Leading in her father’s footsteps.
When Janet Felosky was named president of Monroe Tractor in 1990, she did not shatter a ceiling. She already had broken through such traditional barriers to female promotion as she rose through a succession of positions at Monroe Tractor. True, her father was president of the company — but Felosky overcame that handicap.
“My father certainly did not put a silver spoon in my mouth,” she said with pride.
Her work experience bears that out. After all, shipping and receiving is not a plum assignment for a college graduate with a business administration degree, but that’s where she started. She then moved on to the parts department, another vital but unglamorous position at an equipment dealership, a job that women were not commonly doing in the 1970s.
Felosky worked full-time at the family business for a full 18 years — including being credit manager before finally going into accounting — and only ascended to the position of president when the position suddenly became vacant in 1990. In other words, she worked her way up in the company, establishing some new norms for women along the way.
Did she feel like a trailblazer?
“You know, it never felt difficult, challenging or forced,” she said. “I’d always been around the shop doing some sort of odd jobs. I always fit in, so I was never a threat to the other employees. I did not come off as the boss’ daughter. I put my jeans on the same way everybody else did and I did anything that I was asked to do. I was accepted.”
Acceptance in-house is not always mirrored in outside relationships. She had female contemporaries in leadership roles in the equipment industry along the way, but not so many that their presence in industry gatherings was deemed unremarkable. Felosky, who became Monroe Tractor’s chief executive officer in 2013, said it never intimidated her to sit down with equipment vendors, always men.
“When I had a meeting, I made sure I brought with me the right specialist from our organization to deal with the topic at hand. I didn’t profess to know anything about equipment — I might have known the least of anyone in the meeting,” she said. “What I did have was a good sense of how our business operated and I knew we had to pay for whatever we ordered.”
Mike Celentano watched Felosky handle herself in this environment. Celentano was named chief financial officer the same day Felosky became president. He retired this year in March.
“Being a woman in this industry years ahead of her time never phased Janet, he said. “She could deal with anyone on any level
regardless of the situation, from any of her own employees to attorneys and corporate CEOs.”
Felosky said she surrounded herself with “some very talented people skilled at helping Monroe Tractor evaluate its equipment needs.”
She carried with her into business meetings some guiding principles that served her well. They were instilled in her by the company founder.
“Stay humble and be a better listener than you are a talker, Dad would tell me. You know, use your two ears to listen. He was a big believer in mutually beneficial relationships. He would listen carefully before he’d speak, and when he did speak, it would make good sense because he had all the information available. He never professed to know everything.”
Celentano added, “Janet learned many of the same lessons from her father that I did, lessons that included how to treat employees, how to treat customers, don’t jump to conclusions. She was fortunate to be with him and learn from him all the time, and as a result, she understood his philosophies.”
Looking back on her successful and ongoing career, Janet Felosky acknowledged that her decision to go to work for her father at Monroe Tractor was as much about her father as it was about the company.
“After graduating from college and becoming engaged to my future husband (Greg Felosky), I decided to join the family business. I’d always respected my father and was proud of his hard work. I wanted to be a part of that. I was proud to be a part of a family business.”
Felosky attended State University of New York-Canton, before earning her business degree from Kent State University. In recognition of her pivotal leadership role in the growth of Monroe Tractor over four decades, SUNY-Canton inducted her into its hall of fame in 2019 as a distinguished alumni.
The family legacy continues at Monroe Tractor. Felosky’s son, Chris, is company president after 20 years of working in management roles, and a daughter, Laura Wilkas, joined the company 10 years ago as marketing director and is putting a unique Monroe Tractor stamp on the business.