One thing that strikes you when speaking with Christina Armentano is that she has strong convictions. This young, dynamic businesswoman has carefully crafted her life and career with purpose, integrity and steadfastness. These qualities and many others became evident during a discussion about identity and her personal journey.
Her role is executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development at Paraco Gas, a privately held company headquartered in Rye Brook. Her title, though impressive, does little to convey the vast scope of her responsibilities within the firm and the path she chose that led her there.
It was her grandfather, Pat Armentano, who founded Paraco Gas in 1968. Her father, Joseph, serves as its CEO and chairman. Christina’s early childhood years saw their fair share of handling all sorts of basic tasks around the office. Not convinced that the traditional path often taken by children in family businesses was her destiny, she only formally joined the company in 2014 after several years spent post-college searching for, as she describes it, “the right fit.”
Raised in Bronxville, Armentano was surrounded by a large family and speaks fondly of her early years at home and her academic career. She attended Bronxville schools, had a strong network of friends and as she describes it, “a very supportive community.” When she set out to select a college for undergraduate studies, she settled on James Madison University in Virginia, majoring in communications, and was pleasantly surprised that among a vast student body of nearly 40,000 students, her experience was such a positive one. She excelled not only in her studies, but in life away from home, embracing the community and as she says, “its huge school spirit.”
She credits Jeanne Branover for offering her an opportunity after her undergraduate years as a researcher and recruiter at Boyden Global Executive Search. Eventually she transitioned into a business development role with the firm, but it was during her time at Boyden that she decided to pursue graduate studies at Babson College where she earned her MBA. She found the culture at Babson complementary to her own pursuits with its entrepreneurial-focused curriculum and international culture.
With that credential firmly embedded in her resume Armentano was still not convinced that the family business was the next step. Following graduate school, she settled in Burlington, Massachusetts, working for Vistaprint as a senior recruitment manager, affording her exposure to a large e-commerce business. A year later she was recruited away by Seth Harris to Cook Associates, a talent acquisition firm with a national network. All these steps served as individual points of significant accomplishment in their own right, while she built upon the trajectory of her career.
Fast forward to March 2014, when she formally joined Paraco at her father’s behest to manage the human resources division of the company, sorely needed following a string of acquisitions and with employee ranks then numbering 250. She commuted for four months from Massachusetts to parts of the tristate area spending time at the company’s hubs and satellite locations becoming familiar with the team members and observing the many logistics of the business.
Paraco had experienced considerable growth, acquiring numerous gas suppliers in the region. Her vast experience in recruiting and acquiring talent and aligning employees with relevant responsibilities would prove to be a great asset to the firm.
Eventually relocating to her current home in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband Sam Bowlby, Christina started to focus on the next natural area of need within the firm — acquisitions and sales. As her learning curve steepened she sought out the advice of other professionals in the industry.
“You can always learn from someone who is already established in the business,” she says.
Another target was furthering the company’s strong safety program, working with local fire safety organizations and focusing on legislative initiatives. Coming to the aid of any supplier outside their own network is routine, she says, adding, “I think it is really important that we promote the industry and lead by example.”
In 2017, the company had three major acquisitions, so the focus for the immediate future will be on employee growth and development, or what Christina refers to as, “the customer and employee experience — individual professional development and organizational growth.” Having restructured her team of 40, representing inside and outside sales reps and marketing and acquisitions professionals, she is positioning the company and herself for future success. Christina mentioned the words of her grandfather which drive her every day, “Do right by the company and the company will do right by you.”
Statistics confirm the extraordinary scope of the company. Paraco now places in the annual Top Ten list of the largest retail propane suppliers in the country by LP Gas magazine, and is by far the largest privately held gas company in the Northeast with 33 locations and main distribution hubs and call centers in Saugerties and Bohemia, New York.
Now firmly embedded in Paraco’s culture and building upon its successes, Christina has created a career she loves and even with two young children under the age of 3, she’s peaceful with her work-life balance and the challenges it sometimes presents. She attended a three-day leadership and teambuilding conference that the company hosts annually for key employees and vendors. What words of advice can she offer young professionals like herself?
“Recognize that time is the most valued asset that you have. When you are at work, learn to prioritize and delegate. When you are with your friends and family, learn to live in the moment and be present.”