Melissa Osterwind has been the Chief Operating Officer at SRI for five years. In addition to managing the team, she also oversees finance, strategic planning, marketing, and human resources. With so much on her plate, Melissa is surprisingly gracious and accommodating as she chats about the culture at SRI.
Q: Melissa, your background is clearly in finance, but the bulk of your career has been in public administration. How did you transition to SRI and why?
A: Ha! My answer may lack some grace, but also might resonate with many working folks. For over a decade, I enjoyed a great career in the public sector managing a team of 70 people, overseeing a 1.6 billion dollar budget, working 80 hour weeks, and always under pressure. And then, I did the unthinkable – I got pregnant with my first child. Walking the floors with my colicky son, I realized that my former career was unsustainable. I met with Oliver Stebich and he offered me a promise: the ability to grow a company that was both family friendly and a strong supporter of the arts. And, while it was a leap of faith to come and work at SRI Fine Art Services, he lived up to all of those promises.
Q: You wear a lot of hats at SRI, what do you consider your most important roll?
A: Without a doubt, it’s the human resources part of the job. Our employees are the most important piece of our strategic plan. Art handlers, in particular, are the closest to everything – the artwork and our clients – and are the fullest representation of our brand. The management team recognizes and values their contribution. They are SRI’s most valuable asset that no balance sheet will be able to portray. I’m proud of the team we’ve built here. In addition to working really well as a team, we genuinely like each other and on most days I’d say we are looking forward to coming to work.
Q: So it sounds like you don’t have much turn-over with your staff. That’s fairly remarkable, why do people stay?
A: That answer is surprisingly simple: we treat our people like family. Recognizing that our employees are our most important asset, means that we not only treat them well, we pay them well too. That employee who is installing your art – he has a family and is paid a livable wage for the New York Metropolitan area. We provide employer sponsored health benefits, dental coverage, and a 401K plan that we automatically contribute to each pay period. Beyond the standard benefits, we take care of our staff – we’ve loaned staff money when hit with hard times, sponsored BBQs, and are always understanding when we find out your child fell off the monkey bars at day care. We work for our employees; and as a result, our employees work for us.
Q: What’s up next for SRI Fine Art Services?
A: That can be summed up in one word: growth. We recently launched a new website which better reflects who we are and what we do, we’ve added 20,000 square feet of climate storage to our portfolio and we have a really exciting new hire. It’s never boring here!