Katie Hopkins, president and newly appointed CEO of Truck Centers Inc., was crowned the American Truck Dealers’ (ATD) Truck Dealer of the Year on Friday during a ceremony at the ATD Show in Las Vegas.
Hopkins has been in the dealer industry with Truck Centers Inc. (TCI) for her entire career. She is the third generation of her family to lead the company and was promoted to CEO late last year, succeeding her father, M. John Hopkins IV, who led the business for 48 years.
Hopkins was presented the ATD Truck Dealer of the Year Award by Procede Software CEO Larry Kettler and Trucks, Parts, Service Editor Lucas Deal. Procede and TPS are sponsors of the 2024 ATD Truck Dealer of the Year Award.
Hopkins thanked her more than 750 TCI team members in receiving the award Friday. She also reflected on her father's winning of the award in 1990.
“I was a junior in high school, but I vividly recall what a proud moment it was in our company's history. I still have a commemorative ring that everyone received and brought it with me,” she said. “The foundation of teamwork, customer service, and solution-focused thinking that my dad and his partner, Mike Yates, laid is still strong today. I feel blessed to be entrusted with the opportunity with other leaders of the next generation such as my brother Justin to continue building upon this legacy.”
Bill Reilley Jr., president and CEO at Lakeside International Trucks, was also honored as finalist for this year’s award.
An independent panel of five judges from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business selected Hopkins from an impressive list of seven nominees. The judges were very complimentary of Hopkins’ career achievements and leadership tactics in choosing her for the award.
“Over the past 11 years since she became dealer principal she has spearheaded acquisitions in multiple markets, and championed growth and core values for the dealerships,” the judges stated. “Hopkins has seen growth with TCI in key performance indicators, including substantial increases in the past five years … . The firm, under her leadership, operates as a solutions value-added company.”
They added, “[Hopkins] espouses continuous improvement in leadership, winning awards for Best Idea of the Year and for change management. Award-winning programs coupled with employee engagement surveys have attracted new employees, increased leadership development among management and fostered transparency with management.”
Hopkins describes herself as a collaborative, people-centric leader.
“I aim to elevate our team members as the heroes of the TCI story and provide them with many opportunities to grow and lead. We encourage them to have ownership of their jobs,” she told TPS last month. “Collaborating closely with the other owners and our very talented leadership team, we collectively steer our business toward progress and innovation while giving back to the communities that we serve.”
Hopkins has been involved in all corners of the TCI business. She worked part-time in the business as a young adult and started full time as an entry-level accounts receivable collector after college. From there, she gradually rose the company’s ranks, learning about each section of the operation as she progressed.
A graduate of ATD’s Dealer Academy, Hopkins ascended to executive vice president at TCI in 2012 and served as president and COO since 2018.
Hopkins’ desire for collaboration and feedback helps drive her business decisions.
“The most important skill for a truck dealer, or any business, is the ability to listen to understand the needs and perspectives of our customers and team members. I have worked on cultivating that skill of listening to understand their needs by opening dialogue and asking questions,” she said. “We survey customers in various ways to keep a pulse on how we are performing and if we are meeting their needs. We have close relationships with many of our customers, and they are very open with sharing things we do well and when there are areas to address, and we do our best to adapt accordingly.”
TCI represents Freightliner, Western Star and Kalmar Ottawa. Also winner of the 2014 Successful Dealer Award, TCI has 10 full-service locations (and two auxiliary locations) across Illinois, Indiana and Missouri and is headquartered in Troy, Ill., 20 miles northeast of St. Louis. TCI was less than half that size when Hopkins first joined the business, she said.
Just in recent years, TCI has seen its net profit growth rise by 185% since 2018, with EBITDA growth up by 189% and new truck sales up 41%, parts growth up 57% and service growth up 53%. Additionally, the company saw its recent on assets rate grow substantially from 2021 to 2022 and was on pace to continue that year over year growth in 2023.
Hopkins’ leadership and TCI’s commitment to customer engagement are reasons for the business success.
“We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional customer service by empowering our team to go above and beyond to not only meet but exceed customer needs. Whether it's a single-truck owner-operator or a large fleet, we strive to be a reliable partner that can be entrusted with their business,” she told TPS.
In winning this year’s award, Hopkins and her family also have made ATD Truck Dealer of the Year Award history. Hopkins and her father John are now the first parent-child duo in history to be recognized as ATD Truck Dealer of the Year.
“The TCI team and this industry are filled with hard-working, talented people who keep America's supply chain moving. I am honored to be a small part of that. On behalf of everyone at Truck Centers Inc. Thank you for this tremendous honor,” she said Friday.
Other nominees for this year’s award were Paul Burk with Doggett Truck Group, K.C. Heidler of Tom’s Truck Center, Brian O’Donnell of Valley Truck Centers, Dennis Ross of Kenworth of Jacksonville, and Jim Schroeder of Peterbilt Pacific.