January 6/13, 2014; Volume 27/Number 18
(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting some of the women in the floor covering industry who are not only making a difference, but raising its level of professionalism.)
By Jenna Lippin
Rosana Chaidez has developed a strong reputation as vice president of sales & marketing and procurement for Haines, the largest floor covering distributor serving the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Hard work and dedication brought her to the top ranks, making her an inspiration to all women who are aiming to hold their ground in a male-dominated industry.
Joining the industry in 1986 with distributor FlorStar Sales in Chicago, Chaidez was charged with internal operations, including customer service, supply chain functions and information technology. In 2002 she joined Haines as chief information officer, and she has continued to ascend the corporate ladder. She was eventually appointed to oversee the supply chain, and then in 2008 became general manager of the Wheeler division in Florida shortly after its acquisition by Haines. She then was promoted to vice president of sales, marketing and procurement.
“Haines has a great reputation in the industry,” Chaidez said. “I saw Haines as a great company for me and my family because, at the time, Haines was going through a transition period where the [family of the original ownership] that was left running the business was retiring—Mort Creech and Lee Marston, who ran Haines for over 40 years. Bob Thompson, who I always admired, was the first non-family CEO, and he hired me in 2002 to be part of the executive committee. Soon a team was established and being part of that group was exciting. Bruce Zwicker was part of the new team that was formed, hired as Thompson’s successor as he retired in 2005. Zwicker continues to lead Haines as president and CEO. Learning is a way of life if you are part of Bruce’s team. He believes in investing in people at Haines.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to grow. I wanted to continue to learn and to get my master’s degree.” Chaidez did, in fact, earn her MBA from the University of Maryland while working for Haines.
Under Chaidez’s leadership, Haines improved the management of its inventory. With her assistance, the distributor established a strong supply chain with suppliers and has improved the overall performance of that investment. She was also instrumental in Haines’ acquisition of the Wheeler division, and the growth it has experienced through today. While the process of acquiring another entity is a seemingly daunting task, Chaidez took it as an opportunity to learn, grow and enjoy her work.
“My first exposure to sales was as the general manager for [Wheeler], and I thought it was a lot of fun,” she said. “What I thought was most fun was integrating with Haines and growing the business during the downturn. With Wheeler there was no overlap with an existing footprint. We had to maintain business and establish ourselves with a strong product portfolio, building strong relationships with suppliers by growing the business, which we have by double digits over the last two years. We are now recognized as a strong distributor in Florida by our customers and our suppliers.”
In addition to the significant progress she has made at and for Haines, Chaidez serves on the boards of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) and Diversity Leadership Institute in Columbia, Md., a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding educational and healthcare efforts in less fortunate communities.
A resident of Annapolis, Md., Chaidez works with the Diversity Leadership Institute to help those in the community while remaining connected to her roots. She moved to Chicago with her family in 1979 when she was just 12 years old after finishing elementary school in her native Mexico. The support she received during that difficult transition is something she wants to provide to others through her work with the Institute.
“I work with this group to better understand how I can help and influence the Hispanic/Latin community here in the Washington, D.C., area,” she said. “I have the opportunity to influence Hispanics to continue to grow and aim for more, including higher education. This organization is focused on educating Hispanics coming to the U.S., and not only understanding the systems here but embracing them. It is my small contribution to giving back what others gave me when I came to this country.”
As treasurer of NAFCD, Chaidez has been instrumental in making changes for the group and its members, most recently in offering technological tools that help both customers and suppliers. “I was basically recommended [to NAFCD] by Bruce [Zwicker], and it has been a great experience working with other leaders in the industry. I feel very well established in the industry, but being part of NAFCD just gives you that much more exposure. The industry as a whole has been known as a sophisticated one and I believe it is transforming little by little to be more sophisticated and more interested in technological tools.”
While new to NWFA, serving on the board for about a year and a half, Chaidez believes she has been fortunate enough to help the organization make great progress, particularly in its financial stability. “Part of that is working with distribution and manufacturing, basically being involved at all the different levels of the floor covering industry, all the channels that are instrumental to success. While NWFA primarily focuses on hardwood, it works closely with all areas of the industry.”
With all of her success and multiple areas of involvement in flooring and beyond, one can’t help but ask Chaidez for some words of wisdom. She has almost 30 years of leadership under her belt, never worried about falling under the shadows of her male counterparts.
“The characteristics to succeed are the same, whether male or female,” Chaidez explained. “It takes a lot of hard work, preparation, dedication, commitment and passion. If you enjoy what you do, it shows. Be enthusiastic and motivate others. A motivated individual is likely to succeed because he or she is willing to put forth the time and effort to get the skills and knowledge required to do a good job. My advice to women in the industry is to set career goals and be committed to achieving them. Make adjustments along the way to keep learning and developing because the learning never stops. Listen to those who are trying to help you and stay true to yourself. Women must embrace the idea of being a minority in this industry; this is not a negative factor.”
While she avoided having her gender be a factor in her success, Chaidez did have to make some decisions when it came to her family. As a high-ranking executive who travels frequently, she and her husband decided he would stay home to raise their two daughters, now 18 and 16.
The biggest challenge Chaidez sees women encountering? Communication. She encourages saying things clearly and concisely, and being able to admit fault and learn from errors. “There is a frustration of being misunderstood in a male-dominated industry. You have to spend time preparing your message, responding in a way that does not sound defensive but factual and skillful. It’s a lot easier to defend than admit fault, but there is nothing wrong with saying, ‘I was wrong, please forgive me.’ I find that to be more difficult with women; tell others what you have achieved instead of getting defensive about what you tried to do. When you fall, get up and be graceful about it. It will make you stronger.”
Chaidez has much of which to be proud, and today her biggest accomplishment, she said, is her feeling of comfort and belonging at Haines and in the industry as a whole. Coming from another country and being a member of the lesser-represented gender in her field has not hindered her progress. “I’m feeling well established not only with Haines but with all the friends I’ve made, including suppliers, customers and peers. I’m most proud of the fact I’ve enjoyed every step to the position I hold today. I can humbly say that without God’s blessing in my life I would have no success.”