I read the Mattress Industry Executives Linked In post by Barrie Brown as it related to Tempur Sealy a little over a week ago and thought that Barrie raised some good questions and made some good points. (If you are not a group member you need to go request membership and check it out.) Then I read the announcement today that Tempur-Sealy was reducing their work force by 2% or about 140 jobs. Whenever this happens my phone starts to ring and I hate how those calls go because it usually means that someone has lost their job and they are looking for new opportunities.
I don’t fault Tempur Sealy for trying to drive profits, everybody has to be accountable to someone. My problem is when you are serving only the investors, the opportunity to make this industry something great is lost. In these big companies I am guessing very few of them are sitting around trying to figure out better ways to educate the consumer on how to improve their sleep. Maybe the marketing team is doing some work around that but I seriously doubt it is brought up at board meetings. According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), sleep depravation is a major public health issue. What role should our industry play in trying to help solve that problem? Are we part of the solution or are we just slinging mattresses?
If the people with the lions share of money in this business were to focus more on research and development around solving sleep problems instead of giving it lip service in their marketing materials, we could make a real impact on human kind. (Yes I realize that is a HUGE statement but can you really argue it?) All I am saying here is if your core focus is making money, then your output will represent that. What if you make it your goal to help people realize a better quality of life through better sleep equipment like a mattress, or if you invest in more research around sleep deprivation as it relates to your products, or if you partner with others searching for similar answers and join resources to solve a common problem, or you invest more heavily in the research and development part of your business with a laser beam focus on actually improving sleep and not creating some gimmick that you can push on consumers. If we as an industry were really doing these things, what would happen? Would our products be different? Would our advertising say something else? Would our websites change?
When Tempur Sealy announced hiring Scott Thompson as CEO they talk about creating shareholder value and then mention “profitable growth” a few times but nothing about their customers interest, the consumers interest or anything deeper than the dollar. I have worked for public companies before and I understand how it is, so even though this sounds like an assault on Tempur Sealy, it really isn’t. It is more about the ownership interest of most bedding companies in our industry and how I think we are missing the bigger, more important picture. Grow profits, cut cost, streamline operations, consolidate everywhere you can, give less and spin it as more, and value engineer products until the value is gone. That’s where we are these days.
If we shift our focus from profit to purpose, what could happen as a result of that? I bet we would change a lot of people’s lives for the better and still drive the bottom line in an even bigger way.