SAVE THE DATE: Sleep Summit Oct 8-11, 2024

Becoming the face of miskelly’s mattress: the dr. v story

The one-and-only Alan Vonderhaar recounts his early days going from the waterbed world to landing a job at Miskelly's—and eventually putting on a lab coat to create the character that became the face of Miskelly's mattress for the past 25 years.
https://radiopublic.com/dos-marcos-GAB04Z/s1!44afe

Dr. V has become a well-known figure in the mattress industry, even earning Furniture Today’s Retail Giants of Bedding award in 2018. 

The one-and-only Alan Vonderhaar recounts his early days going from the waterbed world to landing a job at Miskelly’s—and eventually putting on a lab coat to create the character that became the face of Miskelly’s mattress for the past 25 years. 

At 22 years old, Vonderhaar found himself driving through Jackson, Mississippi and noticed a lack of waterbed stores. He went to Denny Boyd, his boss at the time, and told him he’d like to leave St. Louis and open a store in Jackson. 

Vonderhaar opened Sunset Waterbeds and operated it for ten years before waterbed sales started going away and he found a permanent home at Miskelly’s. 

Thanks to Dr. V for sharing your story, passing along some of your wisdom, and for your friendship. 

Full Transcription:

Mark Kinsley:

Okay, so nationwide primetime is going virtual October 27 through the 29th. This is a big move for nationwide because the face-to-face gathering the energy of primetime, the networking opportunities, the education, the deals, just getting exposure to what the nationwide network is all about. It’s it’s hard not to be there in person. But we’re really excited about nationwide primetime going virtual Quinn, you’re going to be speaking, I’m going to be speaking, we don’t even know what we’re going to be speaking on yet. Because you told me not to tell anybody.

Mark Quinn: 

Well, in all fairness to me, I told you not to tell anyone because we don’t have any clone. It sounds better. If you say to people, yeah, we can’t talk about it. It’s under wraps, then. We are lackadaisical in our approach. We haven’t planned it yet. So, I chose the first part instead. But Kinsley, I’m with you, I’m fired up. You know, it bums me out a little bit, though, because part of the fun is being in the room with all those people. But I got to tell you, after watching what furniture today did with our conference and seeing the way that they did it, there’s still a lot of great ways to get value out of that. And the fact that we’re going to be doing one of their headlines talks at metrics University fires me up, and you know what, we’re going to bring it this time. It’s going to be weird, right? Because we did the rap video, like dancing in the coming out from the backroom. So, we did that the very first week we did was Rocky, right? So, we tried to kind of mirror you know, Rocky, and in the 

Mark Kinsley: 

Fight you’re in, and you have to win at the first speech.

Mark Quinn: 

Yeah, I have to win. So now we got to figure out what we’re going to do, virtually. So maybe we’ll come up with something creative, who knows. 

Mark Kinsley: 

I think that we’ll probably be able to swing the Hey, and what you need to be able to swing as if you’re a nationwide member, it’s free. So, it’s 100%, free, go to nationwide primetime.com get signed up. Put it on your calendars October 27 through the 29th. Dr. V is on the show today. And we had previously interviewed Dr. V about Miss Kelly’s using Podium. And then we’re like, wait, it’s going to be too weird to go back and play the segment of Dr. V when he’s on the show today. So, we’re just going to be like, Dr. V how are you using Podium? and our guests is it’s all about connecting with consumers these days? 

Dr. V: 

Well, that’s exactly I mean, it’s all about relationships. And that’s the easiest thing. So, two ways that we’re using Podium is one the opportunity for them to give us a review. That is huge. One because your online reputation is incredibly important as people are doing their research. They’re also researching you as a company, not just your products, because you can buy products that a lot of different places. But why did they choose you, in a lot of people rely on reviews. So, Podium gives an opportunity to serve up a timely review to the consumer. And it is amazing how we went from probably a 1.8 rating to now we’re at a 4.7. And it’s quite simply because Podium is allowed the consumers to share the positive experiences that they were receiving at Miss Kelly’s. And then occasionally, when we get those negative reviews, and they happen, it gives us an opportunity to connect with that customer and fix where we may have just dropped the ball. I mean, things are going to happen. 

Mark Quinn: 

Doctor V. Just it was it hard to integrate. I think a lot of people listening to this might go oh my gosh, like that sounds really hard to integrate into my business was that hard? 

Dr. V: 

They figured out the most opportune time to actually serve up the review. And quite simply, it’s about 20 minutes after they make a purchase. So quite simply, we send the information to Podium as soon as the sale is complete. 20 minutes later, they send it back on their phone, quite simply, please rate your experience and gives them an opportunity to make a comment. We get five stars all the time. It’s amazing, we figured out how to elevate the use of Podium above and beyond. I was amazed at how many customers right after they make the purchase are so complimentary about our salespeople to the point that we now use the reviews that we’re getting from our customers, we actually put them on a communication board throughout the entire company. You know, as we talk about culture is what you create or what you tolerate. So, we want to set the standard or what our culture is going to be and the way we treat our guests. And one way to do that is use the words of our guests in how they were treated, and put it on a communication board in the form of a Podium review that really tells the rest of the company, hey, this guest had a great experience and why? 

