People love to share their stories of catching the big fish, making the big sale, or winning the big game. What we don’t talk about enough is the failure that happens along the way.
I was convinced that our industry was missing it by not having a box spring that delivered value. (I first wrote about this in 2013 so give that a look HERE.) Yes we have the adjustable bed which has been terrific for the industry, but just about everything else under the mattresses these days is basically a space filler; a platform. When I started in the industry I worked for Stearns and Foster and we had an 8-way hand tied foundation that really set us apart from everybody else. We wanted to do something like that with Spink and Edgar so we created the Adaptive Comfort box spring which was basically a wood platform with micro coils on the top to provide additional comfort and durability to the mattress. We wanted to give the rsa more story to set us apart. Good idea. Bad result. (We are taking down the link to Adaptive Comfort box spring on May 12th so if you want to see it, better hurry.)
After touring Sit’N Sleep stores in Los Angeles with my brother Jeff, industry veteran and our local rep Jeremy Bercier, and product developer extraordinaire Eric Johnson, we discovered that our box spring idea was creating problems for the rsa. They would sell Spink and Edgar and the cool new foundation but when they tried to transition them into an adjustable bed base the consumer would ask, “Will this change the feel of my mattress going to a firm platform?” The answer is that it would, and there in lies the problem. We couldn’t create a hurdle for the rsa to get that big ticket sale on the adjustable bed, but if the rsa didn’t sell the benefit of a coiled foundation they would never justify the price/value on the unique design. We had a 20 minute huddle in the store and made the decision to change the spec to a Euro Base, which is a Semi-Flex foundation with a hemp insulator pad that we grow on our farm in England. We still have some story but were able to remove the problem for the rsa.
What is the take away and why am I sharing this fail with you? Because there is something to be learned from it and I want you to benefit from that. The impact it had on me:
- We have to listen to the rsa. Those guys are on the front line and if we are smart we will get them involved in the beginning to help us find the sweet spot.
- We actually had retailers involved during product development so we were smart in that sense, but even then we missed it. You are never going to have all of the answers until your product hits the floors. Only then will you know what you really have.
- If and when you discover a problem you have to listen, push the ego aside, and make a quick decision. We told the rsa’s that were explaining our problem to us that we decided to change our foundation and they really couldn’t believe it. First, they felt like they were being listened to, and second that we were willing to change if it helped them succeed. Even when that meant selling off of our box spring into one that we would not benefit from. And we did it fast.
- Speed is important. I have worked for large companies for my whole career and the best leaders don’t screw around, they make decisions and move on. We have all seen the executive that dismisses the feedback from the field or takes that information in and puts it to committee where you “meeting” it to death and make a decision three months later after the real damage is done.
- As much as you can control it, get people on your team of like mind. I don’t mean people that will agree with you all the time, I mean people that have a similar approach to business. That is one of the things that my brother and I love most about working with Neil and Lance Ellman and Simon Spinks over in England. Simon trust us to know our market and when it comes to making decisions, we have a good discussion about the issue but are quick to get to the answer.
- We messed this up there is no doubt, but I think we reacted in the right way. Don’t focus on the problem, get to the fix.
I don’t care how much you think you know about this industry, there is always going to be something to learn if you are paying attention. Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Well, we learned a lot from this one and it is already in our rear view mirror. I still don’t know HOW WE MISSED IT!!! Have any failures we can learn from? Share them in the comments section.
PS Many thanks to everybody that donated to Elijah Gomez-Spiers. If you read my blog a few weeks ago I wrote about Elijah, a fellow mattress industry geek, and how his family lost their home in the Houston floods. Today that fund is over $21,000 and I know that many of you donated to that so THANK YOU! Special shout out to my good buddy and neighbor Rob Fogarty who has absolutely NOTHING to do with this industry but reads Q’s Views religiously and was kind enough to donate to Elijah. You Da Man!