Fair Play

Imagine for a minute that you are a retailer and you own 10 sleep shops in your home state. A new guy moves down the road from you and opens a store carrying products that you carry, but these guys are selling them at prices below what you can even buy them for. To compete you start to slash your own prices, and sell more services to compensate for lost revenue, but in the end you have to close your store because you can’t compete anymore. Is that fair? What if you found out that the guy that ran you out of business was ILLEGALLY dumping products below your cost because the Chinese government was propping him up with subsidies? Would that get your blood pressure up a little?

That is pretty much what is going  on with Leggett and Platt as reported by USA Today. Not to be too much of a homer here, but I have to support L&P on this. When I first started working at Leggett and Platt, I watched as we made very tough decisions to shut down factories because of the Chinese imports that were being sold below market prices. That means that we had to let go of thousands of Leggett partners because of illegal trade. I would imagine that many went on unemployment and some families probably lost their homes as a result of people breaking the law.

 Fair Play

I don’t care what political party you are with or even if you like Leggett and Platt, just set all of that aside for a minute. If we don’t protect the American way of life from foreign countries that mean to do us harm, then we are the fools. We all like to bring prices down and offer better and cheaper solutions to the consumer, but at what price?

I hope that nobody in this industry has to face this kind of unfair and illegal competition that threatens your business. And if you do, I hope that the industry supports you doing what you have to do to protect what you have built and the people that helped you build it.

So what do you think, is Leggett and Platt handling this the right way? Share you thoughts in the comments section.

Blind Faith

When I was first approached about leaving Leggett and Platt my initial reaction to that conversation was intrigue, followed by skepticism, followed by excitement. Like any big decision we make we have to consider what is on the table and then we analyze it and ultimately make a decision. In my case I reached out to my family to discuss it (most of them have worked in the mattress industry so that helped), and then I made the call after careful consideration of the risk and reward connected to that kind of move in my life. But on some level it is like running off of a plane with your parachute on yelling GERONIMO.  You can calculate all you want but at the end of the day you just have to BELIEVE it is the right thing.

 Blind Faith

 In the book Blink  by Malcolm Gladwell he talks about how we make decisions using our instincts and trusting that inner voice. There is no doubt in my case, that is exactly how I made my ultimate decision to start something new in my life. Yes I gave heavy consideration to many things as I debated leaving a perfectly good job, in a safe environment, with a very conservative company that would provide a lot of security for my family and me in the years to come. What I left for is totally opposite of that but I knew down deep that it was the right thing to do.

Sometimes you have to allow that instinct to win out over logic. Sometimes you have to trust yourself even when facing uncertainty. Sometimes you just have to have a blind faith that you are equipped to face whatever life throws at you. If you are waiting for someone to give you some assurance that it is all going to be okay, you are going to miss out on that adventure that could take you to exciting new places.

There is a real good chance that I could fail in what is next for me but my heart is telling me to charge ahead with conviction. I know that we are going to face some challenges along the way, but on this issue, I have enough passion for what I am doing to fuel the fire to get me to where I am going. I am blessed with that incredible feeling that there is nothing that can keep us from winning.  So as Roy Williams says in his Monday Morning Memo, get your hopes up or nothing will every happen. “Not a bloody thing.”

Is passion driving you today? Have you ever had that blind faith that helped you break down walls and propel you into something incredible?

 

 

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Why Do Leaders Crush Followers?

My 10-year-old son, Nick, had a big class presentation last week where he was to get up and deliver a weather report using the map on his classroom wall. The poor kid’s a lot like his father, so he wanted to go big and make an impact, not just deliver a report. He dressed up in a suit, rehearsed his lines, and set off to earn that A.

 When he came home frustrated after the presentation, I assumed he’d forgotten his lines, or something like that. But it wasn’t that at all. Nick’s frustration sprang from that fact that a few of his classmates said that when they gave their presentations later on in the week, they were also going to wear a suit and copy a few other elements from his presentation.

I explained to Nick that having people copy what you do is great because, as they say, “imitation is the best form of flattery.” He wasn’t feeling it, but I further explained a few reasons that leading—not following—is the way to go, and when people follow you that is a good thing. When you lead instead of follow:

  1.  You establish yourself as an authority, which builds significant value for you on many levels.
  2. Your ideas are validated by your competition.
  3. You are the first to make an impact in the market, which delivers the “first to market advantage” that can give you an incredible edge on market share and profits.
  4. You are not troubled by trying to figure out how to copy the leader and not make it look like you ARE copying the leader.

 Why Do Leaders Crush Followers?

I was watching a commercial the other day and Gillette is now offering a subscription model for their razor blades to combat what Dollar Shave Club is doing to disrupt that industry. A small startup, Dollar Shave Club was a leader, and figured out a way to completely change the way consumers purchased razor blades. Now others are following suit, but not before DSC has taken some serious market share in the almost $13 billion dollar industry dominated by Proctor and Gamble. This is a great example of a startup schooling the industry big boys with creative ideas that made an impact. And they did it first.

Do you have the creative muscle in your organization to generate ideas that can lead your competitors in the mattress industry? I understand that it’s much easier to follow. There is less risk, and you save yourself some embarrassment should you fail. At the end of the day, however, if you let others lead, you’ll never realize the profits that are possible if you’re the one out front. I have heard some say that we are an industry of followers and so I gave that some thought. Pillow tops, one-sided beds, gel memory foam, hybrids, moving away from flexible foundations, and now temperature regulation, adjustable comfort solutions, and the integration of technology just to name a few. These are all areas where somebody has launched an idea, it was received well by the market, and in a few of these cases EVERYBODY followed suit. I don’t want to criticize our industry too hard because this happens all of the time in other industries as well, but it might be more frequent among the mattress faithful. Did Simmons have an early advantage being first to market on single sided? How about Tempur-Pedic or Select Comfort on memory foam and air?