Mark Kinsley: 

Check it out. I mean, just got to go over to Podium.com forward slash DOS and you actually get 10% off so check that out Podium.com forward slash dos, DOS, try to make it easy on you. And Dr. V, that’s a that’s a huge endorsement and it’s great to see that you know, retailers care enough not only to cultivate reviews that benefit your business, but to can truly connect with consumers in ways that they want to connect, which is through their phone through text through web chat and Podium does it all.

Speaker 4: 

Dos Marco’s podcast beats the greatest mattress industry podcast on the planet. Wait, isn’t this the only mattress industry podcast? He’s Mark Kinsley, 

Mark Kinsley: 

I truly felt bad for you at the time. 

Speaker 4: 

He’s Mark Quinn. 

Mark Quinn: 

I think Victor was actually very pleasant. 

Speaker 4: 

Together they are dos Marcos.

Mark Kinsley:

Dr. V, Welcome to the show. Welcome to the Dos Marcos podcast. We’ve actually had enough conversations ahead of time to record multiple podcasts. So, it’s nice to officially have you here. Now I have to say something right out of the gates. Number one, you’re not a real doctor, but you play one on TV. And you can say that with confidence. 

Dr. V: 

Yes. 

Mark Kinsley: 

And here’s one thing I’ve realized about you. You are an amazing soundbite generator. Like, what comes out of your mouth is like perfect 32nd ad spots. Now. It’s great because you do that on TV. But for the podcast, I’m worried. I’m a little concerned. So, because I want people to know the man behind the white coat. And so, here’s what I’m going to ask you right out of gates. 

Dr. V:

Okay, here is this. 

Mark Kinsley: 

What is the strangest thing about where you grew up?

Dr. V:

Well, that’s a good question when I certainly hadn’t thought about. So, I actually grew up in St. Louis Missouri. And then I went to college at Missouri, which is in Columbia Missouri, which is halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. And, um, where I grew up, you know, I just grew up within a basic family that things were just great and normal and just like normal kids. I went to an all-male Catholic High School, there in St. Louis, which is probably why I’m a little bit weird today. But 

Mark Kinsley: 

Which one did you go to? 

Dr. V: 

St. Mary’s High School, which is in South St. Louis city. So, I spent four years there before I headed off to the zoo. And then I spent four years at the zoo. 

Mark Quinn: 

What was your dad like? 

Dr. V: 

My dad was great, very involved in the family. From early on, a little bit of an entrepreneur. When I was young, we actually had a concrete company called Vonderhaar concrete company. They’re in St. Louis, Missouri or logo was kind of red white candy stripe. And I can remember as a kid, obviously going there, and you know, I look back on it now how dangerous wasn’t they had these huge, like, huge sand piles for the concrete. And I would like go and play on them. In hindsight, that was incredibly dangerous. I mean, these were like, you know, 100 feet high sand dunes with loose sand. I mean, I could have easily tumbled in mud covered, dined 

Mark Kinsley: 

I did the same thing. But it’s chat piles like these were the mind railings that were stacked up and looked like mountains. And we will grab pieces of fiberglass and turn them into sleds. Yeah. And sled down these Chad piles probably just like ingesting as much lead as possible along the way and shards of fiberglass under your fingernails 

Dr. V: 

Probably weighs a lot. 

Mark Kinsley: 

Yeah. Usually that’s Quinn’s line. He’s like, explains all alike.

Mark Quinn: 

Yeah, Kinsley, well, we just played in corn silos that until I was an adult didn’t understand that there’s a big blade at the bottom of the corn silo that circulated to get the corn to go down. I looked at my dad, I’m like, why would you let your kid play in something like I could have sunk right to the bottom. But 

Mark Kinsley: 

Yeah, he was like, we had to see if you were the fittest. Okay, so the Quinn family. It’s survival of the fittest. 

Mark Quinn: 

And I made it. 

Mark Kinsley: 

So, yeah. So, Dr. V, you grew up in St. Louis went to Catholic High School. And you told us offline, that one of your mentors and people that are familiar with the mattress industry, and especially the mattress industry in St. Louis will know this name. Denny Boyd was one of your mentors. What’s the story behind you getting to know Denny Boy? 

Dr. V: 

Denny absolutely is just amazing, and one of my truly favorite people on the planet. So, I was actually in college and decided I wanted to get a waterbed. So, I went to one of Denny’s stores, which at that point was called royal water beds. We’re talking 1984 at this point. And so, I went into buy waterbed, encounter Denny, and I ended up buying one of those canopy waterbeds that hit the beers up in the top, of in head, and all the lights. 

Mark Quinn:

Dr. V.

Dr. V: 

Yeah, kind of TV that hung up. 

Mark Quinn: 

I took a pound down. 

Dr. V: 

Oh, yeah, I was, you know, 22 years old in college. This was a cool, cool thing to have in the apartment so to speak. But yeah, so it was pretty exciting. We got to talking. And then I realized that my senior was coming to an end. This was probably March ready for and I was getting my degree in business wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. It stopped by the waterbed store to pick up some waterbed conditioner ran into Denny, we got into a conversation.

