Beyond the Boardroom: Two Men and a Truck’s Dan Shunk

Chicago
By Chicago 9 Min Read

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Dan Shunk’s business has finished first in the “Moving Service” category of The News-Gazette’s People’s Choice awards all six years.

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

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For those who might be wondering, no, DAN SHUNK did not grow up in Hume dreaming of one day moving couches for a living.

“But what I did know, from a very early age, was that I wanted to do my own thing, and be my own boss. I grew up with my parents owning and operating their own business.”

Before opening Two Men and a Truck — now in its 15th year and fresh off a sixth straight first-place finish in the “Moving Service” category of The News-Gazette’s People’s Choice awards — Shunk spent 13 years selling construction equipment.

“I realized that I wasn’t overly particular with the industry or product I wanted to represent, but was much more concerned with providing a quality product at a fair, reasonable price, be a positive and contributing member of my community, have a fun and engaging work environment and be a strong and thriving business.”

The Uni High grad — who holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from St. Louis’ Washington University — took time out to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 204th installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

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“Everyone makes mistakes or does things wrong from time to time. Just be straightforward and move on. It’s way easier to just own up to something and fix it than try to cover it up.”

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

If I could trade places for a week with any other business person in town, I wouldn’t mind switching with … Lauren Morenz at Indian Acres. I would be a horrible replacement for her — I’d just sit around the pool deck and sip and snack the whole day.

It’s such a relaxing and fun environment she’s keeping there. She’d have a lot of work to catch up on after that week.

My philosophy on meetings is … I have very few recurring meetings, and the ones that I do have on my schedule have time limits.

My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is … be honest. Everyone makes mistakes or does things wrong from time to time. Just be straightforward and move on.

It’s way easier to just own up to something and fix it than try to cover it up.

When it comes to my favorite moments in this job … I have gotten true joy and pleasure from hearing about an employee’s personal achievements and growth such as a promotion, new job, buying their first home, paying off their car or becoming financially stable

As for the one thing I can’t live without … while I really enjoy lots of things — bikes, tech, music, etc. — I really don’t get that attached to much. As long as my family is there to enjoy life with, I’m good. .

The three adjectives I hope my staff would use to describe me are … honest, reliable and consistent.

On my office walls, you’ll find … a whiteboard with a to-do list, ideas for the next project and some attempts at improving my organization skills; pictures of my family and friends having fun; and photos that my daughter took.

I’m frugal in that … I learned a long time ago that buying cheap can be the most expensive way to go. I tend to buy quality products and just wear them out.

Clothes, shoes, tools, toys. My wife thinks it’s funny when I complain about something wearing out, then realize the pair of boots I just complained about were four years old and I wore them nearly every day.

The first thing I do when I get to work most days is … make a list of what I want to accomplish that day. If I have a list of things that need to get done today, they get done.

For lunch, I like to … get a burrito from Cactus Grill on South Neil. Rick makes the best burritos in town.

I wind down after work by … going for a bike ride with Wild Card Cycling — local country roads, or the trails at Kickapoo.

The most beneficial college class I took was … Organizational Behavior in grad school at Wash U, taught by Judi McLean Parks. Looking back, I don’t think the subject matter was groundbreaking, but it really made me realize that just because something motivates me, doesn’t mean that it will motivate someone else.

It really was more of an aha moment for me that as a leader/employer, I needed to understand what drives others.

For example, more vacation days might be a huge benefit for one employee and mean nothing to another. The same goes for all points of compensation, benefits and work environment.

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“My first job away (from Hume) was at Snak’s Fifth Avenue on South Neil Street. I started working as a bus boy, clearing and cleaning tables. That job developed into janitor, dishwasher and cook over some time. It was a great experience and I still attempt to use those cooking skills from time to time.”

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

As far as the last good book I read goes … I don’t read a lot, but really enjoy Christopher Moore’s books.

When it comes to my up-and-at-’em-time … probably the least consistent thing I do is have a set sleep schedule.

But if I need to be up at 4, then I’m up. If I have a project or group meeting that’s running late, then I stay until things are done, and then get the sleep I need to be functional the next day.

My exercise routine consists of … three days a week, working out at RAW Fitness, and this has kept me flexible and strong enough to hike, bike and do lots of outdoor activities as I get older.

I also cycle — both road and trail — and try to do that two to four times a week for an hour-and-a-half to four hours at a time.

I have recently gone back to yoga with Steve at the Living Yoga Center, which is wonderful both mentally and physically.

The first job I ever had was … working for my dad at Hume Feed & Seed. Everything from pushing a broom, driving tractors, carrying 20- to 80-pound bags and whatever else needed done.

My first job away was at Snak’s Fifth Avenue on South Neil Street. I started working as a bus boy, clearing and cleaning tables. That job developed into janitor, dishwasher and cook over some time. It was a great experience and I still attempt to use those cooking skills from time to time.

The worst job I ever had was … corn detasseling. It was the early ‘80s and old heavy jeans, super-hot and humid summer days and corn leaves that seem to cut whatever exposed skin you had was not enjoyable.

My assigned team was great, and the bosses were good people, but trudging through hot and humid corn fields was something I’m glad I don’t have to do today.

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