Black Hawk Logistics plans to start a brokerage that could help bring more clients to the firm.
Sarasota-based trucking company Black Hawk Logistics has built a solid business transporting refrigerated and dry goods, primarily produce, dairy and ice cream.
Now the company, previously based in Colorado before Vasil Gushterov, the owner and president, moved the headquarters to Sarasota, is getting into a new line of work that can deliver even more growth: brokering the shipment of goods. Logistics and brokerage entities have grown rapidly in the region, as the prevalence of ecommerce puts a premium on things like last-mile delivery and reliable service.
Black Hawk Logistics General Manager Richard Binkley says the goal is to have the brokerage up and running in 2020. “Opening a brokerage is going to expand how we do everything,” says Binkley. He says the brokerage will serve essentially as a middleman, connecting companies that need trucks with firms that can provide them. Black Hawk could be that provider, or if all of its trucks happen to be in use, the brokerage could connect the company to another trucking firm. “Some of my customers have flat out told me, ‘As soon as the brokerage is open, you’re getting all my loads,’” he says.
The Sarasota office is the home base for the firm’s eight dispatchers and other members of the Black Hawk team, totaling 12 employees. The company has about 45 drivers, subcontractors who own their own trucks. Within the last month, the firm gained five trucks, and it also recently hired another dispatcher. The company, with just under $8 million in gross revenue in 2019, has grown through a focus on customer service and word of mouth. With plans for more trucks, officials see more growth in its future. “We’re expecting hopefully to gain another 20 trucks,” Binkley says.
Binkley says the company’s biggest customer now is a cucumber grower who sells cucumbers to pickle company Mt. Olive. For that grower, Black Hawk transports loads from where they’re grown in Florida and Michigan to various destinations.
Binkley says Black Hawk has grown through its good reputation in the transportation world. “We’re growing pretty quickly because of word of mouth more than anything,” he says.
That word of mouth includes drivers talking to other drivers about what it’s like to work for Black Hawk. Binkley says Gushterov was a driver himself, so he knows what the experience is like and that plays into how he treats drivers. “He goes above and beyond anyone I’ve ever seen in this business for his drivers,” says Binkley. “He wants his drivers to succeed and he wants his employees to succeed.”
Most drivers for the company are based in Sarasota or nearby, but they don’t have to be. Black Hawk also has drivers based in Colorado, Virginia, Texas and California.
Binkley says Gushterov also focuses on driver safety, including maintaining three points of communication. Multiple points of contact help the Black Hawk team make sure drivers are okay and everything is running smoothly, he says. “If we see a driver delivering late say three times in a row, Vasil will call him and make sure there are no personal issues,” says Binkley. “He’s very hands on when it comes to the drivers and their safety and their personal lives.”
‘We’re growing pretty quickly because of word of mouth more than anything.’ — Richard Binkley, Black Hawk Logistics
Drivers are key for Black Hawk, and the company is picky about who it hires. The company checks backgrounds, driving records, safety records, equipment safety and more. Gushterov also meets with potential drivers three or four times before hiring them.
After being hired, drivers are regularly given options for their routes. As subcontractors, they can choose where they want to drive and if they want to do a certain job once they know how much it pays. “Because most of our drivers have been with us for so long, we know what they like and where they want to go,” says Binkley. Since the company has those long-term relationships, it offers drivers what they know is in their wheelhouse.
Black Hawk aims to set itself apart in another way — customer service. Dispatchers monitor situations, and if there’s an issue with a delivery, Binkley says the company will go above and beyond to make it right. That could mean paying another driver to take over and make sure a load gets delivered on time. The company’s service mindset can be summed up by a simple concept, he says: “Do whatever you can for the customer if you lose money or not.”