Everyone has a critical role to play at Dubuque, Iowa-based Hirschbach. The company is one big team — and that’s what makes Hirschbach tick, according to CEO Brad Pinchuk.
“We’re very proud to be truckers,” he explained. “The people that are not driving in our trucks, their critical job, in some shape or form, is supporting those who are.”
This is the philosophy Pinchuk repeats weekly in the orientation of new drivers. It’s a philosophy that he wants all the company’s drivers and support staff to carry with them, both on and off the road.
It’s also a philosophy Pinchuk held when he began his career in trucking. His first experience in trucking took place in the U.S. Army. As a platoon leader stationed in Germany, he was responsible for all the heavy equipment, including bulldozers, dump trucks, and scrapers. That equipment also included semi-trucks and drop-deck lowboy trailers, which were used to transport equipment around for different projects on the military bases.
Pinchuk’s experience was primarily in moving the equipment — but he wanted to learn more.
“I just always had an interest in the equipment,” he recalled.
“I’d go out to someone that was trained on a piece of equipment, and I’d ask them to show me how to operate it. The soldiers always got a kick out of it,” he said with a chuckle. “Maybe I couldn’t operate it as well as they could, but some things are easier than others — and it was easy to run a dump truck back and forth. Operating a grader with 25 different controllers was a lot more complicated, but I always took an interest in it.”
When Pinchuk’s military service ended, he set about finding a path to success in the civilian world. His sights were set high on entrepreneurship and becoming his own boss. He didn’t really see himself getting into trucking — but he had goals that were much like those of an owner-operator, and his talents ultimately led to the trucking industry.
To achieve his goals, Pinchuk knew he needed to start small. His first role in management was with a small trucking company. When that company was bought out after a few years, Pinchuk looked for another company with which to grow. That company was Schanno Transportation, one of four companies owned by the Grojean family at the time. Pinchuk started out as Schanno’s manager 22 years ago, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Eventually, the four companies merged into Hirschbach. The company now specializes in various types of refrigerated, dedicated, and specialized transportation services.
“Our niche is in the temperature-controlled space, primarily moving food products and pharmaceuticals around the country,” Pinchuk explained.
Before the merger, the four companies were more focused on being long-haul carriers. While Hirschbach still prioritizes those services, the merger allowed the company to become bigger and better, according to Pinchuk.
In addition to spurring company growth, the merger propelled Pinchuk into the role of CEO. In the past eight years, Hirschbach has grown from a team of 450 to more than 2,200 drivers. Hirschbach is now on-site at over 20 locations, managing large trailer pools and yards. The company has developed a proprietary software system that provides visibility of the carrier’s inventories and trailers at facilities, giving its customers added peace of mind.
“We love winning in many different ways,” noted Pinchuk. “One of those ways is not just growing with our customers and earning more business, but a lot of them recognize our annual awards, and we work really hard to earn those awards. We are very successful at being recognized by our customers as either their best transportation provider or if they recognize a small group being recognized within an elite group of carriers.”
Those awards include the Smartway Elite Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each year, the award is handed out to only five companies. Hirschbach has been one of those companies the last five years in a row.
“We work really hard on the environment and we’re known for being very progressive,” he shared. “We’ve got electric trucks.”
For Pinchuk, being progressive means constantly trying to be the best in every area. Hirschbach has a mission to maintain clear communication with its customers and employees.
This also includes adding Pinchuk’s own personal touch. Every Friday, he sits down to do a podcast, dubbed “In the Box with Brad,” for all of Hirschbach’s drivers. Through their app, drivers can access and listen to the podcast live, providing feedback or asking questions of their CEO.
Not only does Pinchuk strive to create open communication with his employees, but he said he also wants the workplace to be fun, a place with “quite a flair.”
“Art is a big part of who we are,” he related.
Years ago, Hirschbach was asked to donate an old truck for a live graffiti demonstration during an art event in Dubuque. Upon seeing the finished piece, company representatives realized the bold graffiti style resonated with their drivers and their brand. Eventually, they had the graffiti artist, Mario Gonzalez, also known as “Zore,” design a dozen more trailers, then 10 more. The graffiti art is now a part of Hirschbach’s branding and provides inspiration in its offices.
“We like to be noticed,” said Pinchuk. “The message is that we look different because we ARE different. We’re different, we believe, in a very positive way.”
With his teamwork mentality, Pinchuk has found a new love for his role, noting that it also fulfills what he wanted most — to become an entrepreneur.
“I love solving customer’s needs,” he said. “I love forming strong relationships with customers and organically growing with them and continuing to serve their needs.”
Pinchuk’s love of solving customer needs and improving in every area of Hirschbach carries over into the company’s style of employee management.
“We have a very dynamic culture, and it manifests itself in so many different ways,” he said. “I love creating opportunities for people. I love giving the people who earn through their performance … more responsibility and helping them achieve their personal goals, professionally or financially.”
Pinchuk said he believes creating opportunities, and measuring productivity with equitable compensation is what helps Hirschbach retain its drivers. There are driver options to keep them close to home every night, as well as opportunities for drivers to be trainers.
“There’s lots of different levels for what their individual needs are, whether from a home-time perspective or different opportunities financially,” he added. “We do a lot of continuous improvement and training, and lots of awards and recognition (for drivers). We have a big banquet every year where we bring in tons of drivers and recognize the outstanding jobs they do.”
When Pinchuk reflects on what he is most proud of at Hirschbach, he says it will always be the customers, and the fact that the Hirschbach team is fully committed to its clients.
“Really, taking care of our people is how servicing our customers starts,” he explained. “It starts with having good people and treating them the best we can — supporting them, training them, giving them opportunities, and building a dynamic culture.”
Without quality team members performing a critical role, there would be no Hirschbach, Pinchuk concluded.