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Growth Studio Spotlight: Rihm Family Companies

In this Growth Studio Spotlight, we ask Kari Rihm, president & CEO of Minn.-based Kenworth dealership, for her advice on entrepreneurial decisions, including hiring employees and increasing clientele.

 kenworth building in st. paul minnesota
At her St. Paul, Minn.-based Kenworth dealership, CEO and President Kari Rihm explains the value of both profit management and best hiring practices. — Rihm Family Companies

In our Growth Studio Spotlight series, CO— aims to connect budding entrepreneurs with business owners who have been there, providing advice that can help bridge the gap between a business idea and successful execution. In this edition, we consult Kari Rihm, president and CEO of Rihm Family Companies, a St. Paul, Minn.-based Kenworth truck dealership, to share her entrepreneurial experiences — from finding great employees to successfully marketing a small business. The company has been in business for 87 years and has 360 employees.

Here's how Rihm describes her company: Rihm Family Companies, Inc. is a 4th generation family-owned and operated business focused on providing exceptional service in the heavy-duty truck industry.

 kari rihm headshot
Kari Rihm, CEO & President of Rihm Family Companies — Rihm Family Companies

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CO—

If you had additional capital, how would you invest it in your business?

Access to capital can be difficult for women-owned businesses. They don’t always get the same response from lenders that men do. For a privately-held company under a franchise agreement like ours, we need to grow organically, and strategically reinvest profit dollars.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in the past year?

I had no idea of how demanding our growth would be on cash and personnel. In the past 2 years, we’ve opened 4 new dealerships. The idea of “scaling up” did not seem difficult to me until we were in the midst of it, drinking out of a fire hose.

We are looking at an employee’s long-term future with us, not just what we initially hire them for.

Kari Rihm, CEO & President, Rihm Family Companies

How do you find great employees?

We have adapted the mindset that we’re not hiring the next technician, we’re hiring the next service writer or trainer, etc. – meaning we are looking at an employee’s long-term future with us, not just what we initially hire them for. We also hire according to our core values. Many of our greatest employees sought us out because we are differentiating ourselves from the market by making investments in our people and our overall business.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published April 15, 2019

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