A conversation with Kathy Lehne of Sun Coast Resources Inc., Entrepreneur Profile
Since Kathy Lehne, founder, president and CEO of Sun Coast Resources Inc., opened her doors in the spring of 1985, Sun Coast has become the largest woman-owned private company in Texas and one of the largest Chevron petroleum marketers in the nation. Operating from its headquarters in Houston, Sun Coast has been in business for 27 years, owns and operates 13 offices in Texas and two in Louisiana, multiple warehouse facilities and currently has more than 1,600 employees.
BIC Magazine recently visited with Lehne to learn more about how she has taken her company to new heights in a male-dominated industry and how she plans to continue that success in the future.
Q: What led you to start Sun Coast Resources?
A: An opportunity presented itself that I just couldn’t ignore. I always wanted to start my own business so, at age 23, and with an investment of a couple of thousand dollars, I started Sun Coast Resources in 1985 to fulfill a need and provide great service across a multitude of industries that needed fuel and lubricants to operate.
Q: What surprised you most about Sun Coast Resources once it took off?
A: I was pleasantly surprised at the loyalty and devotion from my handpicked management team. In the beginning, every one of them worked tirelessly to make Sun Coast what it is today, and they are still committed more than ever. Today we are proud to have 59 employees who have been at Sun Coast for more than 10 years, in addition to 1,600 other outstanding and loyal employees.
Q: Why is Sun Coast Resources successful?
A: Our company has been successful because we provide unparalleled customer service and focus 24/7/365, and we reinvest our profits in human, technological and physical resources to keep us ahead of the pack. We do whatever is necessary to improve our effectiveness and efficiency and try to put the right people in positions where they can flourish and make a positive difference in our operations. After starting Sun Coast on a shoestring budget, I quickly learned that in order to grow profitability and attract the talent so necessary to prosper, Sun Coast needed to create an entrepreneurial environment conducive for successful operations.
Q: Do you have any plans to grow/expand Sun Coast Resources through acquisitions and mergers?
A: Sun Coast Resources always keeps tabs on opportunities and we have been successful many times in acquiring smaller companies, which can be tucked into our operation with no significant issues. One of our significant strengths is our capacity to make decisions quickly when opportunity presents itself.
I learned a long time ago that acquisitions must be based on economics and proven cash flows. Hoping the acquired business will somehow magically blossom is foolhardy and a prescription for failure. As I look to the future, I remain optimistic about our prospects for continued growth and profitability. I plan to manage the company just like I did when I first started — not taking anything for granted and putting forth whatever it takes to stay the course.
Q: What’s the most important thing a person should know before taking a career path similar to yours?
A: To love what you are about to get involved with 100 percent. To be able to commit your time and resources 24/7/365 is a must. You must have unbridled passion and enthusiasm for your company and be willing to do whatever is necessary — legally, ethically and morally — to make it a success.