How Important Is Your Word?

When I was first starting out in this business Randy Kunkel and Davis Whitworth both had a big impact on me as they trained me on how to be successful in the mattress industry. They both said a few things that have stayed with me all of these years and they are simple but incredibly important.

  1. Be the man. Do what you say you are going to do and never falter from that. If you say you are going to send your customer an e-mail then do it. If you tell an rsa that you will be there on Saturday then you better get there.
  2. Outwork everyone.

It’s that first one that I want to touch on today. If you give someone your word, or tell them that you’re going to do something, how do you value that? If you commit to the terms of a deal but later learn that it might require more to fulfill than you originally thought, do you stick with it or back out to serve your own interest? Even something like telling your kids that you will take them to the amusement park but you cancel later because something else came along that makes that decision inconvenient. What about the simple things like promising to give someone a call, or blowing off a date with your wife?

I  believe that if you tell somebody something of substance and you don’t follow through it does a lot to hurt how people perceive you and does something to damage you whether you realize it or not. We all know people that we love and trust that we would be totally good doing a handshake deal with because their word is their bond. Are you one of them? Can people really count on what you say even if it ends up being tough on you in the long run or do react to that with selfish behavior? Does character really matter? When we break our word don’t we feel a little less good?

When I was in college I bounced a few checks and my dad was furious with me. He said, “Your grandfather spent his whole life on that farm living up to his word with everyone in his town so that the Quinn name meant something. You are NOT going to damage that, are we clear?” Yes we are. If you can’t live up to it then DON’T commit to it because nobody wins in that.

 

 

 

Mattress Wars

When you think of epic battles David vs. Goliath comes to mind. How about the Imperial Forces and Darth Vader taking on the Rebels and the Jedi. Mayweather vs. McGregor? Coke vs. Pepsi. Shift gears to the mattress industry and we have our own little war taking shape….Mattress Firm vs. Tuft and Needle.

When Daehee Park and JT Marino first launched Tuft and Needle one of their primary messages was that mattress retailers are greedy. A strong message for sure, but if you are going to try to take market share in a very competitive industry with a totally different way of buying a bed, you need to be bold. (Remember the early days for Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic and how they attacked innerspring mattresses saying that it was old technology and bad for the consumer?) In response to this, or maybe in response to all bed in a box companies, Mattress Firm launched this campaign, Don’t Get Boxed In.  The gloves were off, and the battle had begun.

Tuft and Needle came out recently with their $1 million dollar “Mattress Bet” which encourages their customers to buy a bed from them and if they aren’t completely satisfied they can return it, and receive $100 towards the purchase of their new bed but they have to buy it at Mattress Firm.  Wow.  Tuft and Needle is saying is that they have so much confidence in their own product that they can keep them sold, and that the consumer won’t find anything as good at $100 more at the Mattress Firm. So what’s the upside for Tuft & Needle?

  1. They advertise a message that is so strong that it takes some of the doubt away from a consumer that might be on the fence, which will drive their sales. People are attracted to confidence.
  2. It gives some business writers good fodder for earned media and gets people talking about them. Maybe even blogging about them. Yep.
  3. Allows them to be creative and support the narrative that retailers are greedy.
  4. People, in general, like the underdog and this has a little of that feel to it, further advancing the idea that these bed in a box guys are disruptive.

If you’re on the sidelines watching this you might wonder what Mattress Firm is going to do to respond to such a direct challenge. If Tuft & Needle calls you out like this you have to address it right? It may not be that easy. Some of the conversation at the Mattress Firm corporate office is probably going something like this; “We should go after them, we can’t just let them say this stuff.” “We should attack them hard, continue to talk about the fact that you can’t test out a Tuft & Needle bed before trying it, talk about the pain of having to return it, hit our white glove delivery experience, exclusive brand name products, wide selection etc.” But if you’re Mattress Firm do you legitimize it all by even acknowledging it? The Tuft and Needle raving fan base is also pretty aggressive at defending them in the social space so do you want to deal with the negative that comes with that? Are you better off letting Tuft and Needle do their thing, hijack some buzz, and try to beat them with your in-store experience? If you spend your own ad dollars or take up any space on your website reacting to it, do you just fuel what they are doing in the first place?

I think that this was a creative approach for Tuft and Needle and there is very little downside for them. They get to take on the big boys and create some interest at the same time. Will it cost them some money from consumers that want to get a free $100 promotion? It could. If you were a Mattress Firm rsa with price sensitive customer would you encourage someone to sign up for the bet, buy the Tuft and Needle bed so they can return it and get a free $100 to spend on something else in your store? Possibly but unlikely.

This falls under my belief that competition is a good thing. It helps Tuft & Needle do something new and different that fits their brand approach to the consumer. I also think that Mattress Firm can use it to show consumers how people are going after them because that’s what people do to the industry leader. Either way, it creates some excitement.

