This column by Andrea Dobbins appeared in the 4/23/17 edition of the Dalton Daily Citizen News.
"Old formulas don't give new solutions."
What better mantra to lead you to greet each day with a mindset of innovation? Meet Susan Farris, who recently shared this quote with me as one of her main drivers. "As individuals, as leaders, and as organizations, we must constantly be evolving and changing to be relevant and sustainable for the future," she noted.
Since joining Shaw Industries in 1991, Susan's experience in the company has included increasingly responsible roles within distribution, retail, I.S. and commercial marketing. Currently, she is vice president of corporate marketing and communications.
In this capacity, Susan and her team are accountable for positioning and enhancing Shaw's corporate brand and reputation, building relationships both inside and in the broader community, leading philanthropic giving and creating consistent messaging across all stakeholders to clearly communicate the company's vision, road map and progress.
Susan highlighted the importance of relationships as integral to her personal journey.
"I have been fortunate throughout my life and career to have personal mentors, coaches and sponsors, she said. "They have helped guide me, redirect me, challenge me, channel my passion and calm my fears. My advice to the next generation would be to find these trusting relationships. Seek them out. And, listen and learn from all that feedback. And, in return, play that role for others in the future."
On a personal level, Susan is active in the community through her volunteer service with the United Way Women Leadership Council and Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce Executive Board. She is a graduate of Leadership Dalton-Whitfield and a recipient of Joseph J. Smrekar Memorial Award from the Carpet & Rug Institute. She is on the Dalton Band Club Board of Directors as treasurer.
Professionally, Susan's passion for identifying and cultivating talent drove her to spearhead the formation of the Shaw Women's Innovation Network (WiN), where she is a chair of the steering team. The group has grown to more than 1,600 associates. The focus of the WiN is:
• Inspire, engage and empower women.
• Prepare high potential women for leadership positions.
• Engage the organization in empowering and preparing women.
• Prepare the workforce of the future by focusing efforts on young girls in our communities.
Shaw's philanthropic giving and associate volunteering across the country is focused on education, built environment, sustainability, innovation, diversity and inclusion and health and wellness. Susan shared a few recent corporate partnerships including City Park Elementary STEP Club, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy Mentor Program and FIRST Robotics.
She noted the reciprocity of these programs saying "Not only are we able to pair Shaw mentors with young talent of the future, our associates also have opportunities to personally develop."
Shaw also annually mobilizes nearly 1,000 associates to complete 100 volunteer projects during their Summer of Service initiative.
In addition to employee service, Susan oversees Shaw's charitable giving portfolio, which is nearly $5 million strong including a very successful United Way employee campaign, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and numerous other charities. Shaw is one of the largest supporters of my organization, the Floor Covering Industry Foundation, which provides direct financial grants to industry families who are faced with life altering medical catastrophes.
Susan is a Dalton native, where she grew up attending Whitfield County Schools. She is a graduate of Southeast Whitfield High School and holds an associate's degree in business from Dalton State College and a bachelor's degree in organizational management from Covenant College. She and her husband David have three children and two grandchildren.
Susan, thanks for igniting the spark of innovation, investing corporate resources to better communities, and being an inspiration and role model to me and all the other little girls out there.
Andrea Dobbins is the executive director of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in Dalton. Visit fcif.org to learn more.