Leveraging decades of logistics industry experience, we discuss dismantling stereotypes and the necessity of education with CEO of Full Advantage, LLC, Katie Keich.
“It’s a huge industry out there. You can make a whole career out of it – it’s not just a job.”
But for Katie Keich, that’s exactly how her entrance into the logistics industry began – with an unassuming administrative assistant job paying $10 an hour. Fast forward to today, and Keich has climbed the echelons to executive roles, occupying a host of positions and advisory roles on a rich and “rewarding” journey that has revealed myriad lessons along the way.
“I have been in various different positions, but this is an industry that keeps you coming back!”
As a senior credit and collections executive bolstered by over 20 years of experience, a further 15 years of which were spent specializing in logistics, Keich is firmly established as an expert in the field.
Today, Keich’s career background culminates in her current role as CEO of her own company – Full Advantage, LLC (FA), a Pennsylvania-based financial services company that partners with businesses around the world. The organization was born from Keich’s recognition of a need for education and solutions around improving billing, payment processing, and credit and collections in the marketplace.
“Our mission’s central focus is to help businesses increase revenue and scale through optimization of back-office processes,” she explains.
Through this endeavor, Keich leverages her previous experience, including that of Director of Credit and Collections, which saw her as a major contributor on the team that grew an organization from a franchise of under $5 million in revenue to a global logistics organization with a revenue of over $1.5 billion.
With such an impressive track record, including her five-time consecutive award for Special Recognition of Outstanding Performance at a previous organization, it may be easy to perceive Keich as a shining success story. However, she is keen to express and showcase the journey to her position, both for herself, and to encourage other women in similar positions to do the same.
“I didn’t just arrive at the table, I earned my seat and now it’s time to create more room and add more chairs,” she shares proudly. “I seized every opportunity presented to me and spoke up about wanting to be a part of ones that weren’t.”
For Keich, education and opportunities for mentorship are the fundamental keys to truly unlocking potential and driving the industry’s future.
Indeed, it was this same recognition of a greater need for education that led to the inception of her own company, with FA’s primary mandate involving helping SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) to scale through implementation of done-for-you services, establishing a greater understanding of the financial marketplace.
Keich herself recalls the terminology itself within logistics as one of the original educational hurdles she encountered, as if it were an exclusive language understood only by those within the field and not immediately translated to new entrants.
“Even something as simple as the lingo within the industry is something that needs to be debunked,” she says, referring to terms like 3PL, FCL, FTL and a host of other acronyms to get your head around that are a simple example of an early barrier that many encounter.
A keen advocate for mentor programs in the logistics field, she attributes these opportunities as the best way to foster and nurture rewarding careers in a sector that might not be an obvious choice for many women, and where, although there are growing numbers of inspiring female role models, it may transpire as if they just magically appeared in a leadership position.
“Mentorship is the greatest obstacle,” she identifies. “We need to showcase those female leaders, but more importantly, how they got to where they are.”
Education goes hand in hand with another critical pillar in redressing the gender balance in the industry – visibility.
“We, as women, need to do a better job at sending the elevator back down and helping other females as well in their rising careers.
“Other women need to see the stories.”
With every journey starting with one small step, Keich supports the reintroduction of career day programs in elementary schools to offer a crucial early window into the industry.
“We need to showcase those female leaders, but more importantly, how they got to where they are”Katie Keich, CEO, Full Advantage LLC
THE PARADIGM SHIFT
Most recently, Keich has become involved with the Women in Trucking Association, Inc. (WIT) – the not-for profit body that consolidates female players in the logistics space and seeks to encourage greater diversity within the industry.
On the topic of success stories in the field, she cites Ellen Voie (President and Founder, WIT), Kristy Knichel (CEO, Knichel Logistics) and Nicole Glen (CEO, Candor Expedite) as major figures of influence – all of whom are WIT members. Indeed, it was the latter who initially inspired her to join the association.
For over a decade, WIT has been committed to creating an inclusive platform dedicated to promoting employment opportunities, tackling obstacles, and celebrating the successes of women in the logistics space. Its membership primarily comprises professional drivers, and other business professionals, such as Keich, who share in that vision and mission.
Keich credits WIT in enabling her to become a greater “part of the conversation” through WIT’s collective force, although she admits that she is yet to explore all the opportunities made and possibilities it makes available.
A passion shared by both WIT and Keich concerns disturbing the prevailing mindset surrounding women entering logistics, as one that is centered on traditional and outdated perceptions of gender roles.
“We need to remove the stigma, and there is a responsibility on us as women to do that,” she says. “It is still a male-dominated field, but the dynamic is changing, in exactly the same way that the nursing industry in recent years has become more and more populated by men.”
Keich herself shares details of her own personal home situation, where archetypal roles are reversed with her stay-at-home husband shouldering the day-to-day domestic duties that might typically be associated with a woman. But even for those that have such commitments, as working mothers perhaps, she goes on to highlight how women might not realize the level of flexibility that a career in trucking permits.
“In this field, a woman might grow to have the flexibility to be able to be home with her kids every night, or every other week if she is working cross-country routes, since that is the schedule she will have created for herself.”
Drawing to a close, Keich hints at some exciting new developments taking place within her own company, including FA’s launch of a new tech software designed to create logistics invoices, assess credit risk, address quoted versus billed issues, collections, and more.
Since Katie envisioned this software, she knew that once she found the right partner it would only be a matter of time before the software would revolutionize the logistics industry. “We’ve been fortunate to find tech partners to collaborate with for design and launch and are thrilled to share that it will be ready for implementation in 2023,” she says.
Using her professional voice and extensive executive experience as a force to educate and encourage women to pursue an often-overlooked field, Keich will continue to empower future generations of female leaders in logistics.