What do you think, should Mattress Firm react? Who will win this battle of wits?

 

 

 

That’s What Friends Are For

Late last Thursday my brother Jeff called and let me know that conditions were good to start working towards the rebuilding process for my parents in Houston so I went to Lowes, bought supplies and headed to Texas. Hurricane Harvey rained down and flooded their house with over five feet of water causing them to lose pretty much everything material in their world. Luckily my brother and sister escaped damage by a narrow margin which is a great thing as they are now able to focus on helping my Mom and Dad.

On my drive down I couldn’t help but reminisce about the Joplin tornado in 2011 that killed 158 people so I was somewhat prepared. (If you’re interested in that, you can read about it  HERE.) Truth is, nothing can really prepare you for this kind of thing. When I first drove into my hometown of Kingwood things looked pretty normal. Flood waters had receded and many stores looked open for business. Then, I made it to the areas that were hit the hardest like my parent’s subdivision and there it was again; total devastation. House after house that looked normal from the outside, but totally wrecked on the inside. Not unlike many of the homeowners.

The front lawn of my parent’s house.

The Quinn’s reached out to their network using Facebook to rally troops and start the demolition process. We are racing the clock in a way because if you let moisture sit for long, mold begins to grow and then you have a much bigger problem. Out goes everything in the house including every stick of furniture and the stuff in every drawer. Then you begin tearing out dry wall, wood floors in every room, cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms, removing nails from the studs, and tearing the doors off their hinges.

I know that this is a horrible thing for people to have to go through but like anything it isn’t what happens to you, it is how you react to what happens to you. What impact are you going to let it have on your life? For our family, here are a few things that we are left with.

  • We have the best family and friends in the world. I can’t tell you how many people sent us a text or gave us a call to check on how the Quinn’s were doing. Not only that but we had close to 75 different people over four days come to my parent’s house in work clothes; gripping a crow bar. Keep in mind that this was shit work and I mean literally. Sewage water that reeked so bad that at certain moments you could barely finish your task. That didn’t stop people from showing up and coming back. People from my family’s church (including one of the priest), a handful of Mattress Firm employee’s that worked with my father, brother, and sister, high school friends, neighbors and best of all complete strangers. When you have that kind of support and love from that many people, it’s very overwhelming.
  • I had breakfast with my family the day I left Houston and my mom started to cry so I asked her what was wrong. She said that she was embarrassed at how much stuff she had accumulated over the years with four closets full of clothes and drawers packed to their limit. Her takeaway… WHY???
  • Thank God my parents were smart with their money and can absorb this. They didn’t have flood insurance, and neither did 80% of the people in Houston that were hit by this stupid hurricane. You know what they say about planning for a rainy day?  They weren’t kidding. I wonder how many people are going to be financially ruined after this.

My Dad and Mom are two of the kindest, most generous people I know with their time and treasure. They have loaned several family members money when in need, donated their time to various organizations, and invested in just about everyone that crosses their path. They are authentic, godly people and truly care about others. It is because of this that so many were there for them this last week. As I walked around each day thanking people for being there to help, the reaction that I got was, “Are you kidding?”

Just a few of the volunteers.

On behalf of the Quinn’s we want to thank all of you who helped at the house, sent a text, placed a call, or said a prayer because it has made an impact. To say that my parents are profoundly grateful to you doesn’t even come close to what they are feeling right now.

Let’s continue to rally around Houston and brace for what is coming to the east coast. Based on what I saw in Texas last week, they are going to need everything we can offer!

 

7 Comments

The Kindness Of A Stranger

So I’m in the Dallas airport at gate A29 having my typical lunch at Pappasito’s after an incredible week in Boston at the Magowitz event. (More on that next week.) My mother calls me in tears as she has been riding out Hurricane Harvey with my Dad, sister, brother and his wife and two kids. To say that they have been under tremendous stress would be an understatement.

My mom tells me that they have lost their home to flooding and it looks like my brother is going to lose his as well. That means pretty much everything you own is ruined, and the house that you look forward to going to every night as your place to seek refuge and peace is gone.  My eyes begin to well up and tears start rolling down my cheeks as I hear the distress in my Mom’s voice, realizing that their life and the lives of so many others have taken a serious detour.

My brother Jeff’s Home At The Water’s Edge

I hang up the phone and start to dry my eyes and when I look up this lady is standing in front of me. At that point I realize I’m in a public place and I feel a little stupid crying in my food. She says to me, “it looks like you are having a tough day and could use a hug, do you mind if I give you one?” “Not at all”, was my quick response. This lady didn’t know me. She had no idea if I would tell her to get lost, or if I was a creep, but she knew that she could help; and she did.

