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Women to Watch - Sydney Harris posted by: Dana Helms

(Dana) Hello there, Sydney, Please introduce yourself.

(Sydney) My name is Sydney Marie Harris and I am passionate about Sales Training and Education in retail furniture, Furnitureland South. I am motivated to enhance business processes and to communicate and train on those enhancements with high energy and excitement. Growing up around the furniture industry, I have developed a unique perspective and I am eager to continue to learn.

(Dana) Let’s break the ice a little. What motivates you to work hard?

(Sydney) I am motivated by problem solving! As a sales trainer, I am constantly looking for ways to radically simplify our sales processes at Furnitureland South. I work hard to find solutions and collaborate with my team to make the entire Furnitureland South experience World Class. I am also motivated by education. I am passionate about learning and I believe in a true growth mindset where you never stop being a student of the industry.

Outside of work, I am very motivated and inspired by my family, friends, and those who challenge me daily to reach my full potential. Seeing my father and how successful he has been as CEO and involved leader of our company has really motivated me to continue to develop my leadership skills as well as my knowledge of this industry.

I also have a heart for helping others and that motivates me to do well financially so that I can give back to the community and to those in need.

(Dana) What is your all-time favorite book?

(Sydney) Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

(Dana) What was your first job?

(Sydney) My first “job” was nannying, but my first real job (other than working for my family’s business) was when I was in school at College of Charleston. I worked for a real estate company in Charleston, SC. While there, I assisted with appraisals and managed a few rental properties. I loved getting to learn about that industry, especially in my favorite place!

(Dana) You are a wildly talented millennial woman. Let’s tap into your brain just a little bit to talk about your personal journey in the home furnishings world.

(Sydney) Thank you! Technically, I was born right into the industry! In 1969 my grandparents and American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame members, Darrell and Stella Harris, started Furnitureland South. They really had a passion and vision for this industry from the retail side and wanted to bring customers quality furniture for an extreme value. My grandparents started our business from the ground up! It truly is the picture of the American Dream. My Father, Jeff, and Uncle, Jason, now co-own and run Furnitureland South so I grew up running around our store, quite literally.

When I was in school at the College of Charleston, my dad asked me if I wanted to attend the WithIt Conference that was happening in town that summer. Honestly, attending that conference was the deciding factor for me going straight into our industry right out of school. I had never been surrounded by that many powerful, influential, and inspiring women.

Being able to ask questions and listen to top women in our industry gave me the courage to pursue my passion for the furniture industry. After I graduated, I moved back to the High Point/Greensboro area and started at Furnitureland South as a Sales and Design Consultant. I was in that role for just under a year when I moved into the position I am in now in Sales Education.

One of my favorite things about our industry is that it is ever changing. What worked yesterday or five years ago may not work anymore. There are so many facets and components in this business and it is fascinating to be a part of it from the retail side because we are constantly asking ourselves how the customer is shopping today and how they will want to shop tomorrow.

I love it! Currently, we are continuing to develop our new CRM, web-based order entry system, and website. My team has been heavily involved in working with developers to improve these avenues and provide value to our business as a whole.

(Dana) Let me pick my jaw up off the floor. You are a busy women!

What do you believe is the most important thing for millennial women entering the workforce today to know about collaborating with others?

(Sydney) Whether it is millennial women or not, I think you hear a lot about the 80/20 rule (80 percent of the people do 20 percent of the work). They key to working and collaborating with others is you have to find that middle ground, but you also have to understand the strengths of the people that you are working with and find ways for them to use those strengths to help accomplish the common goal. You’re only as good as the people that you surround yourself with, and I believe that statement can really change the way you view the people that you work with. Working together strategically can make such dynamic difference.

(Dana) What do you believe women of older generations in their late 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s should know about how to create a bridge to thinking effectively with millennials?

(Sydney) At the end of the day, I think we all want the same things; We want to be valued and appreciated, knowing that our contributions are making a difference. One of the biggest problems that I see across multiple industries right now is that people are more focused about competing against each other than they are at helping each other and working together.

A woman in her 30s may have a completely different idea of what she wants for her life and career than a woman in her 50s wanted at that age, and that’s okay! What is important is that we look in the mirror and decide for ourselves, not anyone else, what we want and create action items and goals that get us to that place. And of course, hard work speaks for itself.

(Dana) Before we get into some of the specific activities you’ve created at Furnitureland South, walk us through the structure you’ve built for your team in terms of personal development goals.

(Sydney) Our sales team is extremely goal oriented. We are constantly setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and reevaluating our benchmarks. A few months ago, our leadership team took the Gallup CliftonStrengths finder Test. I highly recommend it for personal development and for learning how best to work with your team. It taught me a lot about myself and we have had a blast going through all of the data and learning more about each other and our different, unique strengths.

(Dana) How have you seen the team grow and develop because of all this?

(Sydney) It has been incredible to see how much more we trust and respect each other after going through this process. It has taught me that when we understand ourselves and those in close relation to us, it is so much easier to communicate effectively. It has made our team drastically more efficient. One example of this, is that myself, my co-worker Nicole Andrews, and our direct report, Blair Ingle, all share Responsibility as one of our top 5 strengths. Knowing that each of us take pride in our work and value work ethic, we divide and conquer tasks knowing that it will be taken care of the correct way. This has trickled down to the team level in our organization.

We encourage our sales team to partner and collaborate with other people that have strengths that differ from then and we see great success with that.

(Dana) Who inspires you?

(Sydney) My grandmother, Stella Harris, and my friend and Co-Worker, Nicole Andrews. 

(Dana) What were some pivotal moments in your career and life and how did they affect you?

(Sydney) Probably the most pivotal moment in my life was losing my grandmother. She was my rock and my best friend. She was such a smart, beautiful woman and she taught me so much about life, faith, and being an influential woman in our industry. When she passed away, it was extremely difficult for me and my family and it still is. My dad really set the tone for us by remembering her and my grandfather in such a way that inspires us every day to hold closely to our memories, continue their legacy and make them proud. I remember them by striving to be a better person and never stop being passionate towards helping others.


By the time I am done reviewing this interview I am inspired, I don’t know about you?

Thank you again Sydney!


Dana Helms

Dana Helms is Director of Sales and Business Development for Myriad Software. She has been a WithIt member since 2008.


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Sydney Vigotov commented:
Go, Sydney go! Proud to know this bright, thoughtful young leader.

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