As the owner of Performance Trucking, Kathryn Stewart is blazing trails as a female executive in a male-dominated industry. She focuses on solving problems and has earned respect for her ability to do so.
Based in Gwinnett County, Performance Trucking is a transportation company with a 120-truck fleet that provides local, regional, and long-haul freight capacity with specialty services to meet a variety of customers’ needs. The company also offers semi-truck repair and warehousing in Georgia and Florida and has grown an admirable customer list including Publix, Kimberly Clark, and a host of small- and medium-sized businesses across the Southeast.
Stewart took the helm four years ago, replacing her husband who retired and buying out their business partners. She has led transformative initiatives for the company, including developing influential partnerships, negotiating key contracts, and implementing new software that boosts logistics performance and analytics capabilities for improved accuracy.
Yet, when she sits down at the table for business meetings, she often feels like an outsider. “This industry is still male-dominated, and sometimes I can feel that boundary during conversations,” she explains. “Larger companies are getting used to seeing women leaders, but many people at small companies have not had that experience yet,” she explains.
Stewart says she remains focused on the business at hand and on solving problems. “I answer questions and contribute to the conversation, and eventually people see my level of understanding and realize that I’m the one making decisions and signing contracts,” she adds.
Her best days at work are those where she has produced positive outcomes that drive her company’s growth. “When I’m negotiating contracts that go the way I want or secure an interest rate that we need or solve a problem that has dragged on, that gives me a lot of satisfaction,” Stewart says.
She also focuses on creating better processes that empower team members to contribute more fully. “Getting a project to the point where others can take care of the work without me being involved – that’s the end [goal],” she says.
Performance Trucking is now 100 percent woman-owned, and the company has recently obtained official certification as both a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), awarded through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). These classifications will give the company greater visibility among government supply chains, as well as those in large corporations. “We’re excited to start bidding on government jobs and showing how we can help larger corporations meet their diversity initiatives,” she adds.
Stewart is eager to encourage other women in the transportation industry and does so through her work with industry groups such as the Women in Trucking Association. She is also actively involved in the Gwinnett Chamber through the Chairman’s Club where she appreciates the support for small businesses.
“We’re a family-owned small business, and there aren’t many of those in the trucking industry. Our industry has gone through much consolidation, and it seems like there is less and less room for small businesses,” she explains. “But small businesses are vital to the health of our economy, and the support of small businesses really matters.”