CCA Global Partners is recognized for its deep roots in serving family businesses, but equally important to its success, the company also has a long history of women in leadership positions. Across the United States, 21 percent of women in corporate life occupy senior positions, but at CCA Global, 41 percent of the senior spots are filled by women across the company’s offices in Manchester, N.H., and St. Louis. In addition, 50 percent of all manager positions are held by women. This number compares favorably to the national average of just 39 percent. We recently spoke with leadership at the organization and some female retail leaders who are members of CCA’s Flooring America/Flooring Canada and Carpet One cooperatives to see how they got into the business.
Meet Cathey Gundlach Links, Vice President of Merchandising, Flooring America/Flooring Canada
Thirteen years ago, Cathey Gundlach Links entered the flooring industry, and she hasn’t looked back since. As vice president of merchandising for Flooring America/Flooring Canada, Links has taken her product creation and merchandising expertise, paired with her deep respect for the entrepreneur spirit, and applied them to the flooring industry, where she now leads Flooring America/Flooring Canada in bringing private label brands and products to its independent dealers.
“I truly love and have passion for what I do,” said Links. “Coming from a family of self-employed parents, I respect and understand the entrepreneurial spirit. This role allows me to help the independent dealer have access to exclusive products and private branding that is crucial to the success of their business.”
The success of the programs in the Flooring America/Flooring Canada system, along with the amazing people Links works with in the world of flooring, are the driving forces behind the work she does every day.
“The amazing group of people that are involved in the world of flooring are second to none,” said Links. “From our remarkable group of dealers, suppliers and internal FAC team, everyone in the industry really works together.”
Links has drawn from the level of camaraderie, connection and expertise she’s experienced since entering the industry, seeking mentorship and guidance from others she can learn from, and combing that with work ethic and passion for product.
For professionals seeking new opportunities, especially those in an industry like flooring which is ever changing and growing, Links says set the expectations for your future and reach out and seek mentorship guidance from the person who either has the job you want, or who you aspire to be like. “I have been very fortunate to have some great mentors throughout my career that have always been there to provide feedback and guidance along the way.”
In her free time…Links is an avid runner who enjoys spending time outdoors and working on fixer-upper projects with her husband.
Meet Michele Batye, President, Dave Griggs’ America/Color World
Who knew that when Michele Batye was connected to the owner of a paint and flooring store that was in need of help running his business, the course of her professional path would be changed forever? As a textile and apparel merchandising college graduate, Batye had her eyes set on working for a large department store chain as a buyer, and a long-term goal of being an entrepreneur and owning her own boutique. Flooring and paint weren’t on her radar, but after a full year of shadowing the owner of the store in Columbia, Mo., she fell in love with the diversity of the business and mentorship of the owner.
“I knew nothing about flooring, but my merchandising degree gave me some insight into retail and the textile components,” she said. “I was both a quick learner and a hard worker, so I picked up quickly on the business components that were needed to run the day to day. We were a small business, so there were no real departments and I was like a sponge learning as much as I could. I loved that there was so much to learn and the diversity of my days.”
Being the only woman on the team at that time, Batye became the point person for design ideas for both retail and commercial spaces, and when the owner decided to reorganize and grow the company, Batye was invited to stay on board to lead the design and organization components of the business.
“The more trust I built, the more knowledge and freedom I was afforded to bring my own ideas for the business forward,” said Batye. “At some point over what was more than likely years of conversation, it just became an understanding that I would one day carry on the legacy by purchasing the store. Over the years, we went through scenarios of what that sale would look like if it would involve partnerships, added branches or diversifying businesses, but it really came down to timing when the owner felt it was time for him to pass the torch.”
The passing of the torch happened gradually, and when Batye took on full ownership, the former owner of the retail operation agreed to stay on as a business consultant and marketing spokesperson.
