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Business Leader of the Decade: Howard Brodsky

Published Wednesday Sep 16, 2020


Howard Brodsky, Chair and Co-CEO of CCA Global Partners


To celebrate Howard Brodsky and all the Businesses of the Decade, join Business NH Magazine for our virtual celebration November 12 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Register at https://www.businessnhmagazine.com/events/business-of-the-decade. This party has been a decade in the making.

Howard Brodsky’s commitment to lifting up family businesses is rooted in his own family. Brodsky’s father, a Russian immigrant, was an entrepreneur. When Brodsky was 13 and his father died, he asked his mom to hold onto the business until he was old enough to take over. When he did, he based the business on lessons he’d learned from his parents—“Pride in business and being part of the community,” he says.

Brodsky also quickly learned about the challenges small family-owned businesses face. Seeing that larger companies had advantages that small businesses didn’t, he wanted to level the playing field and cofounded CCA Global Partners in Manchester in 1984. Since then, CCA has become a $10 billion global company with 15 separate cooperatives and more than 3,300 members.

Brodsky serves as chair and co-CEO of CCA Global, which is the second largest private company in NH, among the largest retailers nationwide, and the 14th largest retail cooperative worldwide. It’s also the largest flooring retailer in the country, outpacing Home Depot and Lowe’s. Brodsky was inducted into the World Floor Covering Hall of Fame and received the Floor Covering Industry Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments. For his innovation and passion around cooperatives, Brodsky also became the first American to receive the Rochdale Pioneers Award, known as the “Nobel Prize of Cooperative Business,” in 2019.

In 35 years CCA Global Partners has never seen an unprofitable quarter and, to this day, remains debt free. And the company has given $1.5 billion in profits back to its members. “It’s not the numbers that count. It’s the people that count.

We’ve always put people first, not profits,” Brodsky says. “You don’t have to sacrifice the bottom line for doing good or treating people in a way that lifts them up.”

Brodsky, who does not own a single share in the member-owned cooperative, says he created CCA Global to be a force for good. “I am proud that CCA is capitalism with a conscience. We’ve grown into a multibillion dollar company but done it with shared ownership, where wealth is owned by many and not a few,” Brodsky says. “We’ve been able, during this past decade, to bring that model across so many sectors to preserve family businesses.”

And Brodsky’s caring transcends business. When he sees a problem, he does something about it. He created CCA for Social Good, a division of CCA Global, that operates a website serving 20,000 childcare centers and providers across 30 states. In 2015, Brodsky founded and is chair of Cooperatives for a Better World, a nonprofit that promotes cooperatives globally.

Brodsky says losing his father taught him the importance of strong role models, which led him to becoming a Big Brother twice through Big Brothers Big Sisters NH. He launched the first workplace site-based Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Now in its sixth year, his employees serve as mentors with kids coming to CCA during the workday. Because of the program’s success, the national nonprofit is expanding the model nationwide.  

During Brodsky’s career, he has served on 23 nonprofit and industry boards and currently serves as a board member for Southern NH University (and as chair of its Leadership Committee), National Cooperative Business Association, NH PBS, and SolutionHealth, among others.

Brodsky founded the NH Better Business Bureau and has been its chair for 25 years. Under his leadership, the Bureau has grown to represent more than 3,000 businesses and handles upwards of 900,000 inquiries per year. He is also a supporter of Pine Haven Boys Center and was the third person ever honored with the title of Trustee Emeritus of the Palace Theatre for his lifelong work with the organization.

Over the past decade, CCA Global donated more than $11 million to nonprofits, with 80% of those organizations based in NH. The company also provides free flooring for smart homes built for injured veterans by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, an organization CCA sponsors. Brodsky was the first person honored by the Foundation with the Follow the Footsteps Award, receiving the biggest individual piece of steel from the 9/11 attack, which is displayed in the lobby of CCA.

Partnering with the NH Charitable Foundation and NH Center for Nonprofits, Brodsky created NonprofitNext; a web program that identifies best practices and resources for NH-based nonprofits. Brodsky is developing MissionBuilders, a national fundraising co-op.

Giving back continues to be a family affair. Brodsky teamed up with his oldest son, Jeffrey, to create the Brodsky Prize at Central High School, an annual $5,000 scholarship given to a star student pursuing a career in journalism. With his younger son, Greg, Brodsky co-led the creation of Start.coop, the first U.S. cooperative business accelerator, which helped launch six new cooperatives in its first year.

And, Brodsky says, the family is rallying around Jeffrey, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The family’s experience inspired Brodsky to explore worker-owned homecare cooperatives in NH to improve patient outcomes and boost worker wages.

“There’s enormous opportunity for us to use CCA and the cooperative model to tackle so many of society’s problems,” says Brodsky.

His vision for NH includes exploring a cooperative for drug treatment. He is also championing EASE (Environmental Action & Sustainability Efforts), which was a business plan project for a group of interns, that will highlight ecofriendly products and practices for small businesses.

“We need to have a society that is inclusive. We need to have society where we have equality of health, education and living standards. It should be about we and not me,” Brodsky says. “I wake up with enormous energy and passion because I see the need. It’s not about accomplishing more or being bigger. It’s about people. … I hope that I improve the lives of others with love and kindness.”

To celebrate Howard Brodsky and all the Businesses of the Decade, join Business NH Magazine for our virtual celebration November 12 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Register at https://www.businessnhmagazine.com/events/business-of-the-decade. This party has been a decade in the making.

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