And I decided to go to work for him. And the interesting thing with Denny is how I got the job is a, we started talking back and forth. And he’s like, why should I hire you? And I was like, well, I think I know a little bit more about waterbeds than most of your sales people, which was a pretty bold claim. Consider I’d never worked in a waterbed store. But for my English paper, which I was very excited about. Two years earlier, I had done a whole report on waterbeds. And at the time, I turned in my rough draft, and I got like a D. And I was really devastated that I’d gotten a D on my rough draft. And the reason why is because the teacher said that it was too one sided. Because I did for my source. I went through all the head shops that existed back in the early 80s. Because that was the only place you could find waterbeds. And then I got third type of pamphlets. And they said that I needed a more balanced paper. So, I spent an entire summer going to Washington University in St. Louis, their Medical Library, and I researched everything I could find on the medical benefits of floatation sleep. And not knowing at the time, but I became like an expert when it came to floatation. I mean, I knew everything from pressure points to document ulcers to, you name it. So, Denny and I got into this little sparring question and answer thing about, hey, about waterbeds back and forth. He felt like I knew enough. So, he hired me. And Denny had this philosophy that no one started on a sales floor. Everyone started in a warehouse and on delivery. So that’s how I started my career with Denny boy. And the funny thing is that Denny’s said you had to earn your right to be on a sales floor. And so back then we would take out padded rails to put around the wood frames, or we would sell solid state heaters. Now for my old timers that are listening to this podcast, that we’re in floatation, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Well, I realized pretty quickly, I got pretty good at doing that. But I couldn’t get the volume that I wanted to get. So, I started taking out like nightstands and dressers and furniture on the truck with me that the customer didn’t even buy and then I had this little thing where I would like take me, I would set up the waterbed. I would unload all the furniture into the bedroom that they didn’t buy. And then all of a sudden, I’d be like, oh, I am so sorry. I made a mistake here. You’re not supposed to get this furniture. They were like, Yeah, but it looks really good. I said, well, I don’t mind calling my manager if you’d like to keep it. And then I’d get my manager on the phone. And they would end up negotiating the deal since it was already in their house. And all of a sudden, my delivery sales shot to the roof. And that’s how I earned my way onto the sales floor with Denny boy. That was probably now many, many years ago. So probably 35 years ago back in the 80s. 

Mark Quinn: 

You know what that would be a baller move, if you’re eating dinner, wouldn’t it? like to when you get done eating dinner, they bring up this lava cake like dripping with chocolate syrup. And they said it right down in front of you and they go here’s your chocolate lava cake and you go I didn’t order that now. Are you going to let them take that lava cake away? 

Dr. V: 

I like we’re going with our 

Mark Kinsley: 

Well, you know, I work it out my manager here. But yeah, I got to go talk.

Dr. V: 

So anyway, that’s how I got on there. And then I was training to be a manager. And he wanted to move me to one of his St. Louis locations. And he took me to a convention down in New Orleans. Back then he actually also had a sheet company named snuggles. And so, you want to be to work the booth for him down in New Orleans at this waterbed trade show. And this would have been in 1984. And so, we went down the first of September, and I worked the whole booth that time got to meet a whole lot of people in the waterbed industry. And it was pretty exciting because we’re waterbeds at that time was fairly well known. Denny had already kind of established himself in the industry. And then on the way back, I spent the night in Jackson, Mississippi. And I was really excited and eager because I was going to be a new manager. So, the next morning, I decided to go to all the waterbed stores in Jackson, Mississippi. So, I could learn all the things that they were doing so I can take it back to St. Louis. Only there were no waterbed stores in Mississippi, not one. And I thought for eight hours back on that drive. In September of 1984. I thought I should open up a waterbed store. I was 22 years old. I had no money. I had a shell credit card with a $300 limit. And that was the rest of the story. And so, and this is where it really gets significant. And I guess, you know, I really always talk about how we have power with our words and our influence on others, and why we should be an encourager. So, I really came up with this idea. I had a business degree, but I went to Denny Boyd. And this is the most amazing part of everything that I’ve that I’ve said and probably will say, today, I went to Denny, and I was like, Denny, I really think that I want to move to Mississippi and open up a waterbed store.

Now, here’s the thing. I respected this man, I love this man, literally worship where he was at. I loved his company. His words at this point now make a difference in my entire future. If he had said, you know, Alan, it’s, you know, it’s really tough out there. You know, the waterbed industry, we’re now in the mid 80s. You know, it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. You know, you’ve got such a great future working for me in St. Louis, you’re going to be one of my managers. If he had said anything like that, I would have dropped the idea in a heartbeat. But he didn’t. He said, Alan, I think you’ve got a rare gift where you can really be successful. I think you’re the type of guy that if you really put your mind to it, and you stay focus, and you realize why you’re opening up this waterbed store and the impact you want to have on the quality of sleep for your customers, I think you can actually be quite successful. And I think you should try it. And with those words of encouragement is what caused me to move 500 miles away to a state that I’d only traveled once through. And I went into a bank and this is a 1984. So, it was before the SNL crisis, all those kind of things. I went into a bank with a business plan and an idea and they gave me a little bit of money and I opened up a company called sunset waterbeds and had that company for 10 years from 84 to 94. And never bled. 

