. I'd rather be a role model that way than because I'm a woman in a male-dominated industry."