NB Handy, President and CEO
Lynchburg Business Editor Shelley Basinger: Rosana, before we get into talking about your career, I hear you have a background that is unique.
Rosana Chaidez: I grew up in Mexico where my parents owned a business. My mother managed the business while my father worked back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 40. When that happened, my mother decided she wanted my siblings and me to be educated in the U.S., and we left Mexico for Chicago in 1979.
SB: When did you start to form a career path?
RC: During my first year in college, I started working at Carson Pirie Scott & Co., which was a flooring distributor and a retail store in the Midwest. Carson Pirie Scott & Co. later sold the flooring distribution business to Florstar Sales, where I worked for 15 years. The last position I held there was Director of Operations & Information Technology. During my time at Florstar, I had the benefit of working and leading teams that are critical to the success of distribution. I managed the Systems & Technology team, which ties closely to every aspect of the business, and Operations, which is the “service machine” in distribution. I moved to Annapolis in 2002 where I worked 14 years at J.J. Haines, another flooring distributor. There, I held various positions, starting as Chief Information Officer, followed by roles as VP Supply Chain, General Management and Senior VP Sales & Marketing.
SB: How did you end up in Lynchburg?
RC: While I was working in the Baltimore area, a recruiter reached out to me about this position. Through the interview process, I learned of NB Handy’s four-generation, 128-year heritage and was intrigued by its long history of being family-owned. I’ve always worked for family-owned companies. The way the shareholders described the President and CEO position and their goal to invest and grow the business made me want to lead NB Handy. The company’s mission and values were the right fit and the type of organization I wanted to lead. I accepted the position in March of 2016 and moved here with my family.
SB: How has the city impressed you so far?
RC: Lynchburg has felt like home for us since we moved here. Community living is important to me and my family, and we have made good friends here in Lynchburg. From a business standpoint, we have worked very closely with all the local universities and we have found great talent. We have also been involved with the Downtown Lynchburg Association and have enjoyed being part of the changes going on in the heart of the city. It’s a great place to live and work.
SB: You transitioned from flooring to a completely different side of the business with NB Handy (metals, HVAC, commercial roofing and machinery). Have you found any similarities?
RC: Yes, I find there are a lot of similarities in the construction industry. Flooring is very much a fashion product and follows home fashion in every way. It’s all about the textures, the colors, the finish of the products. When it comes to HVAC supplies and accessories… those are all sort of hidden. But currently you do see more exposure—it can be considered chic to walk into a building and see HVAC supplies and metals exposed or even painted. The architectural metal side of our business, even though it’s very technical, I also see as a fashion statement on any large building. When you drive through the campus of Liberty University, for example, the buildings look very rich and very well constructed—our metal roofs have a lot to do with that.
NB Handy customers and vendors are very similar to those I worked with at my previous employers, where relationships are valued very strongly and I meet lots of humble and hardworking people, which I appreciate and enjoy.
SB: What does an average day look like for you?
RC: I like to start my days very early, about 4 a.m.
This is my reflection and meditation time when I organize my day and discern what my team needs from me to push their agendas forward. I aim to start my day with a plan and be intentional in all I do. Managing my time is a challenge because I aim to fit in a good mix of personal and professional goals. I like to fit in a workout three times during the week, which means I have to move at a decent to fast pace during the day. My calendar is usually full three or four weeks in advance and I stick to it as much as possible while recognizing I must be very flexible. I travel about 50% of the time so I get much of my work done during my travels. I feel energized when I start my day with a clear purpose.
SB: So, you don’t spend very much time in this office we are sitting in, do you?
RC: No, I don’t. Relationships are highly valued in our industry, which I enjoy. It requires face time in industry events and with customers, employees and suppliers. This is where I can have the most impact. The more I expose myself to the industry and to all of the stakeholders, the more I learn. We have a family-oriented culture here with a good work-life balance. I am a firm believer that if our employees are happy, our customers receive great service. I value examining different perspectives and gaining feedback from all levels of the organization.
My office is where I usually end the week to plan, coordinate and conduct meetings.
SB: Communication seems to be important to you. How else would you describe your leadership style?
RC: I lead with a high sense of urgency, priority and intent. We have a well-defined vision embraced by the organization and we’re constantly developing initiatives to execute our strategy. Refining our vision and strategic plan is a job that I own as a leader with the leadership team. We have a healthy culture at NB Handy and believe that culture trumps strategy. Our common aim is to be driven to win by successfully executing our strategy and focusing on our employees, customers and suppliers.
SB: I always ask our leader profile subjects about disagreements because those can really tear down a business or a team. How do you handle conflict?
RC: I encourage everyone within our company to get any conflict out on the table. We’ve embraced a culture of transparency that enables us to move through inevitable conflicts quickly and respectfully. We have an open-door policy and encourage a practice of “doing right” by others.
SB: You’ve had some demanding jobs. How have you juggled your career while also having a family?
RC: I could not have dedicated as much time and effort to my career if it weren’t for my husband. He was a stay-at-home dad when my daughters started school. He handles everything connected to our household. My family understands the importance of my career and the dedication it takes to run a company. My values are the same both at work and at home. Those values have helped us keep our home running smoothly and enjoy time together whenever possible. My family will always be my highest priority!
SB: Are your daughters following in your footsteps?
RC: They have their own plans. Vianca graduated from the College of William and Mary and wants to become a Physician’s Assistant. She has always been interested in the medical field. Julissa is attending Saint Joseph’s University and is majoring in Graphic Design and Communications. She is moving to Charleston, SC after graduation.
SB: I have to ask this because you are a female CEO in a very male-dominated industry (construction). Do you think there is still a glass ceiling your daughters won’t be able to break through?
RC: No! This is a country of opportunity if one is willing to put forth the effort and sacrifice. For me personally, I never felt that disadvantage. (Some might say that it was there and I ignored it.) I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. It just hasn’t been my experience. I think the factors to be successful are the same for men and women. What I’ve told my daughters is to embrace their careers without all of those biases. Stand out for the right reasons—your education, your unique skills, your work ethic and how you treat people. Find passion in being successful and give it your all.
SB: In your opinion, are there any differences between male and female CEOs?
RC: I think the differences in CEOs have to do with many other factors besides gender. We all need strong technical capabilities and exceptional leadership skills. I’ve honed my leadership style throughout my career and I am still learning. When we meet as a team, we constantly reflect on how we are doing and how we can improve collectively and individually. We are life learners and those that lead are always evolving as demanded by the job. We all make mistakes along the way. I know I have! We learn and push forward.
SB: Any final thoughts for anyone climbing the career ladder?
RC: Yes. Balance your time to satisfy your personal needs to then experience higher professional growth. Embrace your career for all that it is. Every job has a mix of fun and not-so-fun things to do. Also, always think about each opportunity with a grateful perspective, understanding that your company gave you the opportunity to be there and learn. Finally, enjoy the climb. Once you get up to the top there are a whole different set of challenges awaiting. If you don’t enjoy the climb, you might be too tired to get to the top.
Finally—embrace people from all walks of life. The rewarding part of life is the people we meet along the way. The most challenging part of life is also the people.