Kristy Knichel has worked in the transportation industry for 22 years, and for many of those years, it wasn’t unusual for her to be the only woman in the room. But thanks to Kristy – and other female entrepreneurs like her in the industry – the makeup of that “room” is changing. Kristy believes that a more inclusive industry will be driven by two key commitments: a willingness to spotlight women for their growing industry accomplishments and a collective push toward a more flexible industry culture that appeals to a broader mix of talented people.
Kristy is a second-generation logistics executive who began her career as an intermodal dispatcher in 1997. Since becoming president of Knichel Logistics in 2007, she has helped guide the company from $2 million to nearly $70 million in annual revenue. Now with nearly 50 employees, the company has been ranked in the Inc. 500 list of North America’s fastest growing privately owned businesses for four consecutive years.
But her path to success hasn’t been easy.
“We’ve all heard that ‘like hires like’ and this is particularly true in the transportation industry,” said Kristy. “Supplier diversity has helped many companies start thinking about fresh options, but to be truly successful, you have to showcase the real value of your business and what makes you unique – so that you can push past the typical ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ thinking.”
It’s important for the industry’s female entrepreneurs to not only talk up their successes to their clients, but also to the industry at large – to hopefully entice even more women into the fold. In 2015, Kristy herself was presented with the “Distinguished Woman in Logistics” award by the Transportation Intermediaries Association. She was the inaugural winner of the award, established by the Women in Trucking (WIT) Association to promote the achievements of women in the increasingly influential field of transportation logistics.
Kristy is thrilled to point out that the visibility of successes like hers has been turning heads and inspiring change.
“Men who have been in this industry for 30-plus years are recognizing the incredible accomplishments of female leaders in transportation,” said Kristy. “We need to keep promoting the heck out of each other – and shining a big spotlight on how women are making a positive impact on everything from industry innovations to workplace culture.”
Inspiring a positive, inclusive workplace culture tops Kristy’s list of priorities. In 2018, Knichel Logistics earned enough votes from the industry to be named a "Top Company for Women to Work for in Transportation" by Redefining the Road magazine and Women In Trucking Association. Nearly 150 nominations were received by the Redefining the Road editorial staff – and more than 7,000 votes were cast to identify the top 50 companies to be named to this list.
This recognition comes as no surprise to Kristy’s employees. From competitive benefits, to an inclusive culture, to flexible work options (including bring-your-dog-to-work days), Knichel’s employees are granted what they need to thrive.
“Several of my employees work from home – something that was completely foreign to long-time industry leaders like my father,” said Kristy. “But I believe in treating my employees like family – and as the responsible professionals they are. I want to change the perception of this industry as being a ‘young person’s business’ – where people burn out before they turn 30. This is an industry where you can build your career – and still have a life while doing it!”
Kristy is also a big believer in keeping employees happy, and she knows that gestures don’t always have to be grand – they just have to be consistent.
“Building employee engagement isn’t just something you say you do; it’s something you do – every day,” said Kristy. “We find frequent opportunities to bring people together or offer opportunities to blow off steam. From taco lunches, to professional massage therapists, to customer service week, to employee contests, I enjoy finding new ways to let employees know they are appreciated.”
And one of the biggest ways she does that? She constantly thanks her team for every recognition she receives. (And Kristy definitely attracts a lot of awards and attention within the industry – so there are frequent opportunities for her to thank the Knichel team!) She’s even become a frequent guest speaker on the Road Dog XM Sirius radio show.
“I’m still not used to the spotlight,” said Kristy. “But I’m happy to be there to help showcase what women in this industry are doing. We can’t be quiet about our wins, and we have to work together. Our journey in the transportation sector is picking up speed, and it’s been an honor to share the road with so many talented women.”