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Kathy Hogan: Championing Efficient Workflows

Kathy Hogan holds a longstanding passion for not only supply chain logistics, but also uplifting fellow women in her industry.

The co-founder and president of Buena Park-based logistics service provider Primary Freight Services Inc. leads a management team that is 75% women, she said.

That percentage is well above the average 26% of C-suite roles held by women in the supply chain industry, according to data from research and consulting firm Gartner.

“Advancements in freight industry have made it less reliant on physical labor and more on skills where women can excel,” Hogan told the Business Journal.

Primary Freight offers import and export services via ocean, air and domestic transport, client deliveries and warehouse facilities. It specializes in ocean and air freight shipping.

Hogan, who has led Primary Freight for over 25 years, was honored at the Business Journal’s 29th annual Women in Business Awards on Oct. 5 at the Irvine Marriott.

Family-Owned Business

Hogan attributes her work ethic to her parents. She grew up in New York, the youngest of five siblings.

Her father worked as an elevator operator for the Empire State Building, while her mother, an Irish immigrant, served as a waitress at the now-shuttered Top of the Sixes restaurant. Hogan’s mother died when she was 12 years old.

She graduated from Mercy University in 1990 with a degree in business administration. Years later, she moved to California with her father.

Once there, she paid regular visits to her older brother, John Brown, who would eventually become her business partner at Primary Freight.

Hogan’s entry into the supply chain business was through working with imports at logistics firm Transcontinental Freight. The job piqued her curiosity for the logistics industry.

“I drove my boss at the time crazy because I would stay after work and ask him a hundred questions,” she said.

She remained at Transcontinental Freight after it was acquired by ISS Express Lines in the 1990s.

In 1992, Hogan took a general manager position at vehicle washing tech company Mark VII, where her brother worked as vice president of sales at the time.

She stayed at the company for five years until she and her brother decided to take a leap of faith and co-found their own logistics firm: Primary Freight.

“That was a hard decision because of the people we were leaving behind” at Mark VII, Hogan said.

However, two of Hogan’s co-workers, Lisa Parlier and Karen Liu, followed Hogan to Primary Freight with “blind faith” in her and her brother.

Both Parlier and Liu are currently members of Hogan’s predominantly women leadership team.

Early Stages

In Primary Freight’s early days, Hogan and Brown relied on the kindness of family and friends.

Her husband, Brian, painted the company’s first office. Close friends provided desks and phones, while mutual friends helped set up the company’s logistics software.

Primary Freight’s initial team started out with five employees, including Hogan as president and Brown as CEO. Today, their workforce exceeds 70.

New Software

As Primary Freight’s team grew, Hogan prioritized improving its workflow.

During the 2008 financial crisis, she sought the help of a consulting firm that advised how to streamline the company’s operations.

“We realized we needed to be more transparent,” Hogan said of herself and Brown. “John and I didn’t have to carry everything.”

The result was quarterly townhall meetings that gave employees space to ask questions, as well as clarification of company goals on the corporate and departmental levels.

Hogan’s latest streamlining initiative was her implementation of logistics tech firm CargoWise’s real-time data monitoring platform and the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) software, developed by professional coaching company EOS Worldwide.

EOS is a tool aiming to increase companies’ productivity by simplifying its processes and goals through highly-structured meetings and schedules.

Though Hogan took two years working with her Chief Information Officer, Rebecca Smith, to fully integrate EOS into Primary Freight’s workflow, the time spent was well worth it, she said.

Before using CargoWise, “we didn’t find out we lost customers until they were already gone,” Hogan said. Now, Primary Freight can anticipate a customer’s departure or increase in purchases through analysis of clients’ trends.

EOS, on the other hand, offers employees “a format to openly discuss challenges, workloads or ideas,” Hogan added. “It took away people’s fear of admitting they made a mistake.”

$100M Revenue Milestone

Primary Freight’s new software programs have not only paid off in increased workflow efficiency, but also in revenue.

Hogan’s team generated $94 million in revenue last year. That’s up from $86 million in 2021.

Primary Freight is also on track to surpass $100 million in revenue this year, which would be a record for the company, Hogan said.

“This is usually our busiest time, because [it’s near] Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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