Truck Centers, Inc:
A long-haul, family road trip
A wise person once said, “Some of us grew up playing with tractors and trucks. The lucky ones still do.”
This could very well describe the Hopkins family, owners of Truck Centers, Inc., a longtime IADA member. With the third generation currently running the family business that includes 12 locations in three states, almost all Hopkins family members have been involved over the years.
“I started at a Truck Center dealership when I was 11 years old,” explains Katie Hopkins, President and COO. “I answered phones, worked weekends, and hung around after school. I just loved being there.”
Her brother Justin Hopkins, the company’s Executive Vice President, credits his dad John Hopkins with not just introducing him to the business, but imparting life lessons along the way.
“My dad taught me that relationships with everyone I come into contact with are the key to what we do,” he explains. “He modeled the importance of doing what you say you’re going to do and owning it.”
Truck Centers currently employs approximately 700 people across all locations and the Hopkins family aims to treat each of them like one big extended family.
“We’re very family-oriented,” Katie explains. “We give our employees gifts on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because we want to celebrate their commitment to their own families. We provide flexibility to staff so that they can prioritize their children and spouses when needed.”
Katie says that this emphasis is reinforced by employees themselves. In regular staff surveys, the most frequent comment received by management is that the dealership owners treat them ‘like family.’
“We have a lot of second and third generation employees which really speaks to how we’ve been able to care for them,” Justin says. One example is Mike Yates, a trusted partner, who has been with the company for more than 45 years. His sons Trevor and Tyler also now play key roles in the business.
However, like the automobile industry, the pandemic meant big changes. According to Justin, for almost three years Truck Centers has been receiving less than two-thirds of the inventory it needs for customers due to supply chain failures and a lack of frame rails, chips, etc. “It’s been hard for our sales team having to say no to customers, disappoint them, and not have a single extra truck to sell,” John says.
Focusing on long-term relationships with customers, offering better service, and being transparent about supply has become a top priority. “In a way, COVID forced us to improve our customer communication and has actually made many of our relationships better,” Justin says.
The Hopkins family works hard and continues to learn from each other. John, who has handed many of the day-to-day responsibilities to Katie and Justin, serves as a sounding board for them and stays involved in the industry as Vice Chairman of the Freightliner Dealer Council and will serve as Co-Chair in 2023/2024.
John admits that his children have taught him how to text, FaceTime, and Zoom, but they have also shown him the power of living passionately, both professionally and personally. He admires how they continue to give back to the communities they serve.
“Dad has shown us how to do everything with integrity,” Katie says. “He has lived his life this way and it shows,” Katie says.
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