Last week I traveled to Washington, D.C., to join Mattress Firm at their annual leadership conference “BEDTalks.” My first thought before committing to go was, “Great, another couple days of meetings, listening to people talk about the mission statement, how to drive sales this Presidents’ Day, and some B.S. rah-rah conversation about people being the key to our business!”
It was nothing like that – at all – except for the part about them telling us how important their people are to the growth of the company; but when they say it, you believe it because their actions back it up.
This meeting lasted an entire week and consisted of their key operations, sales, marketing, leadership training, and finance people. On top of that, they invite their key suppliers to attend and participate fully to benefit from the week just as much as the MFRM team does. (And help support part of the costs which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a point of fact.) They have a professional company produce the event, and my man Walter Kinzie with Encore Live does a fantastic job – if you are ever in the market for someone who does that kind of thing.
The goal for Mattress Firm is to 1) remind people why they love MFRM, 2) celebrate 2013 and align around the strategies for 2014 and 3) expose you to thought leadership. To help them do that, there were live bands and other entertainment, plenty of great food, break-out sessions filled with information to help the company grow, fantastic speakers (many of whom are from their own company), and a large area displaying all their new retail concepts. In short, this meeting has it all. So why am I writing about it now?
When I see a company get it right, I want to shine a light on that because you don’t see it all that often. Here are five things that Mattress Firm does to IGNITE its team that really captured my attention:
- They celebrate their people in a way that really inspires the organization. Their awards night looked like something out of Hollywood. The emcee calls your name and you walk past the DJ and drummer as they welcome you to the stage along with a serious round of applause. When your name gets called at that event, you feel like you just won the lottery. You could just see the pride on their faces as they returned to their seats. What a cool thing to do for people.
- They drive purpose into the organization. What is your emotional reason to exist as a company? If you leave the Mattress Firm meeting thinking these people sell mattresses, you haven’t been paying attention. They really want to exceed the
customers’ expectations and leave them happier as a result. In addition, they understand their responsibility to serve the communities where they live. They are all
about giving back and the connection they have to TGen and the Seena Magowitz Foundation is a great example of this. They actually had Dr. Von Hoff from TGen come and speak to Mattress Firm so they could connect their employees to the work TGen is doing as a result of their fundraising. They followed that up with a group exercise where they all went out and spent a half-day doing charity work for Special Olympics in D.C. It is about what they do, not what they say.
- They value the intangibles. It would be very easy for a bean counter (no offense to bean counters out there) to say, “HEY, we can’t spend this kind of money on a meeting and take all our people out of the field for an entire week!” Believe me, I respect that opinion, and maybe they could have saved a few bucks doing things differently, but that really isn’t the point. This kind of meeting can do things for your organization that can’t easily be measured. If I told you I could make your team more engaged, more efficient, and willing to run through a brick wall to meet the business objectives – as well as being happier and more enthusiastic while they do it – would you be interested?
- Not only do they get their people on the bus, they bring the supplier community along for the ride. There are awards for suppliers as well as an opportunity to engage the entire organization all week long. My guess is that the conversations over breakfast are more important than anything that goes on in a meeting. If you communicate your vision to EVERYONE that plays a roll in your success, your odds of being successful increase greatly. Do your suppliers know exactly what you are trying to accomplish and how they can best support you?
- Mattress Firm understands the culture piece to business. I read once that culture beats strategy every day of the week. Not that strategy isn’t important, but if your culture isn’t right, it doesn’t really matter.
I have known Steve Stagner, the CEO of Mattress Firm, for a long time and seeing this meeting first-hand does not surprise me at all, given who their leader is. Steve has done a terrific job helping Mattress Firm navigate its way to where it is, but he would be the first to tell you the credit really belongs to his team. To all of you, I say excellent job and thank you for the first-hand look at what GREAT companies do to make good things happen.
Do you work at Mattress Firm? Tell me about your experience in the comments section or send a tweet to @joplinquinn.
I just celebrated my three year anniversary with Mattress Firm and this is my second leadership conference to attend. Each year, after returning from conference, my passion for this company is reignited, and that passion helps set the tone for the entire year to come. Your post really sums up the week and hopefully shows those outside of Mattress Firm why our people are so darn happy.
You guys were fired up there is no doubt. I wish I could have been there for the entire week, I know I missed some great talks. I am going to watch them on line however. Thanks again for a great experience Tammy and for reading the blog!
This is by far my favorite week of the year! I’m lucky enough to be on the team that helps execute BEDTalks and I’m still amazed by what happens at this gathering every year. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with our friends across the country, meet new people within the organization, work hard, have fun and reignite our passion for Mattress Firm.
Thanks for the comment Sunnia and for reading. Your speech at the event was terrific and I loved hearing about your brother. Thanks again for sharing all of that with us.
It was awesome to have you along for the ride this last week in DC…I hope your love for MFRM was re-IGNITEd in the short time you were there! Having now produced 10 of these events for MFRM, I’m reminded EVERY SINGLE TIME just how special this group of people is that I get the pleasure of working with every day. Our former CEO Gary Fazio told me very early on, “the reason we have these events is to remind people why they love it here…”, and Steve reminds me every time we begin the process to plan BEDTalks that the most important thing that we can accomplish is to remind people of that love. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take one more opportunity to thank all the people behind the scenes that make these shows a success…it is truly one of the great honors of my life to get to stand arm in arm with them. ‘Til 2015…and this time, you need to be there the whole week!
Thanks for the comment Cory and for your passion for the industry and your team. I am not sure I have ever been to a meeting that was put together as well as this one so please pass that comment along to your group that put it all together.
Thank you Cory and team for putting on an amazing event! You embody the culture and attitude of this company.
Great article! It’s hard to put down in words what the NLC is to MFRMers as a whole.
This was my first NLC as I have been with the company for just under 11 months. I was fortunate to win an opportunity to attend for the entire week through a charity event that Ashley Turner and I hosted for the Caine’s Arcade Global Cardboard Challenge. This experience was nothing short of mind-blowing. I have wanted to stay and grow with the company since Ground School, but after attending NLC my drive has sky-rocketed.
I would just like to thank Cory and everyone who allowed me to have this opportunity. I am going to do everything I can to attend again in 2015 and EVERY year to follow. Can’t wait to see all of my new friends from across the country in LA!
Hannah, it is great to hear about this experience from someone who had never been before. Love to hear about your charity work and your passion for your company and the industry. See you there next year and thanks for reading the blog.
I’ve been with Mattress Firm for 4 years. This was my first time going to a NLC, all I can say I was blown away from this experience. This event is not only going to make me a better leader but a better husband, father, and friend. I thank MFRM for allowing me the opportunity!!!!!