Big rain and wind are expected today, and Melissa Rossi, Division 9 Flooring’s Director of Operations and CFO, is working with their full time safety manager who will be “watching everything like a hawk,” she says. Created in response to a client’s suggestion, the safety manager role now covers all aspects of business operations.
She’s proud of another Division 9 signature: environmental stewardship. Ten years ago, carpeting was the #2 contributor to landfills by volume. Capacity to recycle existed but was still fairly new. Division 9 became one of the first Puget Sound companies to recycle carpet. “It’s a choice to be green; and to us it’s so obvious…there’s a greater overall cost in ignoring environmental and consumer concerns.” Now, the carpeting industry as a whole is much greener.
After starting off in a bookkeeping firm, then a small flooring company, Rossi opened a consulting business. A former colleague, Chuck Young, hired her to write a business plan for what is now Division 9. She wrote the first plan, helped procure financing, hired staff, and found office space. Asked to come on full time, she initially declined, happy with her own consulting business; she agreed to recruit someone else. A few months later she found she didn’t want to leave Division 9, but didn’t want to leave her consulting business without ownership. In short time she was a 20% owner, and put her business aside.
An early career challenge was that “it’s hard to be taken seriously as a 21-year-old leader…I find i have a lot of reflection as an Excell member on how I coped with being young and inexperienced and constantly questioned. I get perspective of other business owners in various points of career and lives, and I realized I don’t have to be someone else.”
Nearly 14 years later, she’s hired every current employee. With company growth came a greater degree of accountability. She hears from some folks that “we miss the old Melissa.” The challenge now is to “maintain a youthful innocence and not become jaded.”
Rossi originally hesitated to join Excell, fearing it might be geared to larger companies. Now she says, “I realized that Excell is not just for big business…it’s not out of my league. I gain relevant perspective and can participate – there is no economic or experience boundary in the format.” She notes that members share similar professional concerns despite different levels of experience in different industries.
Her advice for someone starting out: Play the long game. Experience with one recession taught her that. “We always have to be preparing for the next cycle – to discount hype yet not miss opportunities – it’s a careful balance. I don’t have the secret formula, but I remind myself that what we deal with today may not be what we deal with tomorrow.”
Born in Minnesota, Rossi moved here in 1990 as a child. Like many transplants to Western Washington, she says, “I don’t think I’ll ever leave.” Her husband is in the same industry, so business and home integrate organically. Keeping her grounded, Melissa is heavily invested in the lives of their three daughters, ages 12, 11 and 7. “I can’t imagine life without kids – it always comes down to our kids – they are the first priority.” They keep it fun and positive in the office, where her kids spend a lot of time, and at home. As a break from daily life, the family particularly enjoys camping and traveling.
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