Three Mistakes Companies Make In Times Of Trouble

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in furniture, Leadership, Management, mattresses, product development, Retail

It was recently announced that another major bedding producer is reducing their workforce by over 100 people. Is it just me or have we been here before?

Big brand gets purchased by a new ownership group. New ownership brings in a new team to run things. Business turns south for multiple reasons and you start to see cost cutting, layoffs, “value engineered”  products that are likely less competitive, and cutbacks in sales training, advertising and marketing. Why is it the first thing most businesses do when trying to save themselves is to try to pull back. I get this strategy for certain areas of the business, but won’t most of that effort just make things worse, not better? Three big mistakes companies make in times of trouble:

Cutting Your Way To Success
  1. One of the first things to happen when it comes to non-fixed cost is usually a reduction in your sales force but is that the answer? Do you have the “A” players on your team? If you are not effective with your business development it could simply be you have the wrong people, not too many people. I remember when I was at Stearns and Foster and we launched the new line back in 1994. The product was totally new to the industry with an MMAP program that had never been tried before. Gary Fazio, Bob Hellyer, and Kippy Bailey just to name a few, brought our sales team in and with Gary leading the way, (well, he and his puppet Rodney-seriously they literally had a puppet) they convinced us all that this was going to be BIG and they worked hard with the sales organization to make sure we got it and had bought in. He was right and it was a huge success. If your sales force is well trained and hungry they can do just about anything for your business IF you give them the right tools. More sales solve a lot of problems right? Does cutting back service to the customer really help you out?
  2. Speaking of product, think about what Stearns and Foster did back then to move the average ticket up in this industry. How about the no-flip mattress? Look at what Select Comfort is doing with technology. A heavy investment and focus on product development can make all the difference. If you don’t have that next big thing why not? Are you doing everything you possibly can with your development process, looking to other industries for inspiration, hiring the very best people you can to bring creative ideas to the table, involving your retailers to tell you what they REALLY need and then actually LISTENING to what they say and executing on that? If you are a retailer and are selling the same products that everyone else is selling, you’re missing out in a big way. If you’re going to do that at least max your margin out with the right lean manufacturer. There is some cool stuff out there if you are paying attention so why not lean into those products or is there some benefit to being like everyone else? If you are a bedding producer and you are not building THAT kind of product I would encourage you to re-think your strategy.
  3. I have never understood why companies pull back on advertising, marketing and training when they’re having trouble. Is telling fewer people about your products going to help? Will a reduction in marketing investment help bring those mediocre products to market in a compelling way? Great trainers inspire people to embrace products and teach sales associates how to connect to the consumer in a way that drives the transaction. What will cutting the training budget actually do for you?

The truth is that if companies really believed what I am saying in this blog, they would likely not be in bad shape to begin with.  As for the people that have been downsized, keep your heads up and don’t despair. There is always room in the industry for great people so just dust off the resume, shine up your LinkedIn profile and get to work on your next great adventure. Believe it or not you are on the path you are supposed to be on so make your next move count. If there is anything I can do to help, send me a note.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighten Up Francis

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in creativity, fun, Leadership, Management, marketing, mattresses

Probably seven years ago I was having dinner with a good friend of mine Brent Beshore and we had a very interesting conversation that I want to share with you. Brent is the CEO and Founder of Adventur.es, a private/permanent equity group investing in family-owned businesses. (He has created a truly unique model and you should check them out if you value people that innovate the typical approach to business.) During that dinner, he started to tell me about the culture he wanted to create at his company. How he wanted employees to have what he called, “maximum allowable freedom.” The way he described it, some jobs require limitations, but most employers put far more restrictions than necessary. Think no vacation days; he would allow them to work from anywhere not just the office; and if they wanted to only be in the office part-time that’s perfectly fine as long as they were productive. Brent knows me well enough to know that I would be fired up about such a concept and applaud his move to create a company that you really did WANT TO WORK FOR but I have to admit thinking to myself; will it actually work? Turns out, it does. His companies have been unusually successful and I bet he’d attribute a portion of it to his trusting approach.

 A few days ago I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast featuring Sir Richard Branson, and there it was again. Mr. Branson went on about how he treated his people, allowed them freedom to excel with a very flexible work environment, supported their desire to take a sabbatical and write their novel, or simply supported them as people doing everything he could to give them the tools to not only thrive for his business but as human beings.

I write about this today because I believe in the approach and there are a lot of C-level managers that read this blog, (thank you LinkedIn analytics). So on behalf of your people, I ask for you to seriously consider the following.