Nick has this figured out now, and he’s very happy that his friends are following in his footsteps on this class project. The great thing about him—as with many of the leaders in this industry—is that he didn’t wait around for others to innovate. He’s already trying to figure out how to lead on his next project.

How about your company? Are you leading the way, or staring at the butt of the guy who’s always in front of you?

Simple Sells

When is the last time you heard someone say, “this is way to easy we need to make it more complicated.” Okay, outside of a conversation with an attorney, when is that last time you heard that? (My apologies to the legal profession, but I could not help it.)

That said, it irritates me to no end when I buy something and it’s difficult to assemble. Or when the second paragraph of directions on my son’s fourth-grade math page doesn’t make sense. So what’s wrong here? Simply put, some people just make things way too complicated!

We’re all familiar with the acronym KISS, or “keep it simple stupid.” Why can’t we apply that to the mattress industry? Pillow top, ultra cushion pillow top, euro top, foam density, ILDs, soft, firm, ultra plush, ultra firm, memory foam, visco foam, gel foam, gel bits, gel swirl, diamond particles … and the list goes on.

 Simple Sells

For consumers just turning their attentions to the mattress industry, there’s a lot to take in. The terms we use can confuse people, but how about the actual shopping experience? The consumer can’t really cross-shop beds very well and on top of that, we make them look so dang similar on the selling floor, it’s almost impossible to to compare and contrast their favorite beds.

Why should we try to simplify what we do? How about big profits?! I hate to do this, but I am going to make yet another comparison to Apple, as if everybody else out there doesn’t do this on a daily basis.) I just bought a new MacBook Air from Apple—and it didn’t even come with directions. Did your iPhone come with directions? These are some of the most complicated devices you can buy and they have made them so easy to use that you just have to turn them on to get started. Hmm. If we simplified the mattress industry, would it help create more interest from consumers or possibly make the buying experience better? Ask the guys at Casper or Tuft and Needle, and see what they tell you.

I know there are several reasons those guys are doing well, but you can’t discount the impact that simplifying the business has on driving results. Think about it: There is no magic in the products they are selling. I know many people in this business that could build the same products with no problem, but the approach to the consumer is what makes the big difference, and telling their story in a simple and compelling way is paying big dividends.

I’ve been around long enough to understand the need to have different ticks and names, so consumers have a more difficult time cross-shopping products. But at what point do the consumer frustration and cries for help trump our desire to maintain that healthy margin the way that we are used to doing it? When a company like Tuft and Needle comes along and makes things easier, the consumer reacts favorably and shifts their business to the “new way” of buying a bed. I’m not saying we’re going to change who we are because of a few Internet startup companies. But they sure have created their share of buzz and have a lot of people questioning their own business models.

All I’m saying here is that simplicity sells. We all like it when the ready-to-assemble furniture actually takes only three minutes to build, and the directions are easy to understand. How about the ease of using Uber when you are traveling and looking for a ride to the hotel? Simple equals easy, and easy equals happy, so let’s make our consumers happy. What do you say?!

Is this industry simple enough for you? How would you make it easier to navigate?

Many thanks to Beau Fraser at The Gate advertising agency for inspiring this blog by starting a great discussion thread in Linkedin.

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If They Don’t Get It, Don’t Waste Your Time

 Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you are selling your butt off, trying to convince a group or an individual about a product or an idea, laying down your best stuff but your audience just isn’t tracking? If you have a great idea and find yourself working too hard and too long to convince others how brilliant you are, I say move along.

 If They Don’t Get It, Dont Waste Your Time

You Shouldn’t Have To Beg!

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying to throw persistence aside or to give up as soon as you hear that first objection. But if your target isn’t “hearing” you after a sincere effort on your part, it’s best to stop selling there and look for the person who does.

I was sitting in a Starbucks last week, and the guy at the table next to me—we’ll call him Tom—was on his phone speaking very loudly. You know the type. At any rate, Tom took a call from a telemarketer who was trying to convince Tom to use his company’s credit-card-payment system.

It’s worth noting that Tom is a consultant who doesn’t log enough transactions on a daily basis to actually warrant buying this guy’s product, and he told the telemarketer “no” in a very nice way. Then, he said no again, and then he told them no again. And again. And again. I kid you not, the person selling this service was relentless in his approach and had Tom on the phone for 20 minutes. Had it been me on the phone, the call would have ended after the third no. But Tom let the telemarketer continue, because at some level he was getting a kick out of the passion and don’t- take-no-for-an-answer approach from the salesperson. We both had a good laugh at the end of that call.

Here’s the deal: If you have to work that hard on getting to a “yes” then I say don’t waste your time. Some people just don’t get it, so give it your best effort and then shut it down. How much time do we waste trying to force the issue? If you have a product or an idea and you just barely get it sold, what are the chances of that product coming back to the store, or the idea failing because there wasn’t enough conviction behind the “yes” that got it sold in to begin with?

Sometimes we have to do a better job of finding the right audience for what we are selling. If your audience isn’t enthusiastic about what you are selling to begin with, then how great is it going to turn out? If they buy it half heartedly, is it going to end in a win-win for you both anyway? Present a good case for your product or service, but if you feel like you are beating your head against the wall with your target, stop wasting your time! There are people out there who are going to love what you are saying, who will buy and who will validate your efforts, so make them your priority.

Are you selling the right product to the right audience? Have your own story to share? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section.