Madeline Brown is the marketing manager for Sherrill Furniture Company and has been an enthusiastic member of WithIt since 2018. She is currently a nominee for the 2020 WOW Future Leader Award.
(DD) Let us break the ice a little. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
(MB) I knew I always wanted to be successful but had a difficult time finding my passion until I went to college. I loved sales and networking with people but wasn’t sure how to transform that into a career. To be honest, my aspirations at a young age were to be a successful businesswoman and a mother (maybe a movie star if it fit into my schedule).
(DD) I can totally relate. Although movie star did not cross my mind. It was not till much later in my 20’s did I find my passion. It is different for everyone! Just must keep going and exploring.
How has that changed through the years?
(MB) Growing up my dad was a sales rep for a fabric mill, so I was constantly playing in Market Square and collecting fabric cuttings to use as rugs in my dollhouse. It was difficult growing up with one parent in sales and the other in medical school, but I learned the importance of establishing a career and hard work at a young age. I attempted the pre-med path for one semester of college but started working furniture market with my dad in 2014 and was immediately hooked (not to mention organic chemistry and I did not see eye to eye). I changed my major to Textiles the next day and knew I had found my passion immediately, luckily, I was at NC State which is known for its College of Textiles, funny how everything works out in the end!
(DD) What motivates you to work hard?
(MB) People. I really enjoy interacting with others and helping people to the best of my ability. When you work for a boss or a company that makes you feel appreciated, it makes going into the office such a delightful thing as opposed to just another ‘day on the job.’ I love the quote ‘people work for people, not companies,’ and I’ve always tried to view others as individuals and friends as opposed to a strictly business relationship. I’m also an enneagram 3, so I am very success and performance driven. I am my worst critic at times but have developed a reputation for going above and beyond in the office and trying to exceed expectations. I want to make my parents and the company I work for proud to call me their own.
(DD) What is your all-time favorite book or a book you recently read that you want to share with someone else?
(MB) Oh man, I love to read so this is difficult. Probably Redeeming Love or Eat, Pray, Love. I read both of these during difficult times in my life and really felt like I could relate to the characters. I’m also a sucker for quotes and there are some great quotes and words of wisdom tucked away in these stories.
(DD) Oh, see I love books. Recently started reading books by Kristy Woodson Harvey – she is NC based and its almost as escape sometimes. Love that about books.
What was the big draw for you to come into this industry?
(MB) My dad has always been and still is my mentor, role model and hero. I have watched him work extremely hard, 7 days a week, to provide for our family since I was little. He was and still is my protector, teacher and provider. During college I started traveling with him to the Northeast territory which he managed for Sherrill Furniture and I began learning the industry from a sales rep perspective. I watched how trade showrooms functioned, heard what designers needed in order to be successful, and learned how to merchandise fabric to frame. My dad was the first person I called when I was offered my own territory out of college for Hickory White. He has been such an influence and help in my career and has always been supportive of me regardless of the industry or position I wanted to be in, the fact we work in the same industry now is a bonus!
(DD) Was the work did in retail helpful in your role with Sherrill Furniture? How?
(MB) Working in retail a great way for me to understand the ‘other side’ of the business. I look at the furniture industry from two different angles: the first being manufacturing, and the second being retail sales. I understood manufacturing from being a sales rep for Hickory White – Where custom is the norm. I experienced firsthand how furniture was crafted in the factory, how different types of accounts (designers, showrooms, retail stores) contributed to an overall distribution plan, and how to manage a 500+ account basis within a large territory.
However, it wasn’t until I was able to spend time in a retail store that I was able to see this come to fruition. During my time as a retail sales liaison I learned what the end consumer was ultimately looking for and how product was managed and sold beyond the manufacturing side. This has helped me in my position now in marketing and management by listening, learning and implementing what retail salesmen needed and preferred in order to sell our product. I also was able to learn a deeper understanding of all of our brands within the company and develop product knowledge that is beneficial when working with print, publications and photography.
(DD) What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
(MB) The best advice I received comes in two forms.
The first from my high school soccer coach, Jason Brenner. He said “The most beneficial player on the team is the one who can play all positions.” This taught me that a well-rounded knowledge of the industry would be more beneficial over time as opposed to specializing in one particular role. Based on my history in the industry I feel comfortable stepping in a sales, marketing, management or retail position if needed- and I hope this gives the company I represent confidence in me knowing I am available for any position at any time.
The second advice I received is from my current boss and our VP of Marketing, Dax Allen. He said, “You are the CEO of you.” I love this quote because it gives me the permission to take life and matters into my own hands in regards to both career and lifestyle.
(DD) Oh I love both of those. You are the CEO of you! Might need to put that on a shirt or something!
What does success mean to you?
(MB) Success to me means support and positivity and is measured by the contacts and friends you make in your career journey. If you are the most successful and powerful person, it doesn’t matter if you ultimately find yourself alone in that position. I have focused on building and nurturing friendships while trying to help the company I represent grow. I have found that instead of ‘climbing the corporate ladder,’ if I use my skills to help others and help the company, I have been able to see both personal and professional growth while maintaining positive and beneficial relationships in the process. In my opinion, when people want to work with you, that means you are successful in your career.
(DD) What product are you currently obsessing about? Personal or business?
(MB) I absolutely love hair on hide. Animal prints are my favorite thing in the world and I can’t get enough of them! Whether it’s an accent pillow, side chair, cowgirls boots or handbag, I love faux fur and hair on hide!
(DD) I am a big music fan, I enjoy having a little something in my ear to get motivate. Working out, in the office, cooking, etc. What playlist are you listening to right now?
(MB) I alternate between country and worship music. Country music gets me pumped up and ready to seize the day. When I’m waking up or winding down, I am normally singing a Clint Black or Jason Aldean song at full volume (and those of you who know me know just how loud that can be). Worship music on the other hand keeps me in a positive mindset and upbeat attitude. It reminds me that my worth and value are not based on my career or performance, and that even if the plans I have in place fall through there is a greater plan for my life.
(DD) Goodness I feel like I could ask a ton more questions – thank you again so much for sharing and I look forward to hearing what everyone takes away from our chat!
Thank you Madeline!
Dana Helms is Director of Sales and Business Development for Myriad Software. She has been a proud WithIt member since 2008.