Think about the corporate culture that rings the school bell at 8 am with the expectation that everyone is in their seat, computers glowing. “We would like to allow you to come in at 8:30 so you can take your kids to school yourself but if we did that we would have to do it for everyone and that just isn’t possible.” How important is your child? Is it a big deal to people that they are able drop their kid off at school, have that quality time prepping them for their day on the car ride over and giving them that kiss to send them off? How about the page in the HR manual that says you are not allowed to surf any social media sites during work hours. They even get the IT people to restrict you from those sites. “Your company computer should be used for business purposes only.” Do they really think that their employees aren’t on their phones doing the same stuff? Does this policy actually make their employees more productive or is it just one more pain in the butt policy to have to follow. A lot of companies blame this type of stuff on legal or some other BS reason but at the end of the day, it usually comes down to the illusion of control.

Of course there are good reasons to have rules at your company but try this for a change. There is a school of thought that says, “we need this rule to prevent people from taking advantage of the company”. Why not shift thinking to “if we do this our people would love us for it and it would be something to improve their quality of life and happiness.” Are there a few people that will take advantage in some way. Sure-so manage to that. Are there significantly more that would appreciate your approach and give you more of themselves as a result of the trust you place in them?

My experience tells me that when you try to control something, it becomes more difficult to achieve the desired outcome. Squeeze it too tight and it will jump out of your hand. I also believe that we should approach things on the “give” side vs. the “take” side. Think of a personal relationship you’ve had where the other person is looking out for you, committed to your growth as a person, wants the best for you, and bends over backward to make sure they are being the kind of friend that supports you in every way possible. Does it bring out the best in you? Does it make you want to do more for them? Does that relationship bring you joy?

There are environments where this flexible approach to management might be problematic so I get that, HOWEVER, you should be on the lookout for ways to make your company a place people actually enjoy going.  Think that’s a high hurdle? It is, but there are companies that do it every day. If you put more faith in your people, the benefit could be pretty great for the bottom line. Give it a try.

BONUS: Can you tell me where the title of today’s blog came from?

 

 

 

Top 5 Reasons To Attend The ISPA EXPO

Posted Leave a commentPosted in furniture, Leadership, Management, marketing, mattress industry, mattresses, product development, Retail

March 14th-16th companies from all over the world will be flying into Charlotte, North Carolina to hopefully discover the next best thing in the bedding industry. There will be a record-breaking 260 companies in attendance which includes suppliers showing off their latest creations and bedding producers and retailers on the hunt for that new “THING” that will set them apart from their competition.

Here are my top 5 reasons you should consider going if you don’t already have your trip booked:

  1. If you want to be on the cutting edge and know what the trends are in this industry, the ISPA Expo is where you go. Sure Vegas market is important to see the finished goods but this is where it all starts. If you aren’t always trying to discover new things you will fall behind to the guy that does! Innovation is hard work.
  2. The ISPA team has put together some really great educational sessions for you to attend. Want to sell more or just make your company better? Their line-up of speakers will be happy to drop some knowledge on you to take back and share with your team.
  3. Leggett and Platt throws a customer appreciation party that is a first-class event and something you must attend. They are bringing back Party On The Moon to entertain us which is a HUGE deal because these guys are one of the best performing bands on the planet. They have played for both President Obama and President Trump at different events as well as Eli Manning and others. If you are a customer of L&P you can’t miss out on this.
  4. The Expo is a great place to reconnect with industry friends and start up new relationships.  I believe that attending the ISPA Expo is important, not just to see the latest and greatest, but the conversations you will have in the hallway or during a quick elevator ride could be the spark to something big. Networking inside the industry is critical to success so get out here and press some palms.
  5. Last and certainly not least is because you will be able to experience a live taping of the Dos Marcos podcast. You will have the opportunity to be in the studio audience, possibly ask a question or two, and maybe even touch Mark Kinsley’s hair if you’re lucky.

 

This really is a great event thanks to the hard work of my friends Ryan Trainer, Mary Helen Rogers as well as the rest of the ISPA team. Many of the top executives in our industry will be at the ISPA Expo so it’s a great time to envision your possibilities, explore the future building blocks of the industry, and engage with your partners on a strategy that will drive your business forward.

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE.

