What I learned From Elon Musk

First of all my apologies for skipping a few blogs over the past few months. The blogging rule book, which was apparently written by someone that has a lot more time than I do, says to blog 1-3 times a week. RIGHT! As I get busier it’s going to be hard to keep up with one a week but I am going to try my best. I also want to make sure I have something to say vs. just writing stuff to fill a page so there you go. Moving on…

I just finished a great book by Ashlee Vance about the life of Elon Musk.  You get a behind the scenes look at how Elon made his mark at companies like PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City. The book review says, “first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur…Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies.” World changing is a big claim but they were absolutely right. This guy thinks big.

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There are a few things that really stood out to me so I want to share my thoughts with you.

  • Elon put it all on the line more than once. He risked the $22 million he made from selling his first company Zip2 on building PayPal. Then he took his PayPal fortune and spent all of that to create Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City. Bottom line here is that in order to create your fortune, you must be willing to take on risk. Imagine being worth over $200 million at one point, living that lifestyle with large homes and private jets, only to face bankruptcy several different times with the threat of losing it all.
  • Great leadership was always necessary when it came to building these companies. Being smart wasn’t enough, the businesses required someone that could bring people together, execute sound business strategy, and build the right team. More than once, Elon had to accept the fact that he could not deliver those things and was forced to take a back seat to someone that was more skilled at leading. Can you imagine having to turn your company over to another person to run after you built it? Know what you don’t know and trust someone better than you.
  • Right when you think that you have pushed hard enough; push harder. Elon reminds me a lot of Steve Jobs in terms of his unwillingness to give up. When someone told him that they couldn’t get a rocket part down in cost, he made them go back and work on it some more until they made it happen. If they still didn’t get it done, Elon would take that project over and end up meeting and exceeding the original expectation. No, is not an answer.
  • Electric cars, rocket travel at half price, a trip to Mars,  and solar power for everyone. How often do you think Elon Musk has been told he “can’t do that” ? It has happened so often for him, he has even contemplated the thought that he could be crazy. There is always going to be someone telling you that your ideas won’t work. They will talk behind your back, be quick to judge you on the direction you are going, and be the first to think you are finished when you are just getting started. For that group of people the only answer is to succeed in spite of their opinion and remember them when you are backing the cash truck up to the bank.
  • Purpose is a big deal. Mr. Musk is not building electric cars because he likes electric cars, he is doing it because he wants to help this planet figure out sustainable energy; same for his solar business. He really cares about the things he gets involved in and that passion is what drives him forward. Its not about money, its about much more.

If you haven’t read his book I would recommend it because there is a lot in there to inspire you. Elon Musk is also one of these big thinkers with a brilliant and creative approach to business and life and we need more of them. I aspire to be one of THEM. What big ideas are you working on? If nobody is telling you it can’t be done, maybe you should consider going bigger? Just a thought.

BONUS MATERIAL: Normally when we produce the Dos Marcos podcast we are not rolling video but in this case we did so check that out. It was a special occasion because we had the one and only David Perry with us from Furniture Today and we had a blast. Dave has been a good friend to me over the past 10 years or so and its fun when we get to collaborate on projects. If you watch this please make note that I did NOT realize that the camera was recording anything. I check my Apple watch for messages and am my usual fidgety self so my apologies; I would normally be on my best behavior if I knew YOU would be watching. Enjoy as we tackle a very wide variety of topics. Some very controversial and some just funny so step away from that spreadsheet or e-mail and give it a look. Dos Marcos Episode #47

 

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Something To Be Grateful For

My wife and I are at the doctor yesterday (the amazing Brian Ipsen), with my 14 year old daughter. She hurt her back playing volleyball over a month ago and has been in pain ever since. We have had x-rays, doctors visits, and an MRI and were hoping yesterday to walk in and gain a full understanding of the problem. Is it serious? Will she be able to continue playing sports? The images didn’t tell us everything we needed to know so now we are going to have to get a CT scan and wait a few more weeks for the diagnosis.  My daughter was pretty bummed out as her basketball and volleyball teams continue on without her. After we let that sink in we decided that this was actually good news because there was no real bad news.

Today as you reflect on the blessings in your life and give thanks for all of the great things you have going on, don’t stop there. Shine a light on your problems and find the positive side of those. Consider the bad things that have happened to you this year personally and professionally and give some thought to how they could have easily been worse. Has the pain you have endured this year from all of the junk made you a stronger person? Has it given you some clarity of vision on something that can help you in the future? If you are having trouble finding the good, then give thanks for those friends in your life that have helped you navigate through the dark and out of the stormy water. One of my best buddies Mandy Ciotti reminded me this morning that “friends give you a shoulder to cry on, but your best friends are ready with a shovel to hurt the person that made you cry.” Send out some love today for those people holding the shovel. 🙂

I want you all to know that I am grateful for you. It means a lot to me that people take the time to pull this blog up and give it a read. From my family to yours we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and ask you to please say a prayer that the Cowboys beat the Redskins later today. Get out the stretchy pants and have a great holiday everybody!

