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The first Dallas WESA to be held at Dallas Market Center (DMC) is coming up in just a few months. Did you know that the CEO and President of Dallas Market Center was female?
In light of the industry-changing WESA move, we spoke with Cindy Morris about her career path, current position, and best professional advice.
COWGIRL: Tell us about where you are from and little background of your family and experience growing up that have shaped who you are today.
Cindy Morris: I was born in Upstate New York, but when I was young, my parents moved to the Dallas area, where I attended public school and then headed to Texas A&M University. The Aggie experience was very important to me for many reasons—the tradition and community is just unmatched—but A&M is also where I met my husband Greg. Our two boys have also attended A&M and we have spent many weekends in College Station for football and spending time in the surrounding area. It’s a special place.
CG: Tell us why you chose the career path that you did.
CM: I studied marketing in college, and that was a decision that has served me well in our business. I actually first worked in an advertising agency after college, which helped me understand and learn the professional skills that I still depend upon after more than three decades at Dallas Market Center. At its core the market center is a community—a place where buyers and sellers come together to meet and form powerful bonds to help one another succeed. The marketing classes and then the agency experience were a great foundation for how to promote the business and create trade events that inspire retailers.
CG: What are your main responsibilities?
CM: As president and CEO, I’m responsible for all aspects of the business, but most important to me is relationship building—with the retailers, manufacturers and sales teams. We have the honor of helping new stores just starting out and legendary retailers in business for decades, helping brands that are start-ups and iconic names. Each of them has challenges that can’t be faced alone. So we are in the relationship business—forging new relationships and deepening existing ones to help each other. And I think that can be helped by digital tools but by and large it’s still an in-person experience best done with a handshake and a conversation here at the market center or inside a store.
CG: What inspires and motivates you?
CM: Our founder was a very savvy man named Trammell Crow. Mr. Crow was fond of saying that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to introduce a new order of things. That’s a powerful statement, but when he created Dallas Market Center in 1957, he was literally breaking new ground for how brands and retailers did business together. That idea is inspiring to me, especially as we launch the world’s largest Western and English marketplace in January. With the help of our showrooms we are changing the order of things—and that’s not without difficulty, peril, and uncertainty, but it’s going to help the industry thrive for the next several decades. I’m confident of that.
CG: What advice would you give to a woman trying to break into the industry?
CM: I’m so fortunate that as an industry we celebrate and support women business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders who have proven that we not only deserve a seat at the table but have few limits in how far we can rise. I’m also fortunate that I had good mentors, including our former president and CEO Bill Winsor. I remember when I became president and CEO Bill commented, “Well, now we have a company leader who resembles our customers,” and he said that because more than 50% of the buyers who come into Dallas Market Center are women running a business. Today, our executive team has a female majority and so we can easily appreciate all of the women entrepreneurs who have created a business with the help of our marketplace and our exhibitors.
CG: What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
There have been a few challenges, for sure, but they have been met with cooperation and
assistance. The pandemic, for example, caused our business to shut down temporarily but we bounced back quickly and welcomed retailers and brands back into the marketplace for a truly remarkable summer of trade events, all things considered. We did it safely but had a
tremendous obligation to help support retail’s rebound.
As I look at my career, I would never say that it has been an obstacle to be a woman, especially at this moment and in this business. As a student of history, I appreciate this quote from Margaret Thatcher: “While the home must always be the center of one’s life, it should not be the boundary of one’s ambitions.” Balancing home and work is a unique challenge for all of us, but especially for moms, and I have leaned on my company team and my husband. They understand that there are sacrifices because you can’t do it all but you can recognize when you need help and speak up. Being honest with people and asking for help is perhaps the best lesson I have for younger people.
CG: What is your proudest professional accomplishment and why?
CM: For years we have discussed and strategized about how to create the world’s largest Western and English marketplace worthy of the respect of the industry. We also thought it simply made sense to create the hub for Western and English in Texas. It has not been easy, but big goals never are. So when we host WESA and AETA – ironically timed to follow closely after the PBR World Finals and NFR taking place down the road – that will be my proudest accomplishment shared with so many supporters and advocates.
CG: What are some of your future career goals?
CM: The recent pandemic has accelerated so many of the changes that were already underway for the business of wholesale and retail. While some folks may look at the business glass as half-empty I believe that the future is extremely bright for brands and retail—we just have to work differently. I saw firsthand how retailers rolled up their sleeves and were extremely resilient in order to remain in business. That’s inspiring. We can’t continue to do things the same way and expect different results—that’s why we are creating a Western and English marketplace that honors tradition while offering next-generation tools and opportunities. Creating a single location that offers retailers access to more types of products is a start. Developing better digital tools including a wholesale e-commerce platform is something we will roll out soon. We all need to get very comfortable with the way that brick and mortar can help digital and vice versa.
CG: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
CM: Growing up, I studied horticulture at Skyline High School in Dallas when it was first introduced as a magnet school and I was the president of our FFA chapter. My love of flowers and plants has continued to this day. I love being outside and working on plants and the yard. In fact, my weekend therapy is hopping on my zero turn mower at our lake house. It gives me quiet time and a sense of accomplishment since I have a beautiful lawn when I’m done. And I always have fresh flowers at home or at the lake and am known to arrange centerpieces for the holidays.
CG: Who are some of the people that have been the most supportive/encouraging throughout your life, career, etc?
CM: I mentioned our company founder, Trammell Crow, who was such a compelling entrepreneur and mentor. One of his famous sayings was “There is as much risk in doing nothing as doing something.” I think that idea matters now more than ever. But I have worked most closely for three decades with our former president and CEO and current chairman emeritus Bill Winsor. He personifies the best qualities of our business and industries: honest, hard-working, open to suggestions, setting very high expectations but being encouraging to everyone around him. Finally, I want to mention customers. Some of the most insightful, supportive conversations have happened when I leave the office and head out on the road. I’ve traveled thousands of miles this year alone stopping by retailers to sit down and listen to their concerns and needs. It’s a great way to better understand their business and ours.
CG: What impact do you hope to have on your community?
CM: I want to speak on behalf of our showrooms, organization partners like WESA and AETA, and our family ownership team when I say that the most important value we can promote is solid, authentic relationships. We all need each other to succeed. The market center is a community of ideas and inspiration and new products but it’s actually fueled by relationships. Those helpful relationships are the heartbeat of our family-owned business and a bedrock value we share with so many customers yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
CG: Anything else you’d like COWGIRL readers to know?
CM: We look forward to seeing everyone in January especially folks who have not visited before. We are preparing events that will be safe, inspiring, and full of great new products that will help retailers stand apart and thrive.
To learn more about Dallas Market Center and WESA 2021, visit dallasmarketcenter.com.