Mark Quinn: 

Tell us your tagline? I like about your tagline. 

Dr. V: 

Well, sunset waterbeds, your body’s best friend. And we actually had a little jingle and a song and the whole thing that went along with it. 

Mark Quinn: 

Could you give us a little bit?

Dr. V: 

A beautiful sunrise on a sunset waterbed. 

Mark Quinn: 

Yeah, could you give us a little bit of that jingle? Can you? 

Dr. V: 

Yeah, I’m going to try not a singer by any nature, but it was, sunset waterbeds, your body’s best friend. So that was the tagline for sunset waterbeds for 10 years. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. But yeah, so Denny had a tremendous impact on my direction on my future later, because he also had the wholesale side of the business. I later ended up buying my mattresses from him. I bought my sheets from him from snuggles, etc. But yeah, he’s an amazing individual, really a true innovator in our industry, always have been on the cutting edge. But he really believed in his people and had a tremendous impact on the direction of my life. 

Mark Kinsley: 

What happened in 1994? So, you had the company for 10 years. What happened next? 

Dr. V: 

Yeah, well, the as we all know, the waterbed industry just kind of moved on. And so, the only real furniture the big furniture company in our city at the time, was a company called the Skelly furniture. It’s interesting. So, it was owned by three brothers, Oscar, Tommy and chip. And they were three brothers that really report in. They were growing their business at that point, had basically kind of a superstore. And Oscar was actually my Sunday school teacher. And I played racquetball with Tommy Skelly, who was also in our Sunday school class. And so, I thought it was natural for me to leave sunset waterbeds and go to work for Skelly’s. And so, I asked them to hire me as literally just a salesperson, straight commission, no salary, just put me on the sales floor. Pay me a nickel for every dollar I bring in. And I am going through five interviews. Because Oscar Miss Kelly, who was my Sunday school teacher, basically was afraid because I had already had my own business that I would not be able to adapt to the Miss Kelly way of doing things. And so, they were very hesitant, just to hire me as a salesperson. So eventually, I convinced them to give me a shot. And here we are 26 years later, and I’m still trying to convince them that I can adapt to them as Miss Kelly way. 

Mark Kinsley: 

What a, what a great transition. I mean, you clearly were in the bedding business, you understood mattresses, but it was really focused on a category of seeing decline. Whenever you, what was the mattress industry like back then. I mean, obviously, there was a selling difference whenever you went from waterbeds to selling you know, innerspring mattresses. So, what was that? What was that like early on? I mean, was, was it pretty much the same thing like people just need a good night’s sleep and they’re trying to find it, or have things changed and that message has changed over the years. 

Dr. V: 

Well, I mean, the message has always been consistent. The number one reason why people buy a mattress because they need a better night’s sleep. So that message hasn’t changed. What was changed is back then you had, you know, especially like when you look at brands like Sealy, you know, it was firm, firmer and firmest. I mean, that was the whole concept. And of course, waterbeds were everything but that. So, the idea of sleeping on an inner spring contraption, was completely foreign to the way that I had sold for the 10 previous years. But you really started to see in the 90s, this change, where comfort was becoming a bigger issue, it’s where we started introduced the concept of comfort stories. Most models back then came in three comfort levels, a firm a plush and a villa top. So, you had kind of the, the three different levels. So, you really started to see a change, where firmness just meant that it was firm, for and of itself is not better, because if it was, we’d all sleep on the floor. So, support became important. And so, you saw the messaging change from the type of support level that you needed. And then what was your comfort level. In other words, if I step on the floor, it’s really hard. If I put a pillow underneath my foot, it’s softer, but the support level didn’t change. And so, it became more of a story of support and comfort, in really customizing the comfort to the customer and so, the selling style changed. We’re now you were doing what we called comfort selling back, in the 90s. And some of that obviously is still used today. But when I started with Miss Kelly’s, we probably were 7%, 6, 7% of our business was mattresses, it was treated as a commodity. I’ll never forget how I became the Doctor V and how that sort of originate is, Thomas Miss Kelly had won some sort of trip from the TV stations. He was going to be out of town, we had the Tupelo furniture market coming up. And so, I asked her and chip, they really were looking for a driver that would drop them off at the front door because parking was really bad, you had to walk a really long way. So, they came up with an idea to have a sales contest. And whoever won the sales contest would win a trip to Tupelo, Mississippi for the Tupelo furniture market. And so, I thought it was a big deal. I had never been to the Tupelo furniture market before. So, I worked really, really hard. And I was the number one salesperson that month. This is probably back in 1995. And I won the honor of being the driver for the two owners so that I could drop them off at the front door there but all the way up to Tupelo the night before Chip, Skelly was asking me about the bedding business because obviously my background and I said Well really, we should treat it as a separate business. I mean, I said I really think that it is a category that you guys are missing out in. And as a result of that I kind of became in charge of the mattress portion of our business. I took it over we started our own advertising had our own advertising budget, or our own type of sales training dedicated to the whole mattress department. And so that’s how I kind of got involved. So, we started out 6, 7% back in the 90s. Today bedding is 25% of our business. So, it’s a major category for us. Major revenue center for us and the profit margins are good, but not only in terms of just the products that we sell, but obviously it’s a whole lot easier to deliver a mattress set to a consumer than it is a bedroom set or even a living room set. You’re able just to take it in set it down. So, the efficiencies all the way around and growing your mattress business is just exponential. Now it can perform in the bottom line. 

