Welcome to “The Women of MDNA,” a series of posts where you’ll meet some of the remarkable women in our industry. Their contributions to machine sales in general, and our association in particular, prove on a daily basis that MDNA is more than an “old boys’ club.” We’ve been blessed with some amazing women leaders over the years, but it’s only fitting that our first interview features trailblazer and first woman MDNA President, Jeannine Harris.
How did you get involved in the industry? My husband Jean and I started in the used machine tool industry in 1972. We were offered a position with a leading dealer that wanted to open a branch office and warehouse in Houston, Texas in 1976. Jean was a natural at selling machine tools. I had worked at an industrial supply house before I was married, and I grew up with four brothers. I really felt there was nothing I couldn’t do, so we launched our own business, Harris Machine Tools, Inc., in 1978.
How has your company benefitted from MDNA? Machinery Dealers National Association has been a part of our daily business here at Harris Machine Tools, Inc. Joining MDNA and getting involved with the Southwest Chapter was a game changer for us. We were able to network with other dealers all over the United States and Europe. I like to think of other MDNA member dealers as “friendly competitors.” Every machine tool house does things differently but is always willing to work together to make a deal happen.
How have you served with MDNA? In addition to being involved in the local chapter, I sat on the national board of directors as an officer from 1993-2001, serving as president from 1999-2001, past president for the next two years, and then as a presidential appointee for six years. I loved every minute I sat the board. Currently I serve as a trustee for the Austin D. Lucas Scholarship Fund.
What is the value women bring to the industry? Women are flexible and lead by example. We offer strong leadership and model motivation. We are also inclusive and encourage free thinking, vital traits in this industry. Women can also change on a dime. I think women are fearless.
What advice would you give other women in the machinery sales business? There were other women a little older than I who preferred to stay in the background, working with their husbands in the business. Maybe the time wasn’t right for a woman president, but today I would encourage women to get involved with MDNA at the chapter level. If they feel that is a good fit and want to do more, then they should work to sit on the national board. At that point, “think big.” The sky is the limit!!
What do you like best about the industry? It’s a fascinating business, and no two deals or alike. The industry itself offers great flexibility, too. It’s not just selling metalworking machinery. You can get involved in rebuilding, auctioneering, or even appraising. I like the daily interaction with other dealers across the country, and working with the Association of Machinery and Equipment Appraiser’s (part of MDNA) has boosted our business in a big way. I also like the chase for a deal, whether buying or selling, but what I really like best about the industry is I get to work with men on a daily basis. It just doesn’t get any better than that. I am proud to be a used machinery dealer!
Jeannine Harris, Harris Machine Tools, Inc., MDNA Past President, 1999-2001