2016 Powered by Women

DBusiness readers nominated eight metro Detroit women who hold leading positions in the automotive industry, sponsorships and event planning, health care, logistics, insurance, and nonprofit organizations.


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Lisa Lunsford


Global Strategic Supply Solutions, Livonia 

Employees:  100 | Revenue: $36M

Lisa Lunsford was in an enviable position when she started her first business — but that’s because she earned her way to that position. After coming to Michigan from her native North Carolina and landing a job with Ford Motor Co., she enjoyed a supportive environment and plenty of mentoring from her colleagues.

But by 1998, she felt restless. “I had that bug,” she says, to do something different. She left Ford and launched I Thinc LLC, a company whose business was writing software for transportation and warehousing applications. Ford was sorry to lose her, but rather than being angry about her departure, they told her something that added to her confidence and demonstrated her value.

“Ford said, ‘Anything you need, we’ll support you, and if it fails, you always have a job (here),’ ” Lunsford recalls.

Lunsford had no intention of failing. I Thinc LLC got off to a strong start, as Lunsford worked with her brother on software applications for vehicle quality systems. Like many businesses, however, it took a hit following the 9/11 terror attacks. “It hit us pretty hard, along with the technology bubble, and we started losing clients,” Lunsford says. “In order to keep the bills paid, we decided to move into IT support instead of software development. It was more flexible.”

That move ultimately led her to connect in 2010 with Robert Gruschow, president of Deshler Group in Livonia, who wanted Lunsford to join him in a new venture that provided engineering services, manufacturing, assembly, and supply-chain management. Together, Gruschow and Lunsford established Global Strategic Supply Solutions, where Lunsford now serves as CEO, in addition to serving as vice president/marketing for Deshler Group, her partner’s company.

All this was quite a leap for the erstwhile tomboy who grew up near Greensboro, N.C., with four brothers and worked summers on her grandparents’ tobacco farm. After graduating from Bennett College, Lunsford caught the attention of Ford and came to Michigan to start a career in the automotive industry.

Now married with a 10-year-old daughter, Lunsford realized when she established GS3 that she had to be totally committed to it.

“It was truly the beginning of one thing and the end of another,” Lunsford says. She and Gruschow believed they could offer companies benefits in areas like tracking and in-line vehicle sequencing. It was a step in a different direction, as Lunsford recognized the limitations of the market for IT services.

“Going into GS3 pushed me to recognize that’s becoming more of a commodity,” Lunsford says. “Some of the software we developed has been implemented here, and some of our IT clients didn’t want to let that go, so we hired some people to take care of (tracking and in-line vehicle sequencing).”
But make no mistake: GS3 isn’t an extension of Lunsford’s past ventures. The company processes more than 4 million parts each year while offering the management of materials, manufacturing, assembly, and distribution to its clients.

Lunsford says she has placed a strong focus on workforce diversity — not only helping her own employees, but working with international partners of GS3 who have no background in adapting and incorporating workplace diversity into their business models.

And it’s possible none of it would have happened had she not explained her intention to walk away from Ford and her former colleagues.

“I just told them I thought it was time,” Lunsford says. “I felt that bug. I can’t describe it, but it’s the thing that’s nagging at you that there’s something more.” — Dan Calabrese

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