A participatory leader, Batye enjoys involving her team in much of the planning and implementation process and allowing them to have a voice in the business. “I value their opinions and trust their choices, giving them the power and ability to make decisions. I think the worst thing you can do as a leader is stifle your team’s ability with micro management.”
Creating a cohesive company culture and providing the right tools for her team to succeed is important to Batye. Also important to Batye is celebrating her team’s victories and brainstorming their opportunities. “Genuine listening and caring about your employees and their families is key. It’s just human nature to want to receive positive feedback. A thank you and job well done never gets old.”
Batye’s team has become an extension of her family, and as a doting wife and mother at home, and a leader in the workplace, parallels can be drawn in the ways she inspires and encourages her family and extended family. “There is nothing more invigorating to me than being in a group of forward thinkers and implementing ideas into reality – the more creative and imaginative the better. As a parent and leader, my passion stems from helping others discover their full potential and celebrating their success. I also like to create happy spaces whether it be in my own home and business or others.”
Serving as a source of support to her team and family, Batye herself has been encouraged and supported as an entrepreneur and leader in the industry through her affiliation with Flooring America/Flooring Canada, where she is one of 50 female owners in the group.
“On a personal level, the executive team has been here to guide me and cheer me on at every level. To have a direct connection with them at my fingertips along with their belief in my ability is huge. And it doesn’t stop at the corporate level. Being part of a co-op means I have direct contact with owners across the United States and Canada who have years of knowledge that I can tap with a phone call. So many times, when I’m working on a new concept or opportunity, I will pick up the phone and ask my Flooring America business consultant who in the membership I can talk to for advice.”
When it comes to juggling work and life, Batye says balance is a myth, and that’s OK. “Both are intertwined and part of your decision process every day. There are going to be days, maybe even weeks where work comes first and that’s OK. I think, especially as women, we carry such a huge weight of guilt when we can’t be all things to all people. Stop it, don’t make excuses for it or try to overcompensate by killing yourself to make it all balance. Just be present in the moment wherever you are.”
In her free time…Batye likes to find creative outlets through painting, gardening and spending time with family.
Meet Barb Martin, Owner, Martin’s Flooring, Denver, Pa.
At just 20 years old, Barb Martin and her husband shared a vision to be entrepreneurs. The pair purchased a small flooring store in 1985, and today, the Martins have two Carpet One stores, and another flooring store located inside of a furniture store.
The Martin’s original business was located next to their home, allowing them to raise a family while working. “We have four children who are now all grown and married and two of them have children of their own. Through the years, I juggled many responsibilities; however, my children were my first priority.”
As business grew, the original retail space became too small and in 1994, the Martins built a facility they thought they’d never outgrow. However, just four years later, they were faced with having to double the size of the building, converting the existing warehouse into two stories with the main floor serving as an expanded showroom and using the second floor as office space for the company’s accounting personnel and sales professionals. This location is now known as the corporate office, and two additional locations have been opened since.
With a background in setting up and maintaining accounting practices for a business, Martin’s accounts receivable expertise has been an asset to the inner workings of the retail operations and their success.
“I oversee systems and processes for our company, so I support my people by creating better efficiencies or making sure their current technology is working to its optimal performance. I love to see their job become easier and better with the addition of technology.”
With 35 years in the business, the introduction of new technologies to the flooring industry has propelled the Martins’ businesses. Also aiding in the growth of these retail operations is the Martins’ membership in Carpet One.
“Carpet One was one of the greatest moves we have ever done over the last 35 years,” said Martin. “We joined Carpet One in 1996. Carpet One has given us buying power and resources that we could not have done on our own.”
As a woman and leader in the industry, Carpet One has supported Martin every step of the way. “I think it’s a great and upcoming industry for women leaders,” she said. “It’s becoming more design-oriented; so, for many women leaders, that comes naturally, making it a great fit for women.” Martin has served on Carpet One’s Advisory Council for the last three years and from that she has been able to learn from the co-op’s management team.
In her free time…Martin loves spending time with her children and grandchildren and gardening.