What ISPA Can Learn From the NCAA Tournament

The ISPA EXPO 2012 is in the books, and what an event it was. I was able to talk to people from all over the world about their business and what was going on in their countries to drive sales. The lesson there is that even though we have had it tough in the U.S., there are other markets that are much worse off than we are.

I really enjoyed ISPA this year, but it was very busy for me. I sit as the current Chairman of the Better Sleep Council, so the board members got together for dinner and a meeting, where we welcomed in two new members: my old friend Mark Hobson and my new friend Scott Frisch. Don Wright and I sat on a panel for Withit, along with the opposing team of Cindy Williams and Kim Knopf, in a battle of the sexes discussion about how men and women see the industry differently. Julia Roisen moderated (poor Julia), and at the end of that hour, we came to the conclusion that the industry should NOT be focusing on either the male or female, but instead should address the segmentation of people out there that care about their sleep.

The highlight of the week for me was the customer appreciation party that Leggett and Platt threw on Thursday evening. We pulled out all the stops with an open bar and enough food to feed a small army (or, in this case, about 1,000 people). This year, the venue was an old train station and we had the band, Party on the Moon, blow it out for the second time in four years. WHAT A CELEBRATION! It is the highlight, because I know that our customers make us what we are and I love seeing them throw down and enjoy themselves so much. Thanks to all of you that attended.

Finally, there was the ISPA breakfast where Alan Hobson spoke about his trip to the top of Mount Everest and where they gave out a few industry awards. Karl Glassman from Leggett & Platt received the Russell L. Abolt Exceptional Service Award for having exemplified the highest level of career devotion to the well-being and betterment of the mattress industry, and boy did they get that one right. I hate giving too much of an accolade to anyone in a senior management position at Leggett & Platt as it flies really close to ass-kissing, but in this case, I have to just this once. I don’t believe that there is a classier guy that is more deserving than Karl. Those that really know him realize how humbled he was by it, which makes it that much better. In addition, the aforementioned Don Wright, who is the CMO of Wright of Thomasville, was given the Robert MacMorran Memorial Award in recognition of his outstanding service to the industry by the suppliers council. I am honored to call Don a friend, and grateful that ISPA made two great selections this year!

The only downside to the week was walking the convention floor and looking at all of the pretenders, if you will. Many got it right with great displays, beautiful booths, and innovative product approaches that will help the industry get better. On the other hand, you have the people that show up and make no effort at all in how they present their products, simply knocking off the companies they compete against. How about we take a page out of the NCAA Tournament for ISPA 2014 in New Orleans? Everybody who wants to present new products sends in a submission as to what they want to show, and they get selected and put into a bracket. A committee then selects a winner and narrows it down to a smaller group that actually gets to attend the show. We have less exhibitors (who get charged more, of course, to keep revenue up) and it takes less time to shop the event, giving us more time to enjoy the city in which it is being held. Everybody wins. Maybe not. It is just an idea, and given that we are in the middle of the tourney, I was inspired, so give me a break. Go Jayhawks! What do you think? Will Kansas win it all? Tell me in the comments section.

P.S. My congratulations to Ryan Trainer, Mary Helen Uusimaki, Karin Mahoney, Kerri Bellias, Catherine Lyons, Deb Chapman, Julie Palm, Barbara Nelles, Jane Oseth, Mary Best, Debbie Robbins, Deborah Nicholas, Chris Hudgins and the rest of the ISPA team. You guys did a terrific job this year, and we all appreciate your hard work in making it come together.

9 thoughts on “What ISPA Can Learn From the NCAA Tournament

  1. Thanks, Mark. This is a great write-up of ISPA Expo. And what a blast your company’s party was!

    I’d like to thank all the folks at International Sleep Products Assn. HQ, too, for creating such a great show. I can’t take credit. My work begins during and after the show–So, everyone out there must read May BedTimes for our detailed show coverage. OK, done plugging ISPA.

    The idea of making Expo ‘juried’ like an art show–oooh, um, er, yeah, well, we’ll see…..

  2. Hey Mark, I read with interest your insight with the Better Sleep Counsel to focus on those people who care about there sleep.

    The “who cares about sleep” meter is just starting to move. Sleep is where aerobic exercise started 35 years ago when Ken Cooper connected a daily 20 minute sweat fest to leaping tall buildings with a single bound.

    Weeks ago you mentioned the challenge of measurement. Do more sales mean better sleep?

    1. I think you can make the argument that the faster the industry grows, the better the consumers out there are sleeping. Especially since the average unite selling price has grown and continues to grow. This suggest that people are buying BETTER products. A new bed does not necessarily mean better in some cases, the idea is to get a new/BETTER quality product. I hope that answers your question!


  3. Hi Mark,

    Congratulations on a great overview of the ISPA exhibition and further worthy acknowledgement of the award recipients. Unfortunately, I had to leave the show on Wednesday afternoon to get back to Australia to attend a close friends wedding. Therefore, I was unable to attend the industry breakfast and witness the award presentations. I commend ISPA on their selection of this years recipients.

    Not sure that I support your suggestion about screening exhibitors. You need to remember that many of these exhibitors face additional costs of transporting their goods to the show, plus in some cases international air fares, etc, to attend and staff their stands. Everybody has to start somewhere, and not everyone has the budget or capitalization to display as well as Leggett traditionally does.

    Also, sorry I missed the drinks and a chance to catch up!

    Allyn Beard

    1. Thanks for the comments Allyn and we will have to have make some time next time you are here. I was really just having a little fun with my suggestion to screen suppliers going to ISPA, I would not actually support such a thing. I realize that many are starting out and this is their launch pad. What I would say is that for those that have the means they should step up and bring an innovative approach to market or something good in terms of product. We all borrow ideas from each other there is no doubt, but every now and then do something new and original that will help lead the industry into some place better. If my competition is kicking my butt it will only make me better, which will ultimately serve others in the industry.

  4. The simplicity analogy is very valid for all businesses. Everyone should be so fortunate as to have differentiated, exciting products and services to sell like Apple and a small handful of leading companies.

    The Internet and the global economy are changing our world. Do we embrace change and prosper or do we resist change and deal with the consequences therewith?

  5. The simplicity analogy is very valid for all businesses. Everyone should be so fortunate as to have differentiated, exciting products and services to sell like Apple and a small handful of leading companies.

    The Internet and the global economy are changing our world. Do we embrace change and prosper or do we resist change and deal with the consequences therewith?

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