I recently had the opportunity sit down with and interview Ellen Hains, our new Branch Manager, in our New York office.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
A race car driver. I grew up in Suburbia and I think getting in your car and having your Sunday drive was very special. I was born in the sixties and there was still this idea of having a nice car was a luxury. I was the youngest so I used to sit in the front seat with my parents and I used to get to steer the wheel. I don't know, there was just something about being a race car driver that just seemed appealing and dangerous. To this day my father says I am still the best driver in the family.
What and where did you study?
I went to CW Post College which is Long Island University originally for TV / radio and got involved with being on the air and that grew into having a public speaking background so that's what my degree was in. They called it Speech Communications. It became a default that I was going into sales and learn how to present and engage with people.
How and when did your career in this industry begin?
I was working in the city and I was working in advertising sales and not loving it and my roommate at the time was somebody that I grew up with from my hometown. She had just gotten a job as a receptionist at the Haworth showroom in New York so I started hanging out with her and some of her work friends. One day I came home and I said I can't do this anymore and she said, “oh, one of our dealers is looking for somebody” and that was how I got started in this industry. This past February was 30 years that I've been doing this furniture thing.
What is the most important trend or change you see in the industry today?
Well this is definitely going to age me but it boils down to computers. When I first started there was not a computer on every desk. I remember when I first started the designers had the computers because they were just learning AutoCAD and we typed things on a typewriter we faxed quotes to people so internet and computers are really what has changed our industry so much. Now we can work anywhere and just about everything that you need you can get on the internet now so you don't even need to have the physical binders and images. You can just put together everything from your computer.
If you could meet one person in history who would it be and why?
I'll probably have to go with somebody like Queen Victoria or Joan of Arc. Somebody who's a strong woman who's had to overcome adversity who had to lead when probably people didn't think that they could.
Who was the greatest influence in your career?
My first job in the industry was working for a Haworth dealer here in the city and it was run by a very dynamic woman who actually retired from the industry last year who’s. Her name is Rosalie Edson. As a mentor, I couldn't have asked for anybody better. She started selling hats at Lord & Taylor in New York when she was 16 years old. She went into her family's garment business and took over the furniture dealer from her husband and really built it into a force here in New York. She taught me everything that I know. I believe from a sales perspective there's many ways to sell but when you find somebody who is very successful, stick by them, listen to them, see how they do what they do and then make it your own so that you can be true to yourself. She really taught me so much about the industry and about people and about relationships and what's important to be successful in our industry.
If you can learn a new skill, what would it be?
Definitely to learn a second language. I know enough to be dangerous when I'm traveling. A little Spanish, a little French but that skill I would love.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Positive - Energetic - Tenacious. I believe that it may be a little New Age kind of thinking but I really believe that what you put out into the world, the energy that you put out there is what you get back. I really believe in thinking about the most positive outcomes and just positive way of thinking and how you treat people. Seeing people for who they are and treating them with respect and I just feel like it comes back to you.
If you could have two superpowers, what would they be and why?
I definitely would want to fly. One of my loves is to travel so if I could take myself there, that would be amazing. A second superpower would be maybe to be super strong.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
The biggest thing that I like to do is travel. I love to go to exotic lands and faraway places. I try to leave the country at least twice a year because I feel like again it goes back to people. It's so great to meet people from different cultures and to experience their day-to-day lives, the food, the architecture, etc.
What are some career advice and keys to success?
I think it goes back to that positive thinking. I think whatever your job is, if you can look at it as something that brings you happiness and joy and you put all of your happiness and joy into it then you're going to be a success. I think when it comes to sales it is about finding connection with people. No matter what happens in business, you are doing business with people so it's important to understand people, try to find a way to connect with them, find some commonality and obviously to always do what you say you're going to do. One of the things Rosalie always used to tell me is anytime in business you just have to be honest because when you're honest and you tell people the truth, you never have to remember it because it is what it is. We work in a very complex industry with a lot of moving parts and sometimes there's bad news and sometimes there are things that are outside of your control but as long as you're upfront about it most people are pretty reasonable and you can just do the best that you can. I think when you do that people will recognize that you're going to do whatever you can.