Cindy Lee – Founder, President & CEO, LYNC Logistics

Before founding LYNC Logistics, Cindy served as vice president of human resources at a large commercial truck dealership, then as president of a regional freight carrier operating more than 50 trucks. Raising three daughters honed her ability to detect malarkey in all its forms.

Tell us about the early days of LYNC Logistics.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I had been managing our family’s trucking company, Lesco Logistics, for several years and it was time to make some changes. Trucking is one of the most frustrating but engaging businesses I have ever been in. It was a love-hate relationship. I loved the challenges and the drivers but hated dealing with freight brokers. The brokerage model is like insurance – you have to have it but you really just grit your teeth every time you have to use it. I kept thinking, “There has to be a better way.” We needed to be the masters of our own fate. Years ago, the trucking company (in 2000) tried getting into the brokerage business – it was a disaster. Someone in the office forgot to verify if the trucking company had insurance….oops. The truck hauling the freight rolled over ten minutes after leaving the shippers, and the financial and emotional damage lasted a long time.

In the fall of 2013, we bit the bullet and decided to open a brokerage separate from the trucking company. In a really pleasant southern voice, I demanded to start, fund, and run this business. I wanted to build something on my own. I called my grown daughters and asked them very nicely, “Remember all of the good stuff you got as kids – the cars, the trips, and that great college education you got? Well, payback has arrived. I need some money to start a brokerage. You’ll be stockholders. It will be a good investment.”

LyncAmerica was born on May 1, 2014 as a woman-owned business. In 2018, LyncAmerica was rebranded as LYNC Logistics, LLC. The fate of this company was in my totally-unprepared hands. The first hire was interesting to say the least and to say it didn’t turn out well was an understatement. Lesson learned, when someone says that they had a dream they should work for you, it might be other things talking. I moved a couple of people over from the trucking side; we moved a little freight. Six months in, I made the best hire of all – the moment I met Keith Gray, I knew he had the same vision as I did. Lync grew rapidly, Keith brought Mat Soloff into the business, and things began to turn. Hiring has been one of the hardest things in this business. You must find someone who not only has the skills, but also who fits into the culture. In a new business, it is important that everyone, including the owner, understands that all ideas are worthy and that stars should be in the sky, not the office.

The company grew quickly from the start. Revenues doubled every year. The rapid growth quickly brought up the main issue all new companies face: cash management. We were rocking along basking in the glory and then one day reality struck. I approached several banks that my husband and I had both business and personal relationships with in the past. LYNC wanted to get a revolving credit line to help with cash. The first bank wanted a personal guarantee, no problem…then they wanted me to move the money behind the guarantee into their bank. Another lesson learned in this process – women and men are not treated equal in the financial markets. The trucking company had numerous loans given without that kind of ask, but they said it was different with us. I went to another bank in town, who bent over backwards to make the credit line happen. They embraced the fact that we were a woman-owned business and have always been there when any need arises. We have been able to grow with their help.

Starting a company brought out every insecurity I have ever had. Am I smart enough? Bright enough? What happens if I screw it up, and the employees hate me? Would I lose all of my savings? All the people I had convinced to leave their secure jobs and take a chance with me, how could I let them down? If that sounds like a lot of I’s, it is. I took everything on my shoulders. Every day, I would sit in my car in front of the building thinking that today would be the day someone discovered I was an impostor. Once I acknowledged the phenomenon to my team, things got better, but the real saviors were Google, the Internet, and incredible female friends. Because of them, I am able to walk in the building, face the day, and get through it without throwing up.

LYNC Logistics, LLC has been very fortunate. Rapid growth allowed us to place on the Inc. 500 list in the first year we were eligible (2018) – we came in at #415. In 2019, we placed #366 on the list. We were named a Best Place to Work by Inc. and LYNC was named the third fastest-growing women-owned/led company by the Women’s President Organization. Women in Trucking also honored LYNC with 2019’s top woman-owned business.

What are some of your favorite books?

Books have always been a huge part of my life. The first book that I remember reading was Cindy Goes To Space, around 1962. For a child who grew up in the 60’s, the thought that I could be anything but a housewife, teacher, or a secretary was mind boggling. From that point on, I used reading as a way to increase my perspectives, to learn about the world way beyond a small city in Tennessee. Books have become both my escape and my saviors. With the business, I am constantly looking for information that will help in sales, development, and leadership. The one book that I think has had a big impact on our employees is Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount. He states that there is no magical way to make sales but that it takes persistence. His book gives salespeople the tools to achieve more success, especially in the brokerage field where you just make call after call until you get a toe in the door. Several of our employees have done the Dale Carnegie course How to Win Friends & Influence People. I bought the book by the same name (it was exactly what I needed at that moment) and have determined that we will offer all of the managers a chance to take the course. Personally, I found the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young, Ed.D. to be enlightening when my anxiety and fear of being an impostor was at its worst. It worked better than the Xanax that my doctor wanted to prescribe. The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman has provided insights into developing the belief in yourself to combat insecurities. Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope was an interesting read though I don’t think any of Bernie’s tactics would serve me well in business. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove is on my nightstand currently. Then, of course, there is the fiction on my reader, my phone, and on every flat surface in my house allowing me to always have an escape nearby.