Kory Kottke, Kyle Kottke, and Kurt Kottke

Kory Kottke, Kyle Kottke, and Kurt Kottke

During the recession, Kottke Trucking kept its cool. The transport firm built its reputation as a shipper of frozen and refrigerated foods, with customers including Michael Foods and Jennie-O. When business slowed about seven years ago, Kottke Trucking decided to invest in its future by upgrading equipment and beefing up its IT.

And it’s paid off. The firm, which delivers in 30 states, including Ohio, Florida, Kentucky and New Mexico, has seen revenues grow by around 30 percent over the past four years.

“We consider them a strategic partner,” says Pat Johnson, transportation operations manager for Minnetonka-based Michael Foods. Among his 120-some carriers, Kottke is “probably the most responsive, best communicating and overall, the most operationally efficient carrier that I deal with.”

Kottke Trucking is run by three brothers who are the founder’s grandsons: Kurt, who oversees operations; Kory, who handles inside sales; and Kyle, who runs the company’s divisions, including maintenance, safety and finance. While “the art of moving freight hasn’t changed all that much,” Kyle Kottke says, his company has invested “hundreds of thousands of dollars into analytical tools to tell us what is working financially and what isn’t.” Kottke considers this technological prowess one of his company’s most entrepreneurial elements.

In addition, Kottke says the company is investing “a ton of money” in safety technology such as anti-collision devices and driver safety features. The company has also been skillful at keeping those drivers. In a line of work where annual turnover approaches 100 percent, Kottke Trucking’s rate is around 25 percent. “We try to take an incredibly difficult job and make it humanly acceptable by shortening their durations away from their homes and families,” Kottke says.

In early 2015, Kottke Trucking started to pursue a new opportunity—pharmaceutical delivery. With that expanded base of business, the Kottke brothers have drawn up a strategic plan to triple in size within the next 10 years. “There’s no question that there will be forms of consolidation all the way through the industry,” Kyle Kottke says. “The technology makes it easier to be bigger, and customers are asking for more density and offerings. All that adds up to being bigger is better.”