Quinn grandkids with their Mimi

Quinn grandkids with their Mimi wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

The real grandkids with their Mimi

The real grandkids with their Mimi

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What To Learn From This Election?

I promise not to get political here but before this election passes us by, I have to point something out as we head into the weekend. If  I were to tell you before this crazy thing all started that a billionaire business man with no political chops would win the election in spite of being out spent almost 3 to 1 on paid advertising and an over 90% negative coverage rating in the main stream media, would you have believed me?

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The point is important for us all to consider because it speaks to the power of social media. Social media certainly isn’t the only reason Trump was able to overcome this massive discrepancy but it definitely helped. He has 10.6 million Twitter followers and over 22.7 million likes and fans on Facebook. Those are some big numbers that allowed him to control his own message and NOT be dependent on anyone to do it for him. He may have been outspent but I’m not sure he was out messaged because of his own media platform.  (Be careful here because this can also bite you in the butt. Just ask The Donald.)

If you look at your company as a place that makes and sells or simply distributes products, you might want to reconsider that. Every company out there has a chance to become its very own media platform and create its very own information distribution pipeline. When I was at Leggett and Platt we built Sleep Geek for this exact reason. Over the years we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a website where rsa’s could go to learn, get better from shared best practices, and make more money selling beds and sleep accessories. Populating that site with great content has allowed L&P to become a GO TO source for information and as a result, has given them a chance to tell their own story in a meaningful way.

When we started Spink and Edgar here in the United States, we did the same thing. We created the “The Scholar” section where consumers could go to learn about sleep, great beds, and their impact on quality of life. We write all kinds of original content including e-books like “The Guide To Better Sleep…Is A Luxury Bed Right For You?”  Heck, even this blog is my way of connecting with others in this industry and creating interest in things I am excited about.

The bottom line here is that when you build traffic to your own platforms you have the ability to share things that are relevant to your business and create interest around things that you think are important to people in your ecosystem. If you are perceived as a thought leader by your customers because you add value to their life with helpful information, don’t you think you will ultimately benefit from that?

If you want some help doing this you need to pay attention to my buddy Jeff Giagnocavo. He and his partner Ben McClure own Gardner’s Mattress and More and they also distribute a newsletter Mattress Retailer Weekly that you need to sign up for. If you are in the retail side of the business and you want to see how others are growing sales in a very dynamic way, then this is a good way to do that. Check them out! He can also show you how to automate your business so that you can grow profits in very significant way using helpful information as a hook.

I know the election has been tough but its over. Mend those fences where possible with the people in your life that didn’t agree with you politically, and focus on what matters; our relationships.

PS…I owe Michael Traub at SSB a shout out. Back in September 2014 I wrote a blog called “5 Signs An Outsider Won’t Make It In The Mattress Industry.” I mentioned Michael in this blog post, not saying he was going to fail, but pointing him out as the newest member of our community at the time. Mr. Traub has been a “mattress guy” now for over two years so I think it is important to call some attention to his membership in this very exclusive club. 🙂  Michael gave me a hard time after reading my original blog post and I really appreciated his sense of humor about that at the time. Michael from me to you, congratulations on surviving this crazy business and I hope you have many more great years at Serta!

 

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4 Ways To Survive The Next 4 Days Of Politics

If your like most, you have had it with all of the political nonsense because this year’s Presidential election has been unlike any other in recent history. Not only are the gloves off, but the knives and bats are out. I have a few thoughts for you on how to survive the final four days.

  • Take the high road. You may be in a discussion that turns into an argument, and then that argument gets heated. Don’t resort to name calling and maintain calm. You will be happy you did and will ultimate win the debate regardless of what was said because you kept your cool. If all else fails take the opposite approach, goad them along making outrageous claims, and watch their head pop off.
  • Get away from the media. This one will be very hard for me because I enjoy the theatre of it all, the marketing tactics, and the strategy, but at the end of the day the pundits and polling can make you crazy. Tune it in every now and then but limit your exposure. In case of emergency, purchase one of these foam bricks to throw at the television.
  • Step back from social media. I know that it can drive you crazy seeing somebody posting something against your candidate. (Rarely is that post in favor of their own.) If you can find a thread where there is a substantive debate going on then engage, HOWEVER, there is very little of that going on. I sincerely doubt you are going to change anyone’s mind at this point so just resist the urge to point out how stupid you think they are. Seriously….use the force Luke.
  • Most important, value your friends and family more than you do your “opinion” on who will be better as our next President. I know you are passionate about the election and that is good, but this thing is going to be over in a few days so you really have to ask yourself, is it worth a friendship or relationship with a family member. These people are likely going to be in your life for the long haul and at the end of the day, our connection to people is something that brings joy to life. Now if they are morons and don’t understand how the other candidate is going to ruin the country, then kick their butt to the curb. KIDDING!

