Business success can be elusive for many, but Christine Keith has avoided that path through passion, hard work and a firm commitment to giving back.
As the president of Elite Auto Network (EAN), Keith has witnessed steady growth of EAN by incorporating those principals into the company’s business operations.
Keith’s husband, Todd, founded the Beverly Hills-based auto brokerage firm in 1991. EAN provides a range of services including vehicle transportation, equipment procurement and fleet management.
While the small business thrived, Keith took it to another level when she came aboard in six years ago and soon developed EAN’s commercial division to handle the fleet needs of private, local, and state government agencies.
“I realized that there’s a lot of advantages and the potential that the company can grow on the commercial side and since then, we have been growing steadily. Some of our clients have been The Gas Company, Davey Tree Expert Company, the State of California, and Los Angeles Homeless Authority,” said Keith.
“We have so much to offer. Some people think of vehicles and they think of dealerships and there’s someone on the lot trying to sell you a car. But there’s so many more things you can do within the transportation (field), especially with technology and everyone’s going green, and so we support that.”
As part of growing the company, Keith joined the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) to take advantage of the information and opportunities that the association offers. Being a GLAAACC member also allowed Keith to fulfill her desire to help other individuals and businesses as well.
“GLAAACC has a lot of resources like networking sessions and business development courses. I’ve also tried to get more involved in supporting the community services that GLAAACC does. They provide scholarships to high school students for college,” noted Keith. “We sponsored their last event – their board meeting for high school students – and provided transportation to and from the event.”
In fact, Keith’s energetic and consistent participation in GLAAACC led to the group honoring her with the Member of the Year Award, which will be presented on March 30, at GLAAACC’s Annual Economic Awards Dinner. The event will be held at JW Marriot at LA Live.
According to the official notification, the “Member of the Year Award recognizes and honors a GLAAACC Member who has demonstrated outstanding volunteer service through commitment, passion, professionalism, and dedication assisting GLAAACC as it advances the primary mission to advocate for the growth of small and African American owned businesses and advocates excellence.”
Being an advocate for excellence along with giving back to the community has been in Keith’s DNA throughout her life. As a youngster, the Los Angeles native accompanied her father to his clinic in Boyle Heights, which inspired her to become a physician where she worked with her family’s practice.
Keith also worked with the Los Angeles Mission Health Center’s HIV Outreach Program on Skid Row, an experience that led her to convert her family practice into a free clinic that offered another location for the Los Angeles Mission to provide free medical care in the community.
In 2012, Keith joined her husband to work at EAN and applies the same passion to her work in transportation as she did in the medical field. EAN also gives back to the community through its relationship with USC Athletic Department where students serve eight-week internships to gain job experience.
Regarding her career, Keith insisted, “I think it’s exciting. I like the challenge. It’s not just about cars. It’s different and growing a division in the company has been really rewarding,” and she’s optimistic about the future of EAN, despite being a small business whose main competitors are large dealerships and conglomerates.
“My main goal is to grow the business steadily and not too fast. I hope 10 years down the road that we are not a small business anymore. That’s the vision I have. I’m pretty ambitious and I’m very persistent and I try to learn from everyone I work with,” she said.
“Bids that I don’t win, I always ask for a debrief and I ask, ‘How could I have won the bid, what could I do better?’ Because if you don’t know, you can’t improve. Us, as a small business, to compete with a lot of large corporations is difficult, but we still bid.”
While Keith loves her job, her career advice to others is to determine the area you are passionate about or “focus in on what you’re good at,” she said.
“I know some of us don’t know what we’re good at, but we all know what we enjoy, so usually that’s what you’re good at. You have to really have a passion for what you do and do a good job. If you’re doing well in what you do and giving back and supporting other businesses and you’re growing, everyone wins!”