Mark Quinn: 

How did you even put the lab coat though the way?

Dr. V:

So, the lab coat you were talking in that, back then we were a big Simmons dealer. And as a and Simmons had a commercial called the bowling ball commercial where they would drop a bowling ball on the mattress and there was the individual pocket coils in the pendant and fall down. The guy in the commercial were lab coat and so for Christmas party that year is a joke because I was in charge of mattresses. They got me a jacket said Dr V mattress specialist. We being my last name of Vonderhaar and it was just simply meant to be a Christmas prank. But Miss Kelly at the time said you know what? We can market that and we started doing commercials with Dr. V has been effective reefers commercial, Chip did was called Friday night frenzy. And chip had this vision to how we would introduce the character of Dr. V. And so, he did this thing we’re going to be open till like midnight on a Friday night specials from like 8pm to midnight. So, we did this whole commercial and did in front of the mattress gallery. And I was wearing a lab coat and I was like a gazelle behind him. And all I did I know speaking, I just jumped from mattress, to the mattress, the mattress throughout the entire commercial in the back room, because it was this Friday night frenzy. And I went to him afterwards. And I was like, look, guys, if you really want to do this Dr. V character correctly. I’ve never portrayed myself as a real doctor. But I am kind of a mattress expert, by this point. I really understood the industry understood what were we going with it. So, we really had to take a more serious approach with it. And so, with that, in 1995, we decided to switch and Dr. V was born. And all of a sudden, I started doing all of the mattress commercials. And I’ve been the face basically on the skelly’s mattress for the last like 25 years at this point. So, we do it very credibly, very straightforward. But I mean, the funny thing is that a lot of people won’t recognize me without my coat but they recognize my voice. I mean, I can drive for Wendy’s and her like, you’re that sleep guy, aren’t you? You know, that kind of thing. 

Mark Kinsley: 

And I talked to Trent Ranneberger, who is a friend of ours. And you know, he’s kind of been on the show. And Trent said, by virtue of him being on TV, you can stand in line to get some food and sell a mattress. But that happens. 

Dr. V: 

Yeah, I just it’s funny how being on TV, I call it the Johnny Carson effect. I’m amazed when I can talk to customers out in the public, they realize who I am, or they recognize me. It is it’s like instant credibility, because, you know, I’ve come into their house on the news, you know, every night for 20 years, I just have instant credibility. It’s funny, because as a result, I now get the most challenging customers that sometimes are not happy with something we may or may not have done. They usually end up on my phone. I’m the one that calls them. And as soon as I mentioned that, I’m Dr. V, the whole conversation can just change. It’s really pretty amazing. We can all of a sudden bond because they feel like they know me. 

Mark Kinsley: 

And you want to, if you know somebody and trust them then just a different foundation to begin from Quinn is sharing his screen if you’re watching video, obviously you can see that but if you’re listening on the podcast, there’s a video up it says Simmons bedding bowling ball commercial. Are you going to play this for us? Now? Let’s go 

Dr. V: 

No, I’m not going to play it. I just wanted to show the nifty little lab cut there on the guy commercial. 

Mark Quinn: 

Is the origins of Dr. V. right there?

Dr. V: 

Yeah, the origins of Dr. V. Exactly. Right. 

Mark Quinn:

So, Dr. V, I have got a question.

Mark Kinsley: 

So, that’s a that was a woman on there. Not a guy. 

Dr. V: 

Yeah, I’m not sure I never seen that particular commercial. The guy’s name was actually Rudy, on the commercial that we copied it from that. 

Mark Quinn: 

I think that’s Rudy, I think you just pull off Rudy better than Rudy does. That’s right.

Dr. V: 

There you go. Fair enough.

Mark Quinn: 

So, Dr. V, I got a question for you. You know, because you’re such not just a good mattress source, but you’re really a pro at what you do and by that, I mean, you take it very seriously. You look at the category holistically. And I think you really take a lot of pride in how you present the category to the consumer. So, my question for you is, why do you think the consumer doesn’t fully appreciate that the mattress is something that delivers a great night of sleep, meaning, you know, when Kinsley and I both served on the veterans’ council, consumers, if you ask them about good sleep, intuitively, everybody knows Oh, my gosh, she asked if I sleep better than I just had this better quality of life, I looked better, intimacy is better, I tested better. My attitude at work is, they get that. But what they’re not really getting, I think a lot prior to coming into shopping for a bed is Oh my gosh. So, in their head, it’s I have a problem. My back is in pain. My bed is old, it sucks. It’s not comfortable. I have to go buy a new mattress, right? It’s not, I can’t wait. This bed is like done its job. I’m going in, and I’m going to get something for myself that’s going to literally improve the quality of my life. What have we done wrong in this industry? Or what can we do differently? Maybe that’s a better way to ask the question, to make sure consumers understand that the products that we sell are things that can directly tie back to all of those incredibly good things that we mentioned just a minute ago. 