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If we can’t respect one another for having a different opinion then we are no better than the candidates running for office. When you are in a political discussion do your best to look for common ground and just understand that even though someone might disagree with your position, at the end of the day they are passionate in the same way you are because they care about this country and where it is headed. I think that is something that most of us can agree on. If we stay divided on this stuff, how do improve things?

My prediction? Don’t have a name for you but I do know that half of the country is going to be very upset on Wednesday, and the other half is going to be relieved. If you are on the winning side, consider how the losing side is feeling and respect that.

The good news is that it will all be over in a few days and we can move past it and focus on more important things like selling mattresses. After this one, half of our customers out there are going to want to crawl into their bed in a fetal position and fall into a deep sleep. Isn’t it better for them if they have a good mattress to do it on?

“All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.” George Orwell

HMMMMMMMMMM.

Story and Experience Wins The Sale

In Q’s Views, I try to shine the light on what other companies are doing or talk about what’s going on in the industry. Today, I am going to share a little bit of my story.

We launched Spink and Edgar about a year ago with only a few retailers. We had a new brand working with raw materials that nobody in the United States has ever worked with before, with a coil construction that is very new, being built in factories that had never worked with anything like it, so we all thought that we should walk before we ran. Good thing too, because we learned some important stuff along the way. Not only did we learn about our own product, we learned about our retailers and who we should partner with going forward. Before I get into that, I want to share some of my thoughts on where I see the luxury segment of the industry and why I think we have the answer for the right retailers.

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  • You can DRIVE SALES by either spending more money to bring new people in (expensive acquisition cost), or you can sell bigger tickets with better margins to those already in the store. If you are going to do the latter, you need to have the product and story. But NOT the same old story.
  • Consumers buy stories, that’s just the way it is. Great brands/products connect with people on an emotional level which serves as the inspiration to buy. (What’s your favorite brand? Why?)  Our story is one of natural materials grown on our own farm in the countryside of Yorkshire, England, endorsed by the Queen herself, and constructed to have the most uniquely comfortable feels on any retail floor. Don’t you think rsa’s are a little tired of selling the same old thing? Ever heard of natural luxury before?
  • The consumer experience matters. We have created a product experience that will feel entirely different giving the retailer a reason to carry our beds.  We have created a point of sale experience that delivers compelling video content directly to the consumers smart phone giving the rsa some great marketing assets to facilitate the sale. (We don’t use QR codes because they don’t work!) We use technology that every age group uses every day to communicate to the people they care about. Intrigued? It’s proven to reduce the “be back” and help the rsa paint the picture in a very unique way. We have also developed a Virtual Reality experience that will allow the consumer to transport themselves to our farm in England to see our crops growing, and to meet our flock of sheep as they watch them run through our fields. All while standing in the store ready to try product. We have already tested this VR experience in England and we had a line of consumers waiting to put on the goggles. Can you think of anything in stores today that delivers that kind of excitement?
  • You have to Differentiate or Die, or at least that’s what the book says. There is nothing wrong with Simmons Black, Stearns and Foster, or Aireloom. They all do a nice job of making beds but they say pretty much the same thing, a lot of people carry them, and they definitely don’t have our product feels, story, or in-store selling experience. If it matters to you that you have something special for your customer that isn’t the same as what everyone else is carrying, and is PROVEN to deliver big profits, then Spink and Edgar is worth a look.
  • The bottom line is the profit opportunity. The two best selling price points for Spink and Edgar are $5,000 and $6,000 queen sets at very strong margins. How many brands deliver that? Your product and story must justify the price and what we have created does just that.

I need to ask you a favor now as we begin our national rollout. If you are a retailer, or know of a retailer that is interested in this kind of product and story, that is enthusiastic about wanting a change, that can sell big price points, and would be willing to tell our story in their advertising and on their sales floors, please share this blog with them. We are going to keep distribution very limited so that our retail partners can benefit from some exclusivity, so picking the right people is a big deal to us. We already know that this won’t work if the above criteria doesn’t exist so keep that in mind before sharing.

I left a perfectly good job at Leggett and Platt at the age of 46 to do this because I knew our industry needed something like it. My brother sold his company and the Ellman brothers jumped in after only a few hours of conversation because they knew that this product was something special. We have all been in this industry for 20-30 years and know that this kind of thing just doesn’t come along very often. Help us bring it to the consumer.

If you or someone you know wants a closer look have them e-mail me at markquinn@sibose.com and thank you in advance from the Ellman’s and the Quinn’s.