Kavita McCarthy was named president of E.J. Welch Company, a top-10 flooring distributor based in St. Louis, Missouri, in September 2021. She brings more than two decades of building materials experience to her role, most prominently within flooring, holding seven progressive roles at CCA Global Partners and ProSource Wholesale.
EJ Welch has been in growth mode through acquisition that has led to a reorganization of the business. CEO Mitch Jolley said McCarthy is tasked with elevating the brand, increasing touchpoints with customers and encouraging overall growth through additional acquisitions.
“I always judge people in the room, not by the statements they're making as often as the questions they're asking,” Jolley said. “Kavita has that capacity to ask the right questions and find out where is the bottleneck and get it moving. Kavita follows through.”
We caught up with McCarthy to find out what has influenced her career trajectory. Here are her top takeaways.
1. Be okay with surprises
"The biggest surprise in my life is that I didn’t set out to go into marketing and business, and rather wanted to pursue the sciences. It was the career that chose me, and I’m extremely grateful to have found a career I love doing so much.
2. Find mentors
"CCA Global had a significant impact on my career trajectory. I was with them for 20 years, and I gained access to leaders who recognize potential in people, and who find in that person more than what that person can sometimes find in themselves— that's my true beginning. I benefited from a high degree of coaching and mentoring at CCA Global; it was very difficult to leave that support system."
Don't be afraid to seek out visionary females and gain leadership advice.
3. Ask for help
"Don't be afraid to seek out visionary females and gain leadership advice. It took me awhile to recognize people can help me, and then you have to open up and have those vulnerable conversations."
4. Keep learning
"When you stay at one company for a great deal of time, it takes initiative to gain a diverse set of skills, I feel lucky that I had leaders at CCA Global who pushed me and showed me different ways to do and think about business."
5. Take risks
“Continuing to stretch myself and take risks was part of my plan. I wanted to make sure that I could gain experiences such as supporting a turnaround, leading the launch of a new business unit, and other incredible opportunities to grow and learn. If I had not done this, it would not have led me to the incredible opportunity I find myself with E.J. Welch."
6. Lead with intention
"Where I have seen greater success as a female leader is leading with your intentions. I think a lot of male counterparts ‘invisibly get’ each other, but when you're the female in the room, you have to work harder to state your intentions up front. It speeds up the process to get alignment and support."
"I learned early on how to create a strategic plan. It accelerated the ability to gain traction and get results, and it all started with winning people's trust in me, and that led to more and more autonomy and responsibility."
8. Find inspiration
“My inspiration brand is ABC Supply. It's not a flooring industry, but they have grown into a $12 billion distributor of multiple building material products, and they are family-run. If you look at them online, if you go to one of their locations, that brand is inspiration to me.”
9. Be disruptive
"I don't like status quo and doing things a certain way because we've always done it that way. It's my biggest pet peeve to hear that statement. The world is moving fast, so if we're not accelerating and staying relevant, we're going to be left behind. Willingness to be disruptive is critical."
10. Look ahead
"In the next 10 years, if Amazon decides to enter the flooring market, that would be our biggest risk. Our highly fragmented, high-touch industry, such as the complex flooring solutions we are providing, is hopefully still immune to disruptive players such as Amazon. Other industries haven’t been so lucky. One competitive advantage is serving commercial flooring projects, which requires complex installation, and local hands-on expertise."