Empowering Logistics: Great equipment empowers the industry
“Whatever line of business you are in, you are in the people business. You have to hire good people, train them and respect them,” says Nancy Smith, President and majority owner of Washington Liftruck, which was founded in 1973.
Smith has been running the company since 1985. This June, she will be 78.
”I still come in every day. I oversee everything together with my Vice President and CFO, and I exclusively handle three customer companies,” she remarks.
“We empower the industry first and foremost by providing excellent equipment and great
service. That’s what keeps the industry running and moving forward,” Smith says.
A passion for sales
Seattle-based Washington Liftruck is an authorized dealer of leading brands in logistics. It has been a Kalmar Ottawa dealer since 1993.
Over the years, Smith has expanded the business and its sister-company, Forklift Services of Oregon, substantially.
“There is only one way to get an excellent reputation: you’ve got to earn it. We always strive to be honest and fair in everything we do, be open to new ideas, and exceed our customers’ expectations,” she points out.
“There is only one way to get an excellent reputation: you’ve got to earn it."
Smith underlines that longevity is one of the keys to her companies’ success on the West Coast.
“The contacts we have developed over the years are invaluable. Our loyal customers mean everything to us,” she asserts.
“My favorite part about my job has always been sales. When the machines are shipped off, I still visit the setups and I still get just as excited today as I was years ago when I made my very first sale,” she continues.
Baptism by fire
Logistics is Smith’s second career. For her first 20 years in work life, she was a teacher.
“I taught junior high for about five years and high school for another fifteen. Then, thirty-six years ago, life forced me on a different path,” she says.
“On a Saturday morning, my husband who was 44 at the time died of a heart attack. We
owned the dealership together, but I had no part in running it. There were important deals in the works, and many people relying on me for their livelihood. So that Monday I had to come in and start running the dealership,” she explains.
"When the machines are shipped off, I still visit the setups and I still get just as excited today as I was years ago when I made my very first sale.”
Smith describes her journey of learning the ropes of the logistics industry as ‘baptism by
“Luckily, I had the support of the industry and our customers, because of the somewhat
unusual circumstances that I became the President of the company. They cut me a little
slack,” she reminisces.
“I picked up a great deal of knowledge by always going to the setups, meeting the
customers and promptly finding answers. It took me about seven to eight years to realize just how much I still didn’t know, but we survived — and thrived,” she emphasizes.
When asked what she is proudest of in her companies, Smith does not hesitate:
“My people. I have great people who I know I can count on.”