Every seasoned business traveler knows that you never plan to fly north in the winter, especially from Chicago. I’ll blame it on the mild winter, the grass (not snow) outside my window, or maybe a false sense of confidence; but whatever the excuse, I planned my March trip to Minneapolis. Mother Nature promptly reminded me who is in control and sent an early March winter storm warning my way, immediately delaying my flight out. I arrived at the Minneapolis airport about an hour late, but undeterred, and drove directly to St. Paul to meet the folks from Rihm Kenworth and Lawrence NationaLease. (Lawrence NationaLease has since been renamed Rihm NationaLease.)
I met Kari Rihm, who walked me through their St. Paul dealership which occupies an entire city block. We ended up in their conference room where Kristin Lynner, Cindy Peschges, JB Rihm, Bill Schultz, and Howard Ketel were waiting for me. Since Rihm had recently purchased Lawrence, I was there to give them all an overview of NationaLease, and the programs and benefits that are available for all of our members. I typically give this presentation to brand new members, so it was a little strange for me to have Bill and Howard in the room, since both have been with NationaLease longer than I have! Of course, they were both very gracious, and shared some great stories to illustrate my points.
Since the meeting started late due to my flight delay, I just had time to check into my hotel, then drive a few blocks to the lovely Louis Ristorante where we had dinner reservations. Although they are called the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul have very different personalities. While Minneapolis boasts skyscrapers, lots of glass and steel, and the unmistakable hustle and bustle of a big city, St. Paul has always seemed to me more like a small town. The downtown area has lovely parks, old churches, and quaint little spots like Louis. The history of Louis dates back to the late 1800’s when a young man named Michael Cossetta came to St. Paul from Italy, settled in a little Italian neighborhood in St. Paul called the Upper Levee, and opened a tiny food market called Cossetta’s. Over the last 100 years, Cossetta’s added a pizzeria, an expanded Italian market, a bakery, and the fine dining restaurant, Louis. The fourth generation of the Cossetta family is now running the business. The food there was delicious and I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Kari and JB. I also learned that, true to the stereotype, every single one of the Minnesotans at the table had at least some Norwegian heritage!
The next morning, I visited with Nick Corona and Ryan Syverson at Allstate NationaLease. We discussed some of the resources that NationaLease members have access to, such as our upcoming events: the Maintenance Managers’ Meeting, Annual Meeting, and Sales Meeting, and our partnership with Universal Technical Institute to help our members recruit diesel technicians. We reviewed our Supply Management programs, and some of the other tools on the NationaLease website. We also talked about a new program that NationaLease has started -the NationaLease Review. It is a two-day program at the NationaLease Home Office that acquaints members’ new employees with all of the programs and services available through NationaLease. The agenda is customized so that every participant can spend time on what is most important to them in their role. There are two more sessions scheduled this year: August 24-25, and December 7-8.
I left Allstate, and drove over to Koch NationaLease. Since it was nearly lunchtime, Kurt Kettner, Denise Esler, Charlie Hile, and Eric Feagler took me to lunch at Jax Café. Jax is an old-school steakhouse that has seemingly changed very little from its beginning in 1910 when great-grandfather Stanley Kozlak built the business. The building originally housed his furniture, hardware, and funeral services businesses as well as the local dance hall. When prohibition ended in 1933, a liquor license was obtained and Jax Bar and Cafe was born. I knew it would be a hearty Minnesota lunch when someone decided that we should start with the pierogi platter as an appetizer!
After lunch, Kurt gave me a full tour of the Koch Companies. They have several divisions, including Koch Trucking, Koch NationaLease, Koch Industries, Koch Maritime, Koch Logistics, United Trailer Leasing, and GW Transportation. The company’s origin dates back to the mid-1950s when Stan Koch was a manufacturer’s representative of cable, rope, twine and other related products. Through expansion into the transportation industry, Stan Koch & Sons, Trucking, Inc. was started in 1978 and has grown from a small contract motor carrier to a full service transportation and distribution company. Koch Industries still exists as a premier provider and merchandiser of chain, rope, load binders, cable and strap pullers, tarps, logging products, tractor/farm accessories and three-point hitch products. I had the chance to meet lots of the Koch staff in each of their divisions. I was aware that Koch had many divisions, but it was really eye-opening to meet so many people and see first-hand all the various aspects of their business.
I wasn’t scheduled to fly out until the following afternoon, but every TV station was reporting that the storm of the year was on its way. I tried to change my flight to get out of town that evening, but nothing was available until early the next morning, so I booked a 5:00 am flight and hoped for the best. I woke up extra early, expecting to have to shovel my way out of the parking lot, but there wasn’t a flake of snow on the ground. The airport was already packed when I got there at 4:00 am, as we held our collective breath hoping to get out before the storm hit. My flight left without delay, and I arrived in Chicago to a clear, bright day. Turns out, the storm pretty much missed Minneapolis all together.
My day-to-day life really isn’t affected all that much by the weather. Sure, it’s inconvenient to have to clear the snow off my car or pick my way along an icy sidewalk, but we have heated and air conditioned cars, homes, and offices, and most of us spend the majority of our time in one of those three places. But on a particularly, cold, snowy day (or a 100-degree day, for that matter) I think of our technicians, who are out on road calls; climbing under muddy, snowy trucks; dealing with the freezing and stifling temperatures, all to make sure their customer’s load of medical supplies, baby formula, or ice cream arrives on time. Our members’ commitment to keep their customers’, AND their fellow members’ customers’ trucks rolling, rain or shine, is one of the things that really sets NationaLease apart. And despite our best efforts, we all know you can’t fool Mother Nature.