After spending 29 years in a wide range of roles at flooring distributors JJ Haines and Florstar, Rosana Chaidez was tapped as NB Handy’s president and CEO five years ago.
NB Handy, which is a metals, HVAC, commercial roofing and machinery products distributor, has been a fixture in Lynchburg, Virginia, ever since it was founded in 1891 by Nathan Bryant Handy. Chaidez is building upon that foundation by emphasizing that “culture comes first” for the company.
Chaidez went from an inauspicious start as the director of operations in 1997 at Florstar to an auspicious position as CEO and president of NB Handy in 2016.
“Chronicling Rosana’s achievements in her successful business career are a compelling story but only one part of this remarkable woman,” says Bob Rumer, executive director at American Wholesale Ltd., in his nomination of Chaidez to MDM’s Women in Distribution Awards. “Born in Mexico and moving to the U.S. with her mother and siblings after her father passed away at an early age, Rosana joined a flooring distribution company during her first year in college. She quickly rose through the ranks in this segment of the industry working in and leading virtually every functional discipline from IT to supply chain to sales and marketing.”
In 2016, Rumer says that NB Handy’s board initially wanted to hire someone with CEO experience, which Chaidez didn’t have at that point in her career, but “they knew immediately that Rosana was the right person for the job.”
“That first impression has been born out many times through the strategy she has implemented and the relationships she has cultivated,” Rumer says. “The past five years under Rosana’s leadership have been highly successful ones for NB Handy. Of critical importance has been her philosophy that the greatest strength of a leader is the ability to attract and retain talent.”
Chaidez came up with NB Handy’s Future Leaders program whereby the company hires college graduates each year to develop them into sales or operations leaders within the company.
“We offer a very complete two-year training program to develop these college graduates to leaders in their desired function,” she says. “We commit or promise a leadership position in the company after training. We have fulfilled that commitment without exception if the employee wanted to advance to a leadership role.
“We have had a couple of future leaders declare a preference for an inside sales role instead of outside sales. We have also had a few declare a preference in operations or supply chain. Our focus/ priority is for account managers. It has been a wonderful program for NB Handy.”
When Chaidez joined the company, NB Handy committed to its employees that it would do market studies for all of the employee positions to ensure market competitiveness. NB Handy also rewards top performers with annual merit increases and adjusts compensation as often as needed. NB Handy also funds educational opportunities for its employees including technical certifications and work-related degrees.
“We spend time understanding and planning career advancement for employees interested in growing with the company,” she says. “Our talent acquisition team does a great job in organizing the career paths for those that have expressed interest in training and development. We use a culture index for employee assessment and for career development.”
Chaidez hires new employees based on the company’s values and culture, all of which creates a family-like atmosphere at NB Handy.
“Distribution is at its best is a partnership of trust with customers and suppliers,” Chaidez says. “That is the best differentiator. People still buy from people they like and trust. My advice is simple: Culture trumps strategy. Hire employees that fit the values of the company. Create a culture of transparency and have a clear strategy for growth.
“Demonstrate with actions that the well-being of employees is the highest priority, followed by customers and suppliers. It is all about people.”
When it comes to the people who have been mentors to her during her career, Chaidez credits Florstar owner and chairman Wade Cassidy, Rob Chilson, Jerry Deyoung and Joel Deangelo. For JJ Haines, she cites former CEOs Bob Thompson and Bruce Zwicker as well as Scott Roy, John Coakley and Fred Reitz.
“I learned from all of them and consider them all my mentors,” she says. “Today, I would say I continue to learn from my team and industry leaders. The learning never stops.”
Chaidez also believes in giving back to both the industry and the community. In addition to attending industry events, she serves on the board for AWL (American Wholesale Ltd) while various members of her team contribute to Affiliated Distributors (AD). NB Handy is a shareholder in both organizations.
She is an adviser to the Economic Development Council of Lynchburg, a Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance Board Member, and a contributor at the University of Lynchburg. During her time as CEO, NB Handy was named by Lynchburg Business as one of the “Best Places to Work” for 2020.
“Surround yourself with a great team and do not stop looking for talent,” she advises. “Make room in the organization for talent because it is difficult to find it. Have a plan and work the plan. I am a firm believer that clarity of vision is critical for business growth and success.
“Equally as important is the communication of that vision. When stakeholders understand the plan and the role, they play to achieve that plan. That level of engagement creates excitement and unity to execute that plan as a team. Finally, listen to those around you, ask questions, be present and be kind.”
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