Leading Monroe Tractor into the future.
In 2001, Chris Felosky indicated interest in joining his family’s company, Monroe Tractor.
The president of the company — his mother, Janet Felosky — told him the company had some sales positions open if he wanted to interview for one of them.
Think about that for a moment. Your mother is company president and you have to be approved for a lower-level job by a management team. Janet Felosky’s meritocratic hiring process continued beyond her son’s hiring:
“Chris did well with the interview and he got the position. My stance was, let’s see how he does with this for five years to determine just how interested he is in this business.”
Chris Felosky was hardly looking for a cushy job at age 24. A graduate of the University of Delaware, he was a salesman for a national firm when he turned to Monroe Tractor. His subsequent success as a Monroe Tractor salesman was no surprise and, after five years, he was promoted to product support manager.
He climbed the ladder of leadership through successively more responsible positions — working in each position for five years. He looks back on some of the lessons learned along the way.
“The parts and service reps that we developed helped us grow sales and we found that good product support reps developed into great machine sales reps.”
He also cultivated a new focus at all Monroe Tractor locations — the ability for the dealership to produce parts and service solutions regardless of the brand of equipment customers owned. This emphasis on finding solutions instead of just moving company products from the shelf was a winner with Monroe Tractor customers.
When the general manager for agricultural products abruptly left Monroe Tractor, Felosky said his mother “decided that would be my next role. To be perfectly honest with you, until that point, I had successfully managed to stay clear of the ag side. I think I was secretly trying to advance without ever having had an active role on the agricultural side. In retrospect, I’m very glad I did.”
He came to realize that agricultural and construction customers are not much different — “both are very demanding customers,” he said.
Yet there are differences, too, including the greater impact that seasons have on ag producers.
“The weather sends so many curve balls that it’s not unusual for the farmer to be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s different from a contractor who usually just gets his work pushed back for a while.”
He also came to see that, whereas construction work can vary from year to year depending on contract bids and state budgets, farmers typically farm about the same acreage every year.
Janet Felosky said her son’s ag experience was crucial to his success.
“Spending five years managing the agricultural division of Monroe Tractor was a critical part of his development because agriculture represents 50 percent of our overall business.”
She added that immersing her son in various components of the business in five-year increments gave him the opportunity to “learn every aspect of our company and to earn the respect of employees.”
That was precisely the path she had followed.
In 2019, when Chris Felosky became president and Janet Felosky moved up to CEO, Monroe Tractor restructured its administration to better manage the work. Gone were general managers. In their place, function directors were named — directors of service, parts and operations, as well as directors of ag sales, construction sales and special products.
The president said directorships are proving their worth by letting individuals focus on areas of strength.
“This allows us to be laser-focused on each department, so we are able to get more out of each department,” Chris said. “It also helps us ensure that a customer at our Syracuse store will have the same experience as a customer at our Hartford store.”
In 2011, Chris Felosky’s sister, Laura Wilkas came aboard as director of marketing. She had 10 years of experience with the Staples organization. Her brother persuaded her to bring her talents to the family company.
What do the next 70 years hold for Monroe Tractor? Growth and prosperity is what Chris Felosky sees … if management can retain its focus. “And we need to continue to surround ourselves with talented people.”
Some of that talent might come from within the family.
“I want to be able to pass this company on to the next generation,” said the president, “whether it be one of my daughters or Laura’s son or daughter.”
If and when the next generation decides when they want to leave their mark on the company and continue its long, successful run, it’ll be at least a decade or two — first they’ll need to finish up elementary school and perhaps, there’ll eventually be some summer work opportunities at Monroe Tractor as they get a little older.