 

 

Shine The Light

Posted 12 CommentsPosted in faith, Leadership

I’m a frequent traveler and when I’m adding up the miles I see a lot of bad behavior from my fellow road warriors. Ever see the passenger at the gate berating the person behind the counter trying to get people on the plane? It makes total sense to beat them down since they were the ones that broke the plane causing the delay or dialed up the wind and rain causing your flight to be grounded for a little while longer. Right? Or how about that person that takes a suitcase on to the plane that’s large enough to fit the contents of a small home. They try shoving it into the overhead compartment and when it doesn’t fit, they bitch at the flight attendant because they have to check a bag.  When this stuff happens people can expose a real ugly side of themselves.

My reminder on this glorious Friday morning is simple; remember to be intentional about being great to other people. This is going to sound really goofy but I actually play a little game when I travel. My goal is to be the most annoying “happy guy” people encounter all day. It starts with my man Boston that shines my shoes who actually fires ME up but we always get a good laugh in before I make it to my gate. Then Lisa with American that works the gate and handles people like a boss. She takes great care of her passengers so I make it a point to tell her that she is awesome and doing a terrific job. When I get on the plane I’m always on the lookout for the female passenger that has packed her bag with every pair of shoes in her closet and might have a hard time lifting that suitcase into the overhead bin so I get to come to the rescue. Then when I’m leaving the plane I try to high five the crew cleaning up, thank the flight attendants for their service (and the extra Biscoff cookies), and I let the pilots know I am grateful for the safe landing.

Do I make a positive impact on people during my travel day with a kind word or something as simple as a smile? I really hope I do but here is the other side of that. I’m pretty sure it does more for me than anyone else. As much as I have to be away from home, traveling actually bums me out. I don’t like leaving my family and missing out on things so this is my way of dealing with that. This is all selfish in a way because it makes me feel pretty great so this is what you call one of those “Win/Win” situations.

Every single day before my kids go to school I tell them I love them and to SHINE THE LIGHT. I’m a faith guy so that means shine His light but if you’re not on that page it still works. Just shine some light into whatever darkness you encounter because it has a funny way of causing a ripple. Ever had someone be nice to you at just the right moment when you were struggling with something bad and it hit you in just the right way? Be that light to someone this weekend and see if it doesn’t pay you back.

Not preaching here, just a little nudge and reminder of what this is all about after all. Have an awesome weekend!

 

 

 

Knowledge Is Only Potential Power?

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Leadership, marketing, mattress industry, product development, Retail

If you have been reading this blog for long you know that I am a HUGE fan of Roy Williams, the New York Times bestselling author of the  Wizard Of Ads. Mark Kinsley and I actually went to Austin, Texas and studied with him a few years back and I can tell you that he has a great brain for this marketing stuff.  If you ever get the chance to visit him at the Wizard Academy I encourage you to do so!

I am borrowing from Roy today based on his recent Monday Morning Memo which I also recommend you sign up for. In it, Roy talks about data and how we could be getting it wrong if we are not careful. Consider the following thought straight from Roy’s blog:

FACT: The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
FACT: The French eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
FACT: The Japanese drink no red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
FACT: The Italians drink lots of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
FACT: The Germans eat sausages with beer and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
EVIDENCE-BASED CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. It’s speaking English that kills you.

Industry reports say we didn’t grow in 2017 so do you buy that or is it possible that we didn’t capture all of the sales from e-commerce? Sales on your new product line are not what you want them to be. Did your product development team get it wrong or could it be the way you went to market, trained your people or featured it on the selling floor?

Data is important for any business as it can give you information that can help you make good decisions but it can be dangerous if looked at the wrong way. “Another limitation of data is that it cannot tell you the right thing to do. It can only tell you the result of what you have already done.” Roy Williams

I was once on a team that was working with an outside consulting firm and we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in research to understand where we should be going as a company. To me, a sales and marketing guy, the data was crystal clear as to what our future should be. To others on the committee that were more operationally driven and risk-averse, the data suggested something completely different. In a way, we were all using the information to support what we wanted to be true.

Be intentional about collecting data but don’t look at it in a vacuum. Consider all things tangible and intangible and respect the information in a way that allows you to hear everything it’s telling you without bias. Reports are great but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t let them sink your ship. (Okay that ending was so obvious but I couldn’t help myself.)

Before I sign off today I want to pay my respects to Art Van Elslander of Art Van Furniture who died recently at the age of 87. I didn’t know Art well but I did meet him once in Detroit. I was asked to do some training for my company and was told he was going to show up so I was a little nervous. I knew Art was in the room before I ever saw him and I’m not kidding. This guy filled a room unlike anyone I have ever seen. He was an industry pioneer, philanthropist, and a friend to those that knew him. Art, thank you for what you gave to those you left behind and for making this industry better. We need more like you.