Dr. V: 

Well, that’s a great question, Quinn. And quite simply, I think we’re actually starting down that path. 

Mark Quinn: 

Okay. 

Dr. V: 

And we’re way farther down than what we used to be. I think we as an industry obviously did a race to the bottom. In most of the advertising that we have done as an industry have been very promotionally driven. It’s I’ve got the better price, you know, or I can sell this thing to you cheaper. And so, it’s almost like we seem surprise that when we broadcast day in day out 299 mattresses, that the customer doesn’t want to spend 1500$ on a mattress when they come in, because we blast them with 299 mattresses to be the lowest price point out there. And so, we as an industry have promoted price for so long.

And I think that’s been a real challenge. I think over the last several years, though, I think you’re seeing a difference that we as an industry realized that people will invest in better night’s sleep if you tell the story. And I think Tempur-Pedic is a good example of that, you know, they were never raced to the bottom in terms of pricing, they really tried to sell it more on the benefits of what their mattresses can provide. And I think that’s what we as an industry need to focus on, we need to tell the story, no one else is going to tell the story. And if the only story we’re telling is about price, then the consumer can only have that as their frame of reference. So, I think more and more retailers are understanding that. There’s a risk in trying to build the brand. Because we know consumers are motivated by promotions and by price. And so, we want to slip into that avenue of marketing. So, I think you’ve got to really have that balanced approach of being able to link what those benefits are. And I think we’re doing it, much more so today than we were certainly back way back then. So, I’m very hopeful for our industry. I think there’s been a real switch. Even during these times, we’re trying to really figure out how do we tell the benefits of a better night’s sleep? Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the mattress, it’s about the way you sleep.

Mark Kinsley: 

I think we’re, if you’re just hopping in, we’re talking with Dr. V. Allen Vonderhaar. Miss Kelly’s will say this is the distinction we have to make. So, when you shorten it up, it’s Miss Kelly’s. But it’s actually called Miss Kelly furniture in central Mississippi. So, I just wanted like that’s the pause button reset. So, if you’re ever talking about Miss Kelly’s, so Dr. V, you are a user of door counts as well, you were talking about linking things between the mattress and sleep. But let’s talk about how door counts, links up foot traffic coming in your store with selling process and follow up?

Dr. V: 

Well, years ago, I read a book by John Lohan. And I love the way and one of his big tag lines was; you can’t improve it unless you can measure it. And that in of itself is just such a great concept now it’s obvious. But you need to have the benchmark. So, one of the reasons why we chose to go with door counts was to get a really good accurate measurement of our foot traffic when they come in. And so that was the big thing initially with it, we found it to be so much greater value than that. Because our salespeople use it to be able to capture the information for our guests, when they come through the doors. We actually get a photograph of them. It comes right up on the door accounts. We know exactly which salesperson is going to be assigned to which guests when they come in. You know one of the biggest complaints you sometimes get as a guest that goes, you know, I came into your store, I walked around for 30 minutes, and no one ever approached me. Well, we don’t deal with that anymore. Because with door counts, we’re able to capture their picture comes right up on the laptop, we know which salesperson has been assigned to who, therefore we don’t lose them. In that sense, we’re also able to capture their information, we’re also able to email them back if we know we got a particular promotion coming up, it tracks our close ratio. Once again, if we can track it, we can improve it. We can get that baseline and we can work with salespeople at an individual level. Not just as an overall type of concept to become better. 

Mark Quinn: 

Aren’t you better just guessing at it though? Come on. 

Dr. V: 

No, no, no.

Mark Quinn: 

I know is that kind of the alternative is, if you don’t have door counts, the alternative is guessing at it. The one thing that I always find funny with this is salespeople, you know a lot of times they’re like you know you want to as a manager would say oh my guy should find people in the store today. How many sales did you close? Why only closed? One but the other four people were like UPS guys? 

Dr. V: 

Yeah.

Mark Quinn:

That happens, right? 

Dr. V: 

No, that never happens at all. Somebody that comes in and yeah, that wasn’t a good up. Yeah, that was a lot. That just wasn’t a good. 

Mark Quinn: 

That was my girlfriend. She bought me a sandwich. 

Dr. V: 

Yeah, exactly. Door counts really puts it in perspective for us. 

Mark Kinsley: 

Well, we like on the show, curating things that really make an impact for people. So, you know, it’s like nationwide makes an impact, Podium makes an impact, door counts makes an impact on people. And one of the big things that Quinn and I’ve been talking about lately is this idea that retailers really do need help driving foot traffic. But to, you know, once you get the foot traffic in the door, how are you going to make sure those guys they’re taking care of and maximized and communicated with. And door counts really helps you do that. But let’s, let’s talk about foot traffic a little bit, because this is a topic that that’s what the book that we’re coming out with is, all about how to attract foot traffic and build a brand people love. Miss Kelly’s does that in a world class way. Talk about some of the things that you remember over the years, that have been amazing foot traffic drivers’ things that have actually worked to bring guests into the store? 

Dr. V: 

Well, I mean, so a couple of different things. One, we’re very fortunate we are very dominant in central Mississippi. We have a tremendous amount of market share that we have built up over the years. And so, kudos to our marketing team that really is able to get our message out of who we are, and what we are about. So, I’ll start there, because that is ultimately what drives the customers. It’s interesting. I was just reading an article that Ashley recently put out about the retention of customers, not the acquisition of customers and making that distinction. And I think that’s really important, especially in today’s term, because overall foot traffic is down. I know we’re getting this period right now through COVID. But this is these are the tailwinds that are driving business right down. But we do know that they will die off at some point. And leading up to COVID. Traffic had certainly been declining over the years, as people explored more online options or engaging more online. So, driving those people in is clearly going to always be important. So marketing is certainly one way to do that. But then also doing different types of promotions in terms of community. I’ll give you one right now, one of the things we have a tremendous outreach in terms of community involvement. And so, we were sitting around the other day, and Betsy Taber, our marketing director, came up with an idea to partner with Mississippi Blood Services, which is a great organization, donation of blood really had kind of taken a little bit of a decline during this time. And since we’re so much big partners, we wanted to go ahead and partner with Mississippi Blood Services. So, we came up with something, put it up here, seems kind of said, it’s called donate and sleep great. You see my God, there you go. So, it’s actually got a little blood drop right there in the Oh, the whole thing. So, we got a whole logo to go along with it. But this is called donate sleep great. And this is basically that if you go into anyone in history, Blood Services and donate blood, you’ll get one of those cards. And then those cards are good for a free pillow. And so, what we’re doing is, matter of fact, here’s the pillow, when we give it away. Alright, there you go, to queen size, pillow, one of those vacuum pack. And so, what it is you can go to either one of my sleep stores. I have two sleep stores, you go to either one of my sleep stores, bring the card in, and we will just give you the pillow. It’s of no charge. So, it’s like a $50 value pillow. But it’s called donate sleep Great. So, a lot of things happen. Plus, we’re going to be able to put them on all of our social media or Facebook, you know, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Plus, we’ll be able to hitchhike on the Mississippi Blood Services, Facebook, etc. So, we’re going to do this joint thing. But what it does is, it drives traffic to them. So, it’s a great community service, they get the card, it drives foot traffic into a Miss Kelly sleep store. Because that’s where the pillows are. So, we get to continue our message of donate sleep great. And while they’re there, they may or may not engage to buy a pillow, but the good thing is when they are ready to buy a mattress, they will at least have been in one of our two locations, where they’ll at least have known they had a positive experience.

Mark Quinn:

Yes, so tell me about that in terms of the impact. So, we know the obvious, which is it can drive traffic but let’s talk about the intangible that because Kinsley and I haven’t known you for very long, but we’re both strongly attracted to your personality and the kind of light that you shine. And we just, we think you’re the cat’s pajamas, okay, in a lot of ways. It, I don’t mean like a low-end cat. I’m talking about a cat like really dressed well. That kind of Tiger. Yeah, like a tiger. 

Dr. V: 

You know why I’m dressed well? yeah, I mean, you got to know what I’m not. I wear the shirt.

Mark Quinn: 

It’s not, but I loved it. You know it’s watching this right now. He’s got his dos Marcos podcast T shirt on right now, guy.

Mark Kinsley:

Wait, how did you get that? Did you get that out of the T shirt cannon? 

Dr. V: 

Yeah, I did actually. So yeah. At the 2018 bedding conference, that was down I guess in Florida. And so yeah, it was I was there at your session and you shot that out. And then I wrestled some old lady to the ground.

Mark Kinsley: 

She’s okay though. We confirmed. 

Mark Quinn: 

Well, she’s okay. Ish. Anyway, back to, back to my question though. So, we just think you’re that kind of guy. And I just want to know, like, what can you give us an idea or share a story? Maybe it’s not even from your perspective, maybe it’s from a retail salespersons perspective, about the impact that kind of thing has on people in your community? Like, what are the things that you hear at church, or when you’re at a sporting event about the company that you represent? And their perception of you guys, because of these types of things that you do? Like, what is the ultimate benefit back to your company do you think?

Dr. V: 

Well, I mean, we take a real serious responsibility, we, the owners are all from Mississippi. And this has been a Mississippi company that has been around for 41 years. And we know that we are, have the greatest amount of market share in our market, when it comes to furniture and sales. But we really believe and this is not a tagline, that we enrich people’s lives, through home furnishings. That’s why, that’s why we do what we do is we enrich lives, through home furnishings, we really do create that home environment. Now I say that because when you understand your why it gives a tremendous amount of purpose in what you do. So, I mentioned the blood one, because we were talking about foot traffic in particular as a way to drive foot traffic. But that’s no probably our biggest thing. Our biggest thing that we do is something we call the season of giving. This is huge. 

Mark Kinsley: 

This is the 25 days of Christmas. 

Dr. V: 

Yeah, this is along that exact line. That is correct. And so, what happens is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we become a fulfillment house for people in need. So, we partnered with a local television station. We’ve done it now for years, where we accept nominations from the community, there’s an actual committee that’s involved, that researches all of these things, but you can nominate someone for a season of giving. And what that means is that you basically fill out a form, you kind of tell the story, these are usually maybe this could be anywhere from a mother, who’s got kids, kids are sleeping on the floors. Or maybe they’ve had a fire, whatever the need might be. And we literally get 1000s of these requests, and then are going through and they’re vetted out, and then we end up narrowed it down to about 30 families. And then basically, we come out to their house. And we just, we just give him furniture. And it is amazing, the impact. And so at least four of these are usually televised, the TV station comes out, they do it as a news clip, and they get us actually showing up. The number one request we have during that time, is mattresses. And so, Sealy really partners with us for a year, really important partners with us in helping us come up with mattresses to donate to these people. But it is a huge community outreach program. And very, very impactful. And so, we really do believe we enrich lives through home furnishings. So, to answer your question, Quinn, that to me is really where it’s at. That’s reason why Miss Kelly’s has the reputation. We get requests throughout the year, and we fulfill those requests. Many times, nobody even knows what we’ve done behind the scenes. We only broadcast like usually four or five of them in a particular season. But it’s between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But it has a tremendous impact on the community. When you got somebody, whose kids are sleeping on the floor, and you can come in and bring them up frame and a twin mattress set and some bedding. It literally impacts their lives. And the Skellys is known for that. So, to be a part of that. So, Dr. V goes on a lot of these deliveries, because I’m always the face of Miss Kelly’s the owners have gone on and other managers have gone on them. But you literally see video of Dr. V carrying a mattress into a little girl’s home. And it’s very, very impactful. And we don’t and we really do it for the right reasons. We don’t do it for the publicity. We do it because we feel like community responsibility into our markets that we’re going to reach out and take care of people.

Mark Kinsley: 

Dr. V, I listened to a podcast that you did that was based in Mississippi. It was like a Mississippi based podcast and chip and Tommy were on there, just to kind of get prepared and hear some of the stories maybe further stories. And one of the things you talked about the season of giving and the heart behind the company. And one thing that was kind of mentioned, but there wasn’t a deep dive, was this idea when your group gets together Miss Kelly’s your team members, you take prayer requests, you’re a faith-based company of faith first company. Tell us about that. Tell us a little more about that.

Dr. V:

Well, we absolutely are. And that comes from top down. All three brothers really, you know, I have a deep belief in Jesus in in God. And so, we’re closed every Sunday, which is almost unheard of in today’s age. We’re kind of like the chick fill a, and Hobby Lobby in that sense. We’ve never been opened on a Sunday; we firmly believe that truly is family day. But yeah, we are very bold about our Christian faith. We do not hide from it. We absolutely embrace it. I’ve said many times, you don’t have to be a Christian to work for a Miss Kelly’s. But you’re going to be exposed to the world if you are because we believe in the concept of how we want to treat others. And we want to do it in a very Christ like way. So yeah, before every sales meeting, we take prayer requests, we pray over people, we have a prayer list. When our people are out, we will go visit people, you know, in hospitals, for employees around sick for some reason, we take that very serious. We feel that the Lord has blessed us for six days out of the seven, and we’re going to give that seventh day to him. We share sermons back and forth with one another. But yeah, our faith is really important to us here in skellies.

Mark Kinsley: 

That’s a cultural thing to you fly, you fly that flag and you attract the right people and you create the right culture. And the tone that gets passed along to customers is appropriate and meaningful. But what are what are some of your you know, what are some of your favorite employee stories, or maybe even customer interaction stories? Since you’re, you’re like this, this Hummingbird that goes to all different parts of the company, and you’re between the customers and you’re out donating and you’re dealing with employees and helping employees. What are some of your favorite stories about maybe customers or even employees?

Dr. V:

Wow, you know, it’s a good question. Obviously, I’ve been here a long time. You know, I don’t know if I’ve got anything in terms of, well, I had one that was kind of interesting years ago, in this was dealing with an upset customer. And I think that’s they were just not happy with Miss Kelly’s. And I ended up getting a chance to talk to him. And I think really being able to interact with our customers in a very positive way. And letting them share their visions of what have whether real or imagined that take place. It’s really important that we can respond to them. So, if I’ve got anything specific in that regard, but I’ll think about that, and I’ll save that for next podcast. 

Mark Kinsley: 

Likewise, if you thinking about like when you’ve been out in public, and people come up to you that type of thing so, you give 25 years on TV. You’re going to have some people that are like the ladies behind the scenes are like real Dr. V. fans. I’m just saying it’s probably happening.

Dr. V:

Well, I don’t know about that. 

Mark Quinn: 

You made that sound so dirty. 

Mark Kinsley: 

I meant to. I meant to make it sound dirty. That was on purpose. 

Mark Quinn: 

He’s like a nice guy. Why do you got to paint them like that?

Dr. V: 

Yeah. Thank you, Quinn. I appreciate that. Yeah, no, uh, you know, I mean, obviously, I get highly recognizable out there in the industry and a lot of people. I mean, even in, in our communities recognize me, like I said, I called it the Johnny Carson effect. But yeah, nothing specific comes to mind