Class of 2011
Krystal Vierkant was in an accounting career before she started Rock On Companies a month before 9/11. The business grew to employ 45 people by 2011 and to work on high-profile projects such as TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field.
What are you doing now?
Owner, Rock On Companies.
How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?
It was good publicity and acknowledgment within the community.
Other big changes since you received the award?
We have continued to grow and add jobs. We have worked on giving back to the community by volunteering at different events or organizations.
What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?
Working to coach and teach the younger generations coming into the workforce.
Originally ran: January 8, 2012
Krystal Vierkant has navigated a variety of economic ups and downs since becoming owner, president, CEO and CFO of Rock On Companies/Rock On Trucks in Waite Park.
She started the company a month before 9/11 and pushed ahead in the field of highway construction, something traditionally dominated by men. During her tenure, Vierkant has grown Rock On Trucks from one truck and trailer to six separate businesses despite the tough economic times of the past few years. She employs about 45 people and has anywhere from 70 to 170 trucks operating daily during peak construction season in a five-state area. Her company has participated in many high-profile projects during the past decade, including TCF Bank Stadium, Target Field, runway projects at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and freeway renovations around the Twin Cities. Locally,
Rock On Trucks participated in the West Metro corridor expansion, and construction on U.S. Highway 10 and Minnesota Highway 23.
The Great Recession brought challenges, including a spike in diesel fuel costs. However, she strived to shift employees from one company to another under the Rock On umbrella to avoid layoffs. Rock On revenue grew by $2.9 million from 2009 to 2010. Last year, her company doubled in size, and she's building a 3,500-square-foot headquarters.
What influential factor led you to your current career?
There are only a few women in this industry. I got into this in a roundabout way. I was going to school for accounting, and I ended up dropping out. I was working multiple jobs, and I had worked at two accounting jobs and each was a step up.
The third job I had was at Long Haul Trucking (in Albertville). That's where I got into this niche, though they were over-the-road. They had a division that dealt with rock. I did accounts receivable for that company, and my boss encouraged me to be the financial manager for their shop. After about two years there, I left for an advancement into a brokerage trucking company ... and throughout this whole process I was doing part-time work at TCF Bank, tellering and different functions.
I always had banking in my background, and I eventually took a job at Northern Star Bank in St. Cloud. I took a pay cut, though, and I needed something to supplement my income.
A man who is an employee of mine now owned a trucking company, and his bookkeeper was stealing from him and he went under. I negotiated payments with the bank to take over one truck and one trailer. A friend of mine, who turned out to be my husband, drove and I was going to do the bookkeeping and we thought it was going to be a win-win situation.
That was in August 2001. We ended the year with six owner-operators and ended 2002 with 12. We just gradually grew. As my income grew, I invested in trailers to get my owner-operator fleet up there and in 2003 I quit my other job after getting about three hours of sleep a night. It was kind of scary, but I took the leap.
What's the best part of your workday?
The best part of my workday is feeling a sense of accomplishment. I take pride in the efficiency of how the paperwork flow is done. In a week we process up to 1,000 tickets. I've got it streamlined, and I've got some good girls in place. I like being able to feel good about the fact that it's being done right.
You have a three-day weekend with no obligations. How do you spend it?
Prior to (having) kids, I probably would be scrapbooking. With kids, I'm probably doing some arts and crafts or taking them to a show. They really like the theater or movies.
How do you continue to learn new skills that will keep you on the cutting edge of your business?
My approach is constantly looking for the changes that are going to happen in our industry. I'm in the process of putting a new dispatching system in place. That will make us even more efficient. It will give us GPS tracking of our trucks and a lot of really cool functions that will help mainstream some of this paperwork.
I belong to six different associations. I try to stay up on articles about things that are changing in our environment. With the dispatching system, I did a lot of research to find out which one is the best for us.
A lot of them are focused on over-the-road, which don't work for my company — otherwise we'd have had one five or six years ago. We have so many different things that we have to track — prevailing wage, and a lot of dispatching systems are for drivers who get paid by the mile or by the load. We have so many other ways we get paid — by the hour, by the ton, by the yard. It's much more complex.
This system will allow our drivers to put in their ticket numbers and tonnages at the time they're doing the load. That will help with our data entry. When we get the tickets, we'll just need to verify that the ticket number and the tonnages are right.
The biggest thing is, right now we have each driver calling after every single load so we know where they are at with timing. Now we'll be able to look on the computer and see where they are for their timing.
When a customer calls in, our biggest thing is getting our trucks there as fast as we possibly can, safely. We can see who's closest for a customer.
The other (benefit) will be safety. There will be a hard-mount system so that (the drivers) won't have to use a cellphone. That's banned anyhow for commercial vehicles (as of Jan. 3). It's illegal to use a hand-held phone. You can use a hands-free setup, but you have to be able to reach your phone without moving. They just need to do that for the rest of us in cars now.
How do you see the greater St. Cloud area in 20 years and what would be your role in it?
In 20 years, we better have pulled ourselves out of this (struggling) economy. I think I would be a strong leader in the community. I try to do my best already. I don't think that will change. I'll still keep giving back where I can.
I think we're all undergoing change right now. With my company, I've taken a look through this economy at what I can do to streamline things and cut costs without having to cut employees. Instead of cutting, we've luckily been able to double in the past year our number of employees. I bought two trucking companies in the past year and my (number of) employees went from 21 to 44.
We're building a new building, and I hope I didn't underbuild it, but I set out to have growth in there. In 20 years, it will be a good thing if I did outgrow it.
Family: Husband, Kevin. They have a 5-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son.
Education: Becker High School and North Hennepin Community College.
FYI: She and her husband have been married four years. Kevin Vierkant drives for Rock On Companies.