Don’t overthink it; follow your gut instinct

For me and many others, the American Dream was to run my own business and be my own boss, which became a reality for me after working 20 years within my industry.

My company, Marine Services International, is fast-paced, time critical, dynamic and a heavily government-regulated industry with substantial competition. We are just one of 6,220 licensed Ocean Transportation Intermediate (OTI) freight forwarder’s, Non Vessel Operated Common Carrier (NVOCC) currently operating in the United States. Other services we offer categorize as Custom House Broker (CHB) and Indirect Air Carrier (IAC).

What is a freight forwarder? We are a travel agent for freight. As an international freight forwarder, we arrange the transportation of shipments going in and out of the country, whether it is by land, air, or sea. Without us you wouldn’t have the majority of the goods in your household today.

In 2006, we started with a pen, a piece of paper, and a dream. Initially, I was hands-on doing all operations. As we grew, I realized I was no longer working the day-to-day operations, instead, I was running a company.

As an entrepreneur, you are accountable for everything. Wearing all hats, you are the mind, body, and soul of your company. What you do and say matter and it is crucial to lead by example in your company. The success of your company is a reflection of how you run it.

Everyone must overcome obstacles, but being a woman operating a business in a male-dominated industry creates some unique issues. In certain cultures around the world find it arduous to conduct business with a woman. It is imperative you do not allow this to hinder your ambitions. You must be assertive, confident, and give that firm handshake.

Regardless of gender, if you are interested in opening your own business, I encourage you to go for it. There are an abundance of resources, like the Small Business Association (SBA) that can assist you with start up. The success depends heavily on your dedication, persistence and commitment to making your business thrive.

Five important lessons I have learned during my career:

Don’t over think it — Whatever the situation may be, follow your gut and intuition. It’s right more times than not.

Have good business vendors and employees — Reliable, resourceful vendors that will work with you and for you are invaluable. Employees that are loyal, committed and fit within your company core values are invaluable. Don’t be afraid to change if the relationship doesn’t fit.

Take risk — Research and qualify your decisions but don’t be afraid to make a decision outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes taking a step back can move you two steps forward.

Don’t be afraid to say no — It’s a tough word and one that I don’t like to say often. “Yes” can cost you unnecessary time and money.

Always give more — In life and business, give more and do more than is expected.

Michelle Panik started her career at a Japanese steamship Line. Enjoying the dynamics of trade and the business, she later forged her way in the freight forwarding industry where she learned and encompassed all facets of trade and logistics. Her passion continues today through operating her own business Marine Services International Inc. Visit