After undergoing three neck surgeries, Marc Werner knew what it was like to live and sleep in constant pain. In 2001, after searching fruitlessly for a comfortable pillow and mattress that supported his neck and back, he decided to invent his own. That’s when he founded Nature’s Sleep. Fast-forward to 2010, when Nature’s Sleep introduced GhostBed.
The goal was simple: Make it even easier to find your ideal mattress, by eliminating pushy salespeople, inaccurate in-store “tests,” and flimsy warranties. Marc, a seasoned entrepreneur and inventor has been featured in publications such as Forbes and INC.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Marc Werner: Thanks for having me here. I’m Marc Werner, the CEO and founder of Nature’s Sleep and GhostBed, a 5th generation family business. We’re known for our mattresses, award-winning Adjustable Base, pillows, and bedding—all designed to keep you cool and comfortable all night.
Entrepreneurship is all I’ve known from a young age. My grandfather founded Werner Ladder Company in the early 1900s that has about 85% of the US ladder market today.
He used to say that “Profits follow quality,” and that was a value that really drove the company and that I came to appreciate as I started my own ventures. I’ve always loved inventing things, even as a kid—and as I watched my dad develop the fiberglass ladder, I was always around the factories learning about materials and how they work together.
Years later, I ended up needing to have three neck surgeries, and I was really having trouble sleeping. I couldn’t find a pillow or mattress that was comfortable for me… so I decided to invent my own! That was the start of Nature’s Sleep, which later branched off into GhostBed in the direct-to-consumer space. These days, we’re still laser-focused on quality in the same way that my grandfather and dad were.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Marc Werner: The past few years have been challenging for a lot of industries. Fortunately, we’ve been able to get through and continue to thrive. I attribute that to a few things, and the first is how we’ve always treated our customers. As a 5th-generation family business, we treat both our employees and our customers like family too. And because of that, we have a lot of loyal customers, as well as people who learn about us through word-of-mouth, when their family and friends tell them about us.
Secondly, we’ve been in business a long time—since 2001—and I as well as my team have built great relationships throughout that time. So, while other companies saw some challenges with supply chain, we were still able to keep most products in stock and still able to ship within 24 hours, which is a big thing for us. Our industry experience, our relationships, and our logistics management were all key to maintaining that.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Marc Werner: My advice is to focus on your margins and know them well. Growing a sustainable business doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s a lot of learning involved. You really need to understand your margins, your industry, your customers, and your products inside and out.
Too many startups and VC-backed companies put all their focus on market share and growth and customer acquisition, and not on the value of building high-quality products that truly solve a problem for customers. If you can figure that part out, you’ll have an easier time building a long-term brand.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Marc Werner: E-commerce was an interesting industry to be in during the pandemic. Some companies thrived, while others unfortunately didn’t do so well. But for most it comes down to adapting to changes. For example, customers these days expect fast shipping times and prompt customer service. As a small family business, we were able to adapt quickly and even launch several new products. Because we already had a great infrastructure in place for shipping and logistics, we had the capacity to go after opportunities and find some great untapped markets.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Marc Werner: Nobody could have known what the pandemic would bring and how it would change life as we know it. Fortunately, we had the means to grow our team while still investing in the people that we already had on board. If anything, I wish I would have done that sooner! Hiring a large external agency seems like the easy route, but you can do so much more when you have your experts in-house. When you hire good people and you empower them to find success, you’re going to get it.
With that growth, however, you need to anticipate some hiccups as the new team members ramp up. We quickly learned the importance of creating a great onboarding program, so our new employees can ramp up quicker. A big part of that is having them spend time in our showroom, so they can get to know our different products.
We’re always taking steps back to learn from our customers, also. Every morning, I read every review (https://www.ghostbed.com/pages/reviews) that came in the night before, and I intend on continuing that throughout 2022. That’s the only way you can really understand your customers and know how you can help them.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Marc Werner: The future of business is already here, and it’s a blend of in-person and virtual. We’ve been very successful in how we’ve set things up for GhostBed. We’ve expanded our team of in-house Sleep Experts, for example, who work at our corporate office in Plantation, FL right near our showroom.
For other teams, like Engineering and Marketing, we’ve been able to attract talent from all across the country. We have experts on both coasts and in between, and we’re able to get everything done virtually.
This goes hand-in-hand with customer expectations, too. Online shopping is the norm now, and that’s GhostBed’s bread and butter—but we’re also expanding into a lot of retail stores (https://www.ghostbed.com/pages/stores) as well. There will always be people who want to try a mattress out in person first, so we’re finding a nice balance between the two. This omnichannel approach has allowed us to grow a ton.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Marc Werner: I’ve been working 80 hours every week for the past 40 years. And that’s because I truly love it. I love the work and the people, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. I could spend all day reading through our reviews, reaching out to customers personally to get feedback and answer questions, meeting with various teams, thinking of new product ideas, and reading industry news. I’m like a vacuum for information. I read anything I can get my hands on!
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Marc Werner: Communication is so important, especially when part of your team is working remotely across the country. A big part of that is also recognizing employees’ achievements, both individually and as a team. I make it a point to be proactive about thanking my team and acknowledging their contributions.
As far as stories, everyone on the team knows how important our backstory is as a company, and how we’ve gotten to where we are now. I love meeting with new employees to create that personal connection, and I try to make myself really accessible to the team. Not a lot of CEOs do that these days, but I want to make sure they know they’re truly part of the GhostBed family.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Marc Werner: Supply chain issues have always been a challenge for businesses, but even more so now. The problem is that it’s difficult to predict demand and there are often shortages in production. These shortages can cause delays in deliveries and lead to lost sales, which is damaging for any business.
As supply chains get more complex, the cost of shipping increases because more people are involved in the process. That ultimately increases the costs of goods, especially for businesses that rely on imports.
That’s why we have 15 warehouse locations all across the US—to combat this issue. This helps us ship orders to our customers much faster, and there aren’t as many supply chain issues to deal with. While we weren’t immune to these challenges during the pandemic, it certainly helped us maintain our standards for most of our core products. https://www.ghostbed.com/pages/shipping-and-returns
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Marc Werner: Crypto and NFTs are certainly intriguing because I want to understand where the economy is heading. At the end of the day, though, I’m a mattress guy. I just want to build high-quality mattresses and create great products that solve real needs for our customers. I’m always going to be laser-focused on that, instead of chasing the next big trend. My digital marketing team tells me that’s going to be TikTok—but I’ll let them figure that part out! By hiring the right experts in each role, everyone can focus on what they do best. But they did get me to do my first TikTok video here https://www.tiktok.com/@ghostbed/video/7073572032772050222
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Marc Werner: The trend of people leaving the workforce is not new. That’s been increasing steadily for a few years now, and I’m sure it will only continue from here. Retention is key, so that you’re not constantly replacing people. Building the right environment is important, and so is showing that you value each employee and providing the tools they need to be successful.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Marc Werner: Well, predicting the future would certainly help. As much as you can learn and research, there will always be things you can’t predict—like world events and how those can impact business and the economy. The pandemic is the perfect example of that.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Marc Werner: We’ve got some amazing plans for 2022, and I’m really looking forward to seeing everything come to life. Especially co-designing with tennis star Venus Williams on a new collection with GhostBed. https://www.ghostbed.com/collections/venus-williams
I get really excited about every new product we launch, because we take a lot of care in researching and developing them. I love creating new products that I know will help people sleep better, because we all know quality sleep can make a huge difference in your life. When you’re sleeping better, you’re happier, you’re healthier, and you have the capacity to do great things. If we can help a few more people with that this year, I’ll consider us a success!
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Marc Werner for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Marc Werneror his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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