Kristy Knichel is a Pittsburgh native and CEO/President of her family-owned and operated company, Knichel Logistics. Kristy has always been a firm believer in creating a fun work environment for her employees while treating everyone like family. She has managed to make a name for herself and her company in the logistics industry by driving Knichel Logistics on a course of continuous upward growth. Follow her @knichellogistic.
Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
First off would be Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook. It’s amazing what she has accomplished in her career while managing a family. I have an almost-5-year-old myself. I’ve learned that you can do both. It’s not easy, but you find a way. My father is another important role model. He has taught me the value of a great work ethic, and to never give up — to keep pushing forward.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I have found that surrounding myself with people who inspire me and bring out my best has been the most helpful factor in running a business. It is sometimes easy to tell yourself that you can do everything, especially when you have had the experience of performing nearly every job in your own company like I have. While that’s a noble thought, it’s nice to be able to rely on people you trust to help you along the way.
However, it is also in your best interest to tackle personal deficiencies head on in order to become a stronger leader. In the past, I have struggled with public speaking and lacking confidence. Yet over the course of many years, I pushed myself to join peer groups and engage with other industry professionals in order to strengthen my areas of weakness. I can tell you that at this point in my career, it has paid off exponentially.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
In 2013, we hired someone externally as COO and gave him a great deal of power and trust. In hindsight, we did not perform enough due diligence before bringing him on. After this COO made a series of unwise business decisions, improper hires, and formed a new operational strategy that we did not have the resources to execute, we found that our profit margins had sunken to an all-time low. We had no choice but to eliminate nearly 40 percent of our staff in order to stay in business.
When I replaced the COO with our former intermodal manager, it created a rift in my family. I had to prove to my family, my remaining employees, and myself that I was following the right course of action. We had a great comeback year in 2014 and continued to do even better in 2015. I learned to trust my instincts and to stand my ground. This was an unfortunate incident that I guarantee I’ll never repeat.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
The first hour of my business day is spent reading and responding to emails and phone messages that I receive after hours. I cannot proceed with the new work day until I have communicated with everyone who took the time to reach out to me. Because of the many roles I’ve held here, a lot of customers and vendors still email me directly — especially carriers who are looking for more freight. If someone (an employee, customer or vendor) takes the time to ask me a question, that person deserves a response.
After I complete these tasks, I make the rounds to say good morning to everyone. I want to make sure that all of the approximately 40 people in our office see me at least once a day.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Cash flow is king! You must not underestimate how much money you will need. Always try to keep as much as you can in the business to reinvest building for the future. You will inevitably need to upgrade technology in some respect, bring in new hires, or have money in order to create sustainability within your business.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Make sure you know why you are starting this business from the get-go. Have a plan in place and make sure your team knows the plan. If you are all not on board, you’ll never make it to the next level. In my experience, running a business has always been a team effort.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success is continuing to grow my business and continuing to grow as a person. I have learned a lot over my 19-year career in the logistics industry. Because I’ve worked in every position, I have learned the intricacies of what it truly takes to run a business and the types of people it takes to do these jobs successfully. It has also allowed me to cultivate humility and a strong work ethic in addition to sharpening my hiring skills. In the end, as long as my business thrives and I am able to be the best leader that I can be, I know that I have succeeded.