Have you ever heard someone say something like, “That person is coming from outside the industry and we all know how well that turns out.” There seems to be a strong bias that when it comes to managing business at a high level in the mattress industry, you are likely to fail if you are not an insider.
Why is that? It might be because there is a long line of consultants and investors that has drifted in and out of the mattress industry with little to show for it. Bounding in with a lot of hubris, ready to show these little mattress people how the big dogs do it. What causes failure for these outsiders?
You know the newbie is a short-timer when:
- They underestimate the complexity of the industry. Anyone that is foolish enough to suggest there is a “simple button” for just about everything is going to have a hard time. You have to be completely dialed in to every part of our business, like the importance of the RSA on the front line, discounted floor samples, slotting fees, spiffs, the need for great product development, the need for a repeatable story, and how to motivate the bedding producer and their sales force, etc.
- There is very little appreciation for the long-standing relationships most of us have in this industry. At the end of the day, just like in any business, value for a price wins, but you can’t underestimate long-term friendships.
- They don’t learn their way in. The overly confident will come into a new position and think they see solutions that actually solve nothing. It takes time to get to the core part of anything, and many are not patient enough.
- You can’t assume what worked in your last job is going to work here. There is no doubt that some business principles translate to any industry, but you have to be careful not to go to far with that.
- Respect. To get it you have to earn it and also give it to others that deserve it. To some degree, you are really starting over if you enter a new industry. Respect for past accomplishments will certainly follow, but they won’t last long. This is a “what have you done for me lately” world, so the new guys have to step up.
Part of the reason I thought to write about this today was because of my recent meet-and-greet with Michael Traub, the new president of Serta (beginning September 2). I spent all of 10 minutes with Traub, so my frame of reference is limited, but I did get a sense of who he is. When I asked him why he picked this industry, he said (and I am paraphrasing here), “Because I am being given the opportunity to lead the top company in the industry and I don’t want to pass that up. I have a great team in place and I have a lot to learn and I am ready to get started.” I sensed some humility during my time with Michael and if that is real, he is off to a really great start. He is very easy to like and if he avoids the aforementioned mistakes, he is going to do great. Best of luck, Michael, and welcome to the industry!
Bringing in the RIGHT outsiders can be great for your business. They can offer fresh perspective and drive new ideas. The energy a new person can bring is also contagious. Before you know it, others in the organization are pushing on things that haven’t been evaluated in a while, and they get excited because the enthusiasm is spreading throughout the company.
When is the last time you brought in an outsider to a key role? What was your result?