Lorin Seeks, the Seattle-based startup’s director of quality and compliance, cut his teeth on real convoys — during the Iraq War.
“Growing up, I didn’t think of logistics as a career, so I decided to go into the military,” said the 40-year old Seeks, who spoke to FreightWaves earlier this year about work experiences that helped launch his career with Convoy.
As a youth, Seeks participated in the Boy Scouts and search-and-rescue programs. He continued on that path in college, where he joined the ROTC. It was there that one of his military science professors gave Seeks some unexpected career advice.
“He said, ‘I think you’d be really good at logistics,’” Seeks recalls.
When you’re in the Army, you go where they tell you to go. Seeks commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, which is responsible for moving personnel and cargo by truck, rail, air and sea.
He decamped to Virginia for a nine-month logistics training course and got hooked on the variety that defines a career in logistics: touching on security issues, fuel consumption … how to chain a Humvee to a rail car.
While serving as a captain in the Reserves — a nine-year endeavor — Seeks also worked for an overseas container shipping line, splitting his time between Seattle and Long Beach, California.
In the middle of that period, he was deployed to Iraq, where he worked in the logistics unit on a Marine Corps base during the surge near Fallujah.
“It was pretty crazy,” Seeks said. His team controlled the movement of military convoys, coordinating transportation from Jordan and Kuwait into — and out of — Iraq and pushing supplies to outlying combat bases.
The job involved conducting route assessments and working with transportation company leaders to plan movement times, taking into account threats and safety considerations.
Using advanced tracking and communication technologies, the group monitored convoy movements, deploying quick-reaction forces and/or recovery assets when needed.
“I was fortunate to come back healthy and in one piece,” Seeks said. “I learned a lot about myself. I grew a lot.”
A leap into startup culture
Back in the U.S., Seeks worked for a couple of other shippers, eventually landing at Starbucks, where he served as the transportation division’s senior manager for global logistics. In that position, he was responsible for all of the coffee giant’s inbound and outbound North American shipments.
Then Convoy CEO Dan Lewis reached out. At the time, the summer of 2015, Convoy employed only seven people and didn’t even have a website. Seeks felt the pull — and the push.
“I had an awesome career [at Starbucks]: a great trajectory and my wife was eight months pregnant with our first kid. I thought, ‘there’s no way.'”
Lewis and Seeks (and Seeks’ wife) kept talking, and eventually he changed his mind. Working for a startup is risky, Seeks remembers thinking. But even if it doesn’t pan out, you gain valuable experience.
Then there’s another possibility, that “maybe we get to build something really amazing.”
With a swagger that recalls the movie it’s named after, the company claims “tens of thousands of carriers” on its network, thousands of shipments per week in major markets and a nationwide roster of shippers from Fortune 500 companies.
Seeks declined to reveal whether Starbucks was a Convoy customer.
Raising the bar
During his first couple of years at Convoy, Seeks took on a variety of roles, eventually landing in the quality and compliance space. There he has built out a 12-person team that sets safety and peformance standards for carriers, then uses data-driven processes to manage those standards in real time.
A recent in-house research project showed Convoy carriers have lower crash ratings and fewer cargo claims than industry averages.
Compliance is not as sexy as the startup’s core product and service offerings: the app, the marketplace, the pricing. But safety is foundational to the Convoy enterprise, Seeks said.
“At the end of the day, we’re providing trucking as a service. We have to set standards to ensure we’re hiring motor carriers that have a record of safety and that are going to reduce risk for us and our customers.”
Seeks reflected on his varied career, working for shippers, ocean carriers, the military, and now, a digital disruptor.
In Iraq, “I worked with an incredible team of men and women who I will forever be honored to have served with.”
Convoy, he said, has pushed him to be a better professional. His colleagues are “smart, driven people,” and he gets to solve problems he experienced as a shipper.
Helping grow a company and workplace culture is another highlight.
“I get up in the morning and actually enjoy the people I work with,” he said.