Angela Eliacostas, president, founder and CEO of AGT Global Logisticshas more than 30 years of experience in third-party logistics. In addition to raising the standards of logistics practices, Eliacostas has established herself as a leader in the transportation of sensitive and hazardous materials for the energy sector. This has earned her a spot as the top woman-owned logistics business in Illinois and a top 1000 women-owned certified WMBE in the nation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?
My journey doesn’t stop. In an everchanging industry, I need to continue evolving with the times too. I live our company’s slogan — We keep your world turning. When life takes a route unexpected, you find ways to push through and keep going. Believe me, there are just as many roadblocks in life as there are in business. It’s how you approach and handle them that dictate whether the business succeeds.
Growing up in a trucking family, I learned the ins and outs of owning a transportation company from my father. From an early age, I helped with the tactical elements of owning a trucking business.
I began working as a billing clerk for a logistics company in my twenties. I quickly earned my way up to general manager. Through hands-on learning, observing industry trends and figuring out best practices I felt I had the determination and intuition to do it for myself.
The women-owned, women-staffed company All Girls Transportation started March 2005. Eventually, I became the sole owner and now contract with hundreds of vendors, and handle millions in accounts annually, under the evolved name AGT Global Logistics.
What is your definition of success?
I’d like to think that success is something you continue aspiring to reach even after you hit another milestone. By reaching an end, “success,” it leaves you nowhere to go. I prefer to keep driving and continue succeeding.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I remember I signed my biggest contract and was giving a presentation on our rollout program. It was me and about 25 men. I was giving my speech about AGT, our services and what we could offer them for support.
Going in I knew I would be dealing with the stereotypical, pre-conceived notions about a woman in the 3PL world. After being asked several ridiculously patronizing questions, and being scoffed at for most of the meeting, I stopped mid-sentence and said, “Let’s cut to the chase. It’s obvious the men in the back of the room have something important they’d like to share, so please the floor is yours…” You could hear a pin drop. The room became awkwardly silent.
The supervisor apologized for the behavior of his men and asked me to proceed. I shifted the focus and tone of my message. I knew their concern. So, I told them the story about the man who raised me. I told them that I have a great father, but he is one of the biggest “traditionalists” I know. He felt women should be at home raising their children and not in the workplace.
Being raised in that environment spurred me to work harder and reach for things I was taught were unattainable. There isn’t a part of this business that I haven’t done myself. I’m confident in our process and services. When there’s a new challenge I find answers that benefit all parties. I’m not a front company hiding behind the MWBE status. The certification may open the doors to new opportunities, but our specialized services coupled with my experience and my determination to succeed is what secures the deal and results in lasting partnerships.
Success in personal and professional life is gratifying but doesn’t come easy. Being a woman, who successfully raised four boys and built credibility in the 3PL space, has taught me that dedication and hard work pays off in all areas of life.
AGT services that same client today. I still answer their logistical questions. We are now able to sit back and laugh about this day, but it served as an important lesson to me and more importantly to those in the room who may have questioned a woman’s ability to successfully deliver in their world.
What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
In third-party logistics you can’t have failure. You can have set-backs, but in the end the delivery must reach its destination on time, no matter how many “changes to the plan” need to be implemented. We have become proficient at anticipating the foreseeable glitches and reacting fast to the surprises.
I’m an empirical learner. Even today, when I have a solid logistics staff, I still like to keep a pulse on every project. I’m able to jump in and help with issues from the first call to the final delivery. I think the best way to succeed is to act, assess, adjust and act again.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a smaller business (compared to the competitors), serving big-time clients with unbeatable results. Our ability to maneuver changes from the air, water or road 24–7–365 while maintaining personalized service is what sets us apart. Our clients know this, and this is how we compete with the big guys. Our record is solid. Our service is unbeatable. We understand the 3PL world and are always looking ahead. Our vision is why we are the small business winning the big accounts. We promise to keep our client’s worlds turning, and that’s what we do.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes! We have been focusing on the energy and utilities for more than a decade. We approach these accounts from a different perspective than perhaps other 3PL companies. We make sure we’re ahead of the trends and up-to-date on regulation and legislation. We understand the importance for energy companies to keep the power on and have implemented safeguards in our process to keep their worlds turning.
We are expanding and recently opened a new office in Naples, Florida.
In addition to business projects, I’m excited personally to be sharing my experiences at conferences and conventions across the country. I’m proud to be a long-standing women-owned enterprise. I’m happy to be offering guidance and support to upcoming logistics professionals and to women who are succeeding in male-dominated industries.
