A 1984 graduate of Idaho State University in Pocatello, Hirning earned a B.B.A. in accounting. He became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and forged a career with an international accounting firm but eventually switched gears to become general manager at the dealership his father, Art, founded in 1982.
“As a youth, I was influenced by my father who started in the automotive industry in the 1950s,” he said. “He is a ‘car guy’ in every sense of the phrase, wherein, his integrity was key to our reputation and inspired my strong work ethic today.”
While in high school, Hirning worked in the wash bay, parts department and shop in the dealership his father was managing. He became a part-time salesperson during college at the new family-owned store and learned the ins and outs of the business from a group of skilled mentors.
“The smell of motor oil in the shop and the sound of engines still makes me feel at home,” he said.
In 1991, after working as an auditor in Colorado and Arizona, he returned home for good to lead his father’s dealership as general manager. Today, Hirning is dealer operator and owns a majority of the dealership with his father retaining a stake in the business.
“I immersed myself in that role and emotionally invested in our employees, customers and the dealership’s operational processes,” he said. “I believe my background and experience in the various departments when I was younger was important in truly understanding how a dealership operates. And my background as a CPA and auditor prepared me to analyze our financial statements and focus on the areas that needed improvement.”
Hirning, who is currently on the board of the Idaho Automobile Dealers Association and has served as president (2019 to 2020) and vice president (2018 to 2019), worked with the board to help the group restructure and achieve a financial turnaround.
In addition, Hirning understands that it is the responsibility of auto retailers to support the communities where their dealerships are located. “If the automotive industry is the backbone of our American economy, then I believe locally owned automotive dealerships are the heartbeat in our communities,” he said.
To that end, he is a steadfast supporter of his alma mater, Idaho State University, where he currently serves on the leadership board for the College of Business. His company also recently endowed $25,000 to create the Hirning Family Excellence in Accounting Scholarship, which would allow financially challenged students to complete their education. And he was a contributor to the construction of the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center on the campus.
He also supports Idaho Business for Education; the United Way of Southeastern Idaho (funded scholarships for at-risk children to attend preschool); the Idaho Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Pocatello; and the Portneuf Greenway Foundation, which is charged with creating a network of bicycle and pedestrian trails through greater Pocatello, to name a few.
“Our dealership has allowed me the ability to support local philanthropy efforts that promote health, invest in education, reduce poverty, support our veterans, nurture the arts and give to those in need,” Hirning said. “We are blessed to give back locally, and I hope our customers know how instrumental they are in helping us make an impact.”
Hirning was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Jim Addis, vice president and executive director of the Idaho Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Kimberly, have four children.