Jill Clifford on Facing Your Fears and What Every Supply Chain Leader Needs to Know

This month we’re proud to feature Jill Clifford in our Women In Supply Chain™ blog series. Jill is the president at Aborn & Co., a modern managed freight solution that has negotiated over $5B in client freight expense with savings ranging up to 35%. Jill is a supply chain veteran with three decades of experience in Logistics.

  1. How did your supply chain journey start?

I made the decision I was not going to college when I graduated high school.  At 17 years old I saw myself getting married at some point in my life and being a stay-at-home mom.  One of my best friend’s moms was an office manager at St Johnsbury Trucking, she hired me as a receptionist.

I liked the fast-paced environment that logistics work brings—I figured that out early.  It’s always different and you are always learning. I had a huge desire to do good work and help customers.

While at the trucking company, I had many positions and worked for Tony Devlin the national account representative for our largest customers in my last role there.  My job was supporting his customers and making sure they were getting their freight picked up and delivered at the right time.  When there were problems, I had to fix them. PMC Logistics (Now a called Aborn & Co.) was one of my customers.

I had done every job at the trucking company and I couldn’t really grow much further unless I moved out of state.  Tony suggested I talk to Russ Aborn, the owner of PMC Logistics. I did and he hired me on the spot.  I’ll be forever grateful to Tony who saw an opportunity for me to grow at a company that values their people and doing great work for their clients.

In 1993 I started at Aborn & Co., working with customers and internally with operations to ensure clients were getting the best level of service.  In 2017, Russ gave me the amazing opportunity to run the company as the President.

  1. What has your experience been as a woman president in supply chain?

Honestly, it’s been a blast. I am truly one of the lucky ones—I love the work we do at Aborn & Co. I always have. Twenty-six years ago, our founder, Russ Aborn took a chance on me, and I’ve never looked back.   It’s so gratifying to help clients stand up a best practice as it relates to working with their carrier providers. I care deeply about our clients and making sure we are providing the best service possible.

There have been sacrifices.  Being a working mom, I’ve sacrificed time with my kids.  But there is value in this too.  My kids have been raised by a mom who works hard, has a ton of grit and is passionate about doing good work.

  1. What challenges have you faced as a woman in logistics?

I’ve been asked this question many times and it always trips me up.  I choose not to let something like a small-minded person hold me back because I am a woman and they may not like it.   I’ve never have had the attitude that being a woman was holding me back or going to cause me challenges.  There have been times in my career where someone may have been inappropriate or not valued a woman in business. But I just don’t care.

I don’t let that negativity control my life.  Maybe it’s growing up with three brothers.  They never treated me any different than they treated each other.  And for sure, Russ who always has and continues to empower and mentor me doesn’t see me any differently because I am a woman.  I’m not blind to the fact that bias exists in the industry.  I just keep the mindset that it will not impact me in a negative way. I will continue to work hard, be authentic and live my best life.

  1. What advice to you have for the next generation of Women In Supply Chain™?

It’s up to us to empower each other. If we see that type of small-minded behavior, then we need to speak up and create change.

Be humble, be genuine and be curious.  There is so much to learn in this industry.  It’s continuously evolving and changing.   Have a passion for the work you do, and you will soar.  There are so many different layers to supply chain. Find your niche and go for it.

  1. Tell us about the biggest moment in your career:

The highlight of my career literally just happened on October 10th, 2019.   I’ve had this idea in my head for years that I wanted to get a group of supply chain professionals together to talk about the industry, challenges and collaborate on solutions.  I was tired of going to networking events or conferences and not really being able to genuinely collaborate with folks.

In these environments, even on LinkedIn, if I talk to someone who has a freight spend, they think at some point I might try to sell them.  And with carriers the reverse was true, they wanted to sell their service to me. I wanted to create an environment where none of that existed and people would be willing to openly share.

This month we had our first TransTech2020 meeting.  Carriers, NVOCCs, Shippers from all industries and consultants all got together to discuss the industry.  It was a total blast and so much was shared and learned.  I cannot wait for the next one.  To celebrate we are going to do it again!

  1. What fears have you faced over your career?

Self-doubt has always been a struggle for me. I always thought I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, and uneducated without having gone to college.  That’s all head trash.  I am a constant purser of self-development.

I have a hunger for always improving myself.  Self-development is a daily practice for me. I continually strive to be the best version of me.

  1. What advice do you have for logistics leaders on self-development?

Self-Care. Get enough rest.  Eat healthy.  Exercise.  Own and protect your time. We are all so busy.  You must take care of yourself to be and do your best.

Work as hard as you can with people, data and technology to manage your supply chain the right way.  That takes a ton of mental energy which is why selfcare is so important.

  1. What’s next on your supply chain journey?

As a business it’s growth.  We are developing new business, new data science and new technology. It’s all so exciting.  We are a 31-year-old company that feels like a startup.  It’s a unique position to be in and so very exciting.

Personally, I hope to continue to be the best version of me.  That means spreading love over my family and spending as much time with them as possible. To me, that’s what matters most.  Love, faith, family and doing really, really great work that helps others and inspires me.

Meet our Sponsor

This Women In Supply Chain™ feature was made possible by our sponsor, HULFT. HULFT provides a single global platform that allows IT to find, secure, transform and move information at scale. HULFT’s seasoned data logistics consultants uncover hidden pain point, automate tedious manual operations, and streamline data flow worldwide. For 25 years, HULFT has helped more than 10,000 customers automate, orchestrate and accelerate their global data logistics, making it easier on IT and putting data to work for the enterprise. Learn more at hulftinc.com.

At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we think it’s important to elevate the voices of the female trailblazers who are boldly changing the face of our community and what’s possible. That’s why every month we highlight a woman leader in the industry on our blog. We share the stories, achievements, and advice for other women coming up the ranks in supply chain.

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2 thoughts on “Jill Clifford on Facing Your Fears and What Every Supply Chain Leader Needs to Know”

  1. Avatar of Pamela DiStefano

    Jill, you never cease to amaze me, although I’m not a bit surprised always knowing you would be a success. Your shining personality and strong work ethic have definitely put you over the top and made you a treasure in your field.

  2. Avatar of Pamela DiStefano

    Jill, you never cease to amaze me, although I’m not a bit surprised always knowing you would be a success. Your shining personality and strong work ethic have definitely put you over the top and made you a treasure in your field.

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