I want to make a simple point. Don’t ever underestimate  your ability to make an impact on a friend or a complete stranger. Remember to call someone after their medical test to see how they are, call a friend on a birthday, pick up a check for a soldier in a restaurant, or in this case, deliver a well timed hug. The little things are what make the biggest impact and all it takes is some empathy and heart. Think outside of yourself. Always.

There are going to be many more tears, more random acts of kindness, and a lot of hard work ahead. (Harvey delivered 19 trillion gallons of water with over 51″ of rain pushing 19,000 people into shelters so far.)  Events like this bring out the worst in people like looters and contractors that take advantage of a situation. But it can also bring out the very best which we are already seeing on the news reports.

Make a call. Send out a prayer. Donate some money. Travel to Houston with your church or friend group and donate your time to rebuild a home. I promise you that you will never give more than you get in a situation like that. Or if you see someone in an airport having a tough day offer them a hug or a pat on their back, you never know what it could do. It sure made me feel better.

 

 

4 Comments

Want A Competitive Advantage?

Before we start, don’t miss this week’s podcast where we talk about all of the INCREDIBLE auction items at the Seena Magowitz Golf Classic this weekend in Boston. Dos Marcos (Mark Quinn and Mark Kinsley) will be the auctioneers again this year hoping to raise some big money for a terrific cause. If you want to bid on some really great items, give this a listen to preview those. How about a private jet to Napa Valley for a few days? Listen HERE.

So…you’re a retailer in a competitive market and it’s not easy is it? If you want to succeed you have to battle your competition for “A” location real estate, create advertising that drives the consumer to your store with great stories and offers,  create a shopping experience that separates you from everyone else, and sell products that nobody can buy from your competition. I had you up until that last part about products, didn’t I?

Retailers try hard to make themselves different. When you ask most people what separates them from the competition the typical answer is our people, our stores, maybe a unique in home trial and if you’re lucky enough you might have a slight variation on your products.  Manufacturer’s build mattress with different ticking and different names so that the big guys don’t have to share their line and compete with the middle to small sized retailers. Retailers push hard for exclusives so that they can leverage a feature or entire line of mattresses because with that comes better margin, the perception that they are a leader in the market because they have something that nobody else has, and the ability to lean into something special. The problem is that manufacturers aren’t really set up for mass customization. Even if they were, how many incredible innovations are there in this business that would really set your “exclusive” product apart from the rest? Sure, you can have a mattress supplier put a 1/3″ of foam in the center third of your bed and call it zoning but how compelling is that. Really?

Spink and Edgar has been growing at a healthy rate this year because of the fact that we are the answer to what many buyers are looking for. We have a story that is unlike anything ever brought to the United States because it’s authentic, compelling, delivers big margins, has best selling price points of $4,000-5,000 at retail, and is very limited when it comes to distribution giving our partners some exclusivity. None of that matters unless your product delivers an incredible look and feel different from anything in the market. We are very happy to say, we have that also. So far we are getting placement with some of the best retailers in our industry and we are incredibly grateful for it. Larry Miller and Nelson Bercier started us out with Sit’N Sleep, then we launched with Lorie Silva at Jordan’s, then with Dan Murphy at Gabbert’s/HOM, and are about to launch with David Shiroff at Metro Mattress. (Not to mention many other high-quality retailers.) As I think about our retail partners they all have one thing in common. They are product geeks. Larry, Nelson, Lorie, Dan and David have all been in this industry for a LONG time, have had great success selling and creating beds of their own, and are some of the toughest product people out there. They are in a very elite class when it comes to knowing what works so when they chose us it really told us something. Want to talk about a win/win? We deliver them something special, and they champion what we do to the consumer. How often does something really special come along in this business?

Meet Harrison, our head sheep. We use his wool to make Spink and Edgar beds.

There are some good luxury brands out there but not much separates them from one another. Yes they are high-quality products, made well, and they look good and feel good. Most of these brands probably started out saying they would limit distribution but they really didn’t. Is your luxury brand over sold making it less special to your stores? Stearns and Foster just showed up at Costco as just one example to prove my point. So again it comes down to aligning yourself with a partner that really is committed to your best interest. If you ask our retailers I am confident they would tell you we are.

If you are a retailer and are reading this blog post, consider this. Your people can definitely help differentiate you from your competitors but after that, it’s tough to do something big enough to make a difference. If you want to create an experience with a product that will have people leaving your store talking about their new bed to friends at a cocktail party that same night, then give Spink and Edgar a look. Think I am exaggerating? It happens all the time. Who else on their block sleeps on a bed that was grown on a farm in the countryside of Yorkshire, England and celebrated by the Queen?

This is Hornington Manor, a 17 bedroom family estate that sits on our 300 acre farm in Yorkshire, England. Come and visit!

If you look at what we do, want to be a leader in your market like some of the top retailers in the country already carrying Spink and Edgar, AND you absolutely love it, then send me a note at markquinn@sibose.com. We are looking to grow with the right partners and we hope that it’s you.