Anderson Trucking Service, Inc.

“We’re called to care for the business and its employees.”
Anderson Trucking Service, Inc.

Headquarters: St. Cloud
Family name: Anderson
Inception: 1955
What it does: Trucking company that transports a variety of materials throughout the country, with a particular specialty in wind energy equipment.
Type of ownership: Private
Principal owners: Rollie, Jim, Brent, and Scott Anderson
Number of employees: 1,350 (plus more than 1,500 contractors)
Number of family members employed by the business: 4
Number of family members on the board: 3 on the board of directors, 4 on the executive board Generation currently involved in the business: Third

  • 1945 Harold Anderson returns from World War II and helps his father manage a fleet of trucks.
  • 1955 Harold Anderson purchases Granite City Transfer, renames it Anderson Trucking Service, and begins expanding the company’s services.
  • 1960 Buoyed by the growing interstate highway system, Anderson Trucking Service begins hauling oversized and other specialized loads.
  • 1961 The company generates $1 million in revenue for the first time.
  • 1968 Anderson Trucking expands into the iron- and steel-hauling sector.
  • 1978 Anderson Trucking Service expands into the transportation of pre-engineered metal buildings.
  • 1983 The company purchases Haupt Contract Carriers, allowing it to expand into the enclosed trailer truck sector.
  • 1990 Anderson Trucking Service expands service into Mexico and sees its second year of revenue above $100 million.
  • 2001 Harold Anderson dies, leaving the company’s leadership in the hands of his son Rollie.
  • 2002 Anderson Trucking Service enters the wind energy hauling market with a $2 million investment in equipment and the development of driver and support specialists.
  • 2009 Responding to the recession, Anderson Trucking Service has to lay off employees for the first time, but decides also to invest heavily in equipment and other technology.
  • 2011 Annual revenue reaches $780 million after falling to $560 million in 2009.

Rollie and Jim Anderson point to the recent recession when listing the benefits of running a family business.

“Our strategic goal, laid out in 2006, was to reach $1 billion in revenues by 2010,” says Rollie Anderson, CEO of Anderson Trucking Service, Inc. and son of company founder Harold Anderson. “But revenues plunged from $890 million in 2008 to $560 million in 2009, so we had to rethink our strategy.”

The company decided to invest heavily in new equipment so that it could move aggressively as the recession receded. “If the company were public, it would have to bow to stockholders and look only at the short term,” says Rollie’s brother Jim, who works part time for the St. Cloud–based company. Instead, the long-term view paid off: Revenue climbed to $780 million in 2011 and is expected to approach $900 million for 2012.

In short, Anderson Trucking Company’s family and board have succeeded by being open to new opportunities and approaches. In 2002, to take another example, the board of directors thought that the wind energy industry was going to take off, which meant that specialized haulers would be in demand. “We decided to invest $2 million in specialized equipment and drivers with specialized training to transport wind energy components,” Rollie Anderson says, noting again that it was a risk most publicly owned companies wouldn’t take. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind energy has been the fastest-growing source of new electric power over the past five years. Anderson Trucking Service now holds a 50 percent share of the U.S. wind energy equipment transport market, “and we’ve more than made up for our original investment,” Rollie Anderson says.

Anderson Trucking Service’s good numbers are simply part of Rollie and Jim Anderson’s desire to keep the business in the family. This way, Jim Anderson says, they can maintain the values passed on their father.

For example, Harold Anderson “constantly emphasized the importance of treating people as people,” Jim Anderson says. “And we regularly hear from truckers that we’re the best company they’ve ever worked for.”

“In some ways, we think it’s our sole job to make sure everyone in the company is successful,” Rollie Anderson adds. “We believe in the entrepreneurial spirit, so we try to give leaders within the company as much latitude as we can.”

According to Rick Farris, vice president of sales and marketing for North Dakota–based Trail King Industries, which sells heavy-duty trailers to Anderson Trucking Service, the Anderson commitment to people extends beyond the company. “They have a level of ethical conduct that is second to none. Over the 25 years of our relationship, they’ve supported us far beyond what is typical. We’re grateful to have them as a business partner.”

Rollie and Jim, along with Jim’s son Scott, who is the company’s vice president of safety and risk management, also think that staying private helps them uphold Anderson Trucking Service’s tradition of safety. “The rule is no shortcuts, period,” Rollie Anderson says.

The company’s business values stem in large part from the family’s faith. Jim Anderson has been an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Free Church in America for 31 years, and other family members are churchgoers. “That keeps us humble and thankful,” Rollie Anderson says. “I feel blessed, and I think we’re called to care for the business and its employees.”

And, he could add, several charities. Anderson Trucking Service supports dozens of nonprofit organizations, most of them in the St. Cloud area. In 1998, the company was the founding benefactor of the Anderson Center for Management and Leadership Development in conjunction with St. Cloud State University; in 2011, it made a $1 million donation to St. Cloud Hospital for a new intensive care unit. Such charitable giving “reflects values held by all family members,” says Brent Anderson, Rollie’s son and vice president of Anderson Trucking Service’s wind energy and heavy haul divisions.

Brent Anderson also acknowledges another Anderson family value: vocational freedom. His sister Julie is a registered nurse, and Scott’s brother Nathan is an artist. Although “everyone in the family has to accept the business as a priority,” Rollie Anderson says, no one is expected to make a career out of it. “Dad expected us to be involved in the business,” Rollie Anderson adds. “But we’ve always asked our kids, ‘Do you really want to do this?’”

According to Jim, Scott knew that he wanted to work in the family business from a young age. As for Brent, he had other opportunities after college but decided to work for the family business in Alabama and Florida. “I had to do everything—sales, operations, management,” he recalls. “So it was a great decision, and I’m happy in my current position.”

The family is looking to Brent and Scott as it considers succession plans. “Nothing’s set in stone right now, including titles for Brent and Scott,” Rollie Anderson says. “But we’ve been working on a financial and managerial succession plan for the past five or six years.” Brent Anderson thinks that it’s important for the family to play a strong leadership role in the firm. “Our employees identify with the values of the company, which are our family values,” he says. “Some employees have been here more than 30 years, and they want to know that the company will stay the same.”

But it’s not all work and no play for the Anderson family. “The business means that we have multi-layered relationships in the family,” Rollie Anderson says. “But we all make a conscious effort to set time apart, both for individual families and the family as a whole.” Favorite Anderson family activities include hunting and fishing.

That said, work is fun, too. “We all love the big equipment,” Rollie Anderson says. “We love driving it and making it perform special functions that solve specific problems. The business provides our family with a means to take what we enjoy, turn it into a business, and share it across generations.”