Liz McKinley: Exemplifying Strategic Leadership
"The 20 Most Successful Shepreneurs to watch in 2019” edition
Liz Mckinley: Exemplifying Strategic Leadership
The oil industry is notably a male dominated industry. Only a few woman-owned businesses exist in this industry and the others inherited the business as opposed to starting it from scratch as Liz Mckinley did with Pinnacle Petroleum, Inc.
Liz has marked her journey with astonishing achievements. Her parents were both academicians and thus her interest in business was outside the box. She had a keen interest in economics, finance, and how geopolitical events change the value of currencies. She was asked by Koch Industries to interview as an oil trader. Living in Stillwater Oklahoma, this position was the closest she could get to trade a commodity. She was the first female hired by Koch Industries at a commercial level. After working for various trading companies, she left to start her own business in 1995. Currently, Liz owns Pinnacle Petroleum Inc., and serves as its President.
A Certified Woman-owned Enterprise
Pinnacle Petroleum, Inc. is a national provider of competitively priced petroleum products and services. The company delivers refined fuels, lubricants and specialty fuels nationwide as a certified woman-owned business enterprise (WBE) since 1995. It has a large footprint which is desirable to the larger corporations who prefer to minimize their vendors. The company also attempts to be a One Stop Shop for all fueling needs, which is also a differentiator in the market place. It is at the leading edge of providing inventory management which leverages client’s inventory to take best advantage of market conditions.
Pinnacle Petroleum is constantly pivoting. Liz likens it to the speed boat in the harbor competing against the ocean liners. It is smaller than its competition as most of its competitors are multi-billion and multi-generational companies, but the company is fierce and nimble. It offers flexibility and creativity to its customers. Today, the company has reached new heights due to its customer centric approach as it works within the customer’s processes as opposed to forcing the customer to adhere to its services.
Being a woman entrepreneur, Liz faced many challenges. Initially, getting bank financing was hard-won. When the company needed the cash, the banks were less inclined to work with it as they doubted its viability. For the first line of credit, Liz had to have a male friend come in with her to the bank to vouch for her. Another road block was getting “good ole boys” to actually work with it. Pinnacle Petroleum needed other companies to work with it to establish its distribution channel.
Women entrepreneurs have to face same challenges in their workplaces. According to Liz, the most frequent challenge they deal with is clients assuming that they are less capable than their competition. It is always a learning curve for them to understand that the woman-owned businesses are not a small business with limited capabilities.
Since last few years, Liz has been working hard to build her bench and develop talent, so that the bench can take on more leadership roles. In the near future, she is interested in creating an online lifestyle company that would establish micro manufacturer businesses in third world companies. She has space in her warehouse for storage and she wants to give back and use her knowledge base to assist others who have been less fortunate.
Tenacity is the Key
In the opinion of Liz, the most important personal attribute every entrepreneur must have is tenacity. She believes that hard work always pays-off but it isn’t a guaranteed linear pathway. As long as an entrepreneur tenaciously and smartly plugs away at a goal, there will eventually be a payoff.
Secondly, a valuable support is essential for a woman entrepreneur. She advises them to find a trusted confidant whom they could consult. She says, “In retrospect if I had had a seasoned business person to consult, I would have been less stressed about my unilateral decisions. I recommend getting involved with peer groups of women who can also support and advise them in their journey i.e. Women’s President’s Organization. In the first few years of my business I didn’t join any groups because I thought I was too busy and I believe I missed out on valuable support.”
Pinnacle Petroleum, Inc. is a national provider of competitively priced petroleum products and services.