Is your company working to be more sustainable? If so, how?
Inherently, the energy and utility businesses we serve are setting the pace for sustainability in our world. We are proud to offer zero reportable offenses in helping them achieve their goals.
Internally we are working toward a paper-free office and utilizing many of the digital assessment tools to limit our paper trail.
We have ranked our trucking vendors and give preference to those who use certified clean air vehicles.
We also support many causes that benefit wildlife and the environment on a global scale.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Have the ability to show your employees what you expect from them. This means when you have expectations for performance, you must also be close enough to the task to understand how to do it yourself. I find that sometimes CEOs lose touch with the world their business operates. By showing the employees you know what you’re talking about, you will gain their respect. By being present and responsive shows them you care. Setting high standards and demonstrating appreciation keeps everyone in the office working positively and productively.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people to note. My father, Bob Gatto, always told me to keep pushing ahead and that I could achieve anything. He iterated time and again, “don’t expect a handout.”
When I first started my own company, I was confident in my tactical logistics and management skills. I am grateful for the financial mentorship provided by then General Manager, Tom Carroll. Tom mentored me in reading P&L sheets, accounting best practices, and answered my many questions.
Another person who supported me is my now husband, George Eliacostas. George provided business insight and tips that helped steer AGT in the direction we now take. He saved me from being too trustworthy and showed me how to spot opportunists.
I also want to acknowledge my staff. It is so difficult to find people today who are instilled with integrity and with whom I can instill trust. AGT would not be successful without them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m a mother and a grandmother. I’m so very proud of my children and the values and work ethic they demonstrate to their families.
I’m proud of being from the Midwest. AGT Global Logistics supports many local, national and international efforts. We like to support charities that affect our employees and the local community. I’m an avid outdoorswoman and believe strongly in maintaining a world that we can live in and enjoy.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
This is a difficult question because I knew I’d have to tackle most of the challenges I’ve faced. I knew I’d have people judging me on my gender. I knew I had to work hard, and then work harder. A woman going into the world of third-party logistics knows it is not going to be easy. I apologize for not giving you five things to match the title, but I can give you three:
1. A handshake doesn’t hold the credence it used to. People’s integrity has become disheartening. This has ruined what “business” should stand for.
I was raised believing that if you treat people well, they will treat you well in return. This is not the case in today’s business world. No matter how hard your work or bend over backward for some customers, an appreciation not always reciprocated.
2. Loyalty is not what it was. This pertains to both clients and employees. I’m lucky to have an amazing staff. I know that if I’m good to them, they will be equally as good to me. this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and patience. Coupling with integrity, employees don’t typically understand what it takes to build the business and keep it running, this is the job of the CEO to show them that what’s good for business is also good for them.
3. Being great at logistics, or whatever it is you do for business, is not enough. You need to understand people, sales techniques, marketing and have financial knowledge. These are things I knew I’d have to know but wasn’t exactly sure how to achieve them. As with most things in business the hard work, planning and effort pay off, but there’s also an element of luck.
As mentioned prior I was lucky to have worked with a fantastic GM from the start. Tom Carroll mentored me through the financials, so I could become as confident in them as I am sending a fleet of sensitive materials to a new power facility.
4&5 — Everything else lends back to integrity and trust.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could become part of a movement, it would be one that hits very close to my heart. In 2018, I lost two grandparents who were like parents to me. Although I’m fortunate they lived long lives, their passing showed me firsthand that we have a lot of work when it comes to taking care of our elders.
Our healthcare system needs an overhaul. If I could be part of a movement that could ensure that our seniors could grow old peacefully and without burden, that would be the best thing in the world.
It is like the logistics of life. We’re so busy planning moving ahead that we forget to appreciate and take care of those who paved the road for us.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Can I share more than one?
A quote that fits nicely with the bringing goodness to the world question is, “May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.”
As mentioned I recently lost two grandparents to whom I was very close. I’d like to share a quote from each of them.
I don’t think they need much explanation.
My grandfather, Dominick Gatto passed this year. I read this saying at his eulogy. It was, “You make a living out of what you get, but you make a life out of what you give. And what you give is love.”
In their 75 years of marriage, love was felt often. My lovely grandmother, Norma, passed just two months later. A quote of hers that resonates is, “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here; the way to be happy is to make others happy and you’ll have a little heaven down here.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I’d love to bend the ear of Santa Clause. The logistical challenges he faces are insane.