Let me start by saying that I have known Alan Vonderhar from Miskelly Furniture, also known as Dr. V, for a few years now, and he is one of my favorite people in the industry.
He’s been on the Dos Marcos show a few times and always brings great insights and a passion for the mattress category. Until this week, I had never actually visited one of the Miskelly stores, but boy am I glad I made the trip because these guys get it!
It started out with Dr. V picking me up at the airport in his DOPE Mustang Convertible, top down and his iPhone playing a video of a recent interview Mark Kinsley gave to Furniture Today. Then we drove about 15 minutes to a Miskelly’s store, wind in our hair and the sun blasting us with a healthy dose of vitamin D.
We pull into the parking lot in front of this huge billboard that features their name and has a giant television screen below it running promotions and giving drivers-by a solid reason to stop in. Dr. V says he needs to check a few emails and then we can head on in, but we are a good 10 minute walk away from the front door so I’m thinking, “This is a beautiful car but there are 100 empty spaces between us and the entrance.”
I’m all for avoiding door dings, but this was a little excessive. Then I see it. A huge image of the Dos Marcos logo, a call out for our show, and my name in bright lights welcoming me to Miskelly Furniture. What a cool way to start my trip. Thanks to Christy Chamblee on the marketing team for creating that image and making me feel at home in Jackson, Mississippi.
I’m greeted at the front of the store by a very enthusiastic sales crew, working Doorcounts on their computers and talking about the incredible Labor Day sales event that just wrapped up.
Dr. V put out a challenge to his team to do $5 million in three months, and for the sales people landing in the top 13 they were going to get their pick of some incredible prizes thanks to the very awesome Monica Anderson, who is a big Miskelly fan, TSI representative, and Dr V’s partner in crime on this deal.
They exceeded their goal and almost hit $6 million, so the promotion was a huge success with customers getting great deals and incredible mattresses to sleep on, and the Miskelly team walking away with some really nice prizes.
We walked the sales floor and Dr. V took me through their assortment. Not just looking at beds but explaining their top-down process and how they try to connect with every customer and help them find the right product solutions that will help them sleep better allowing them to live a better quality of life.
It’s not about the price for Dr. V’s team, it’s about the purpose. The purpose of serving people and helping them understand what a big deal buying a new bed really is.
Purpose is at the core of everything that they do. Dr. V reminded me that “culture is what you create or what you tolerate” and at Miskelly, they have created something really special and it starts at the top and trickles out to everyone in the organization.
There are televisions in the break room and in other parts of the store running a slide show reminding the Miskelly team about important work-related issues, but also lifting people up that have been called out by happy customers texting in their praise. Thank you Podium!
There is also a bulletin board with everybody’s name on it adjacent to a single word. The employees were asked to think of a word that sums up their goals for the year and so after they picked it, that word was assigned to them and featured for everyone to see and talk about. Dr. V’s word was VALUE. Build value in what you do, how you do it, and what you do for other people and the important things will fall into place.
I mention that their culture starts from the top. On our tour of the massive warehouse, we ran into Oscar Miskelly, the CEO and primary owner of Miskelly. We talked about the business, problems with the supply chain, how great Dr. V is, Oscar’s affection for the Dos Marcos podcast, and how excited he was to be having such a great year.
When we left, Oscar went back to hanging out with the delivery crews shooting the breeze and thanking them for what they do to make the Miskelly customers so happy. Oscar’s word was GRATITUDE.
Dr. V and I met up with Monica and Horace McMillon, who works with Dr. V as the mattress manager, where we had a great lunch and discussed Horaces wedding anniversary, his advice on staying happily married and the entire process of selling pillows. (Bottom line here…find someone to love, have empathy for their point of view, and accept them for who they are. Thank you Horace, that is some solid advice!)
I could not believe how fired up they got me about the bed for the head, so we riffed on some new ways to engage customers. On our way out, we were stopped by the manager of the restaurant because he wanted to say hello to Dr. V after recognizing him from the television ads. This was not easy to do given the fact that Dr. V had on a mask and was not wearing his white lab coat. You could tell that this guy was a little giddy and I loved it. I have to admit being a little disappointed that he had not heard of the Dos Marcos podcast but now that we have a billboard at Miskelly, I think our brand awareness will shoot up in Jackson.
Does your company build a real “connection” to the consumer before they ever make it into your store? Miskelly is using Dr. V as the front man, and it makes a big difference!
The conversation at lunch had me so interested that I had to dig deeper on the impact a pillow presentation can have on the mattress sale. So, after our delicious lunch, we made a visit to the Miskelly Sleep Shop where Chris Vlahos (one of the top sales guys in the company) took me through an entire pillow fitting presentation that blew me away. If everyone sold pillows like this guy, there would likely be a shortage on those also. I think we even came up with some new ideas that will make this process even more impactful so stay tuned for a podcast or article getting into more detail on that.
We flew through the training area where I met Jason Arnett who is the head of training and an incredibly positive guy which is a great trait to have in that role. We talked about his passion for teaching his team the skills they need to make it happen on the sales floor and the role faith plays in the company culture. I have been in this industry for 28 years and during that time, I have visited thousands of stores in different parts of the world. One thing that separates a good retailer from a great retailer is training. If you value your customers enough to invest in training for your team, you will crush your competition. With Jason at the wheel, Miskelly is in great hands.
Later, we finished up in the corporate offices where I met Gentry Prestwood and Anna Lucovich in charge of furniture merchandising. We think we have it bad with raw material supply in the mattress industry. After hearing these two talk, we are SO LUCKY to be in the mattress category even though that has been no picnic in 2021. I’m not sure I could handle their job with the grace and positive attitude that Gentry and Anna do. To all furniture buyers out there, I feel for you after hearing some detail on the current state of your inventory woes. Hang in there and listen to the Dos Marcos podcast where tequila shots are part of the culture. It might take the edge off as you wait for those trucks to show up.
Finally, I had a chance to share a few minutes with Betsy Tabor, Cindy Lee and Christy Chamblee on the marketing team where we talked about the company’s commercials and the latest developments for the Miskelly website. They do a great job of telling the Miskelly story as they BUILD VALUE in the products that they sell. They’re not just pushing a promotion. Imagine that!?! Whew; what a day.
What was my big takeaway from this trip?
It’s not like Miskelly does one thing incredibly well, they are just brilliant on the basics. The people that work at Miskelly genuinely like to be there. They support each other, work their collective butts off and put the consumer at the center of everything they do.
There is an old saying that goes something like, “Great culture eats business strategy for lunch.” The purpose behind the Miskelly team is real and can be felt and I rarely see that driven so deep into a company culture. There is a big sign hanging on the wall of their offices and it says, “Our Family Serving Your Family With Excellence.”
They don’t just say it, they live it and the proof is everywhere. If you value the soft side of business and focus on the things that are hard or maybe even impossible to measure, you will experience the kind of success Miskelly has. Heck, they may even put you on their billboard.