Reprinted from TODAY'S CHICAGO WOMAN, August, 2006

Ann Drake
One of Chicago’s Most Powerful Entrepreneurs

Ann Drake, 58 began her career as a high school English teacher, returned to school to study interior design, then managed her own interior design firm for 12 years. Now, as CEO of DSC Logistics, Inc., one of the leading privately-owned logistics organizations in the country, she oversees 2000 employees and works with companies such as Kellogg’s, Bristol-Myers Squibb, PetSmart, Jergens and Philip Morris. Ann’s company grossed more than $307 million last year and was recently ranked as the second largest female-owned company in Chicago by Crain’s Chicago Business.

Obviously Ann isn’t afraid of change. In fact, embracing it seems to be her secret to success.

Ann On Her Career
“I joined DSC Logistics in the early ‘90s after being on the board for five years. Well, let me go back. I went to Kellogg at Northwestern and got my MBA in the mid-‘80s. After that, my father invited me to come on board and so I did, for five years, and then I wrote a re-organizational plan for the company…(The plan) involved increasing people and naming someone chief operating officer and adding some functionality that we didn’t have.

“(And my father) said OK, come on and do it.

“Since becoming CEO, I’ve really worked to transform the company many times. We have to continue to transform ourselves. The world is all about change, and leading change and change management. And I’ve certainly learned that in my other two careers,”

On Leadership
“I sort of view myself in the middle of the organization rather than at the top. It’s a model that I really support and a style I really support. One of the reasons people like to work for DSC Logistics is that I’m involved and interested—interested in them, their development and what’s going on with their customers. I learn every day from people around me.”

On Change
“Sometimes you have to change direction, or say to yourself, ‘I’ve accomplished that.’ Or, sometimes it’s about people. You say, I’ve been developing this person and now this person has made it and it’s time for them to go to a new level. ‘And sometimes it’s hard to recognize. But I think that one of the key challenges is keeping up with change, leading change, managing change and deciding when it’s time to go in a new direction or say ‘I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish.”’

On Businesswomen Today
“We’re in the middle of a mega change. When I think of the difference between my career aspirations and possibilities when I graduated college and the possibilities there are for women today, there’s a huge amount of progress. Though, there’s still a glass ceiling out there in corporations, and there are data and statistics to back that up. Women are not yet given an equal chance across the board to participate in leadership at the top of organizations.

“But, again, there’s been huge progress. And I love being a woman. I’m glad I’m my father’s only son—who turned out to be a daughter (laughs)—because I think there’s enormous opportunity for women in all areas of life, which is what we want the most, for people to have choices. Whatever those choices may be—whether to stay at home or not stay at home, or work in business or something else—there are many more choices. And I feel a lot of doors have been opened to me that I would never have dreamed of as an undergraduate in college.

“My advice? Have courage and confidence you can do anything you set your mind out to do, you should so anything you want to do. And you shouldn’t let anything stop you. Have tenacity and be prepared to jump over barriers and just make your way to whatever your dreams are.”

On Balance
“I attended a panel recently and they said, ‘Balance? What balance? (laughs), but I’m very lucky. I’m real focused on what I’m doing, but that also means when I’m golfing on the weekend or reading a magazine I’m focused on that. I’ve been able to compartmentalize out work and other things when I’m focused on whatever I’m focused on. “I also relax very quickly. It doesn’t take much for me. Even though I’m a very intense worker and get very involved, it doesn’t take me long at all to say, ‘OK, I’m here, now I’m going to relax.”’

On A Final Note
“I think it’s really important that you continue to look for others in all walks of life and at all levels who you can learn from. And be in charge of your own development…Because no one is going to lead it like you are.”
© Copyright Today’s Chicago Woman. August 2006. All rights reserved.

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