In an industry dominated by men, this female-driven logistics company in Reno is bucking trends
Special to the NNBV
RENO, Nev. — Tiffany Novich had no way of knowing when she co-founded Full Tilt Logistics back in 2014 with her husband, Nic, that the duo had struck upon the perfect name for their fledgling freight brokerage.
Full Tilt’s growth curve has been at full speed since its inception, with modest revenues of $250,000 in the first six months skyrocketing almost 10,000 percent over the past five years.
Full Tilt Logistics recently purchased and extensively renovated a 11,000-square-foot headquarters facility on East Plumb Lane to better accommodate current and future growth.
In 2016 the company added transportation services to its core freight brokerage business and currently employs 33, including 20 long-haul drivers. Full Tilt also manages small independent brokerages in Minnesota and Reno.
The Noviches both worked as wildland firefighters before joining international shipping company DHL. They founded Full Tilt Logistics with a modest $20,000 initial investment in part to become their own bosses and have more time to dedicate to their young daughter. A son followed a few years later.
Focused on building relationships
Their timing for forming Full Tilt couldn’t have been better.
Northern Nevada may have lagged behind much of the country in fully shaking the yoke of the Great Recession, but by 2015 the regional economy was starting to surge. Today it’s a juggernaut, and a great deal of Full Tilt’s initial success is due to relationships formed in its early years, Tiffany Novich says.
“It is really difficult in this industry being a younger brokerage to build rapport with carriers,” she says. “That was a struggle. But we really focused on building those relationships, and we were fortunate enough to have some really solid customers.”
The early days of managing each and every account, fielding late-night phone calls and burning dinners are in the rear-view for the founders. Additional family members joined Full Tilt in key executive positions to help shoulder the workload. The new office with its open bullpen layout also allows for greatly increased collaboration between account managers and carrier reps, Novich adds.
“Having this structure allows everyone to work as a team,” she says. “Customers get the best service because they get a team of six people constantly reviewing their requests.”
Dealing with market fluctuations
One of Full Tilt’s niches is delivering time-sensitive, high-value expedited freight — think the audio/visual equipment for a monster truck show. Full Tilt moves the equipment from city to city, and it has to be delivered on tight time frames to avoid hefty labor charges.
It works with core carriers on specific accounts to ensure timely delivery. Full Tilt added transportation services in part to better control operations and also to fill need — some carriers didn’t want to invest the time and money to have their trucks cross the Sierra over Interstate 80, Novich says.
Market fluctuations also can bring challenges — Full Tilt leases its fleet of 18 tractor trucks and 40-50 drive-in trailers, and that equipment isn’t earning anything when it isn’t on the road. Trailers are strategically placed in core markets to better service carrier needs.
While the Noviches have gone full bore since the company’s inception, they also realize it’s time to step back and assess the best steps for the future. They’ve engaged a consulting firm to help determine what the next five to 10 years should look like, including benchmarking against competitors, the possibility of a strategic acquisition or purchasing additional equipment.
Full Tilt currently is in hiring mode, but many of its employees don’t necessarily come from logistics backgrounds. The company works closely with Truckee Meadows Community College to place interns from the college’s logistics management program.
“It’s more of the soft skills — being able to handle stress, multi-task and being very service- and results-oriented,” Novich says. “We have multiple different backgrounds here. We are looking at growing the team, but we really look at if they can ride on the bus with us since we are in here all day together. You have to be able to mesh.”
When vocation becomes vacation
As president and chief executive officer, Novich has final say in company matters. She enjoys collaboration with other women entrepreneurs and business owners in the greater Reno-Sparks community and enjoys using her position to empower women and girls to pursue alternative career choices.
One of Full Tilt’s female long-haul drivers, Tamlynn Hegdahl, started her career in a truck as part of a team but has since moved out on her own. Hegdahl says two of the main perks of her job are great pay and paid travel.
“I get to see a lot of things other people do not,” she says. “I (recently) had a load that took me to Virginia, and I had to stay for a few days. My job allows my vocation to be my vacation — when the load allows, I can hang out wherever I’ve delivered and enjoy time out of the truck.”
Like most who drive a truck for a living, safety is a primary concern for Hegdahl. She typically brings her dog with her for protection and companionship. Trucking may be a historically male-dominated industry, but Novich says female drivers are among her top team members.
“We definitely promote hiring women drivers,” she says. “They are some of our best drivers when it comes to details, paperwork and professionalism. With the technology of our trucks and trailers, this job can be opened up to women. The trucks are very easy to drive and operate, and that will really help the industry — you don’t have to be a big burly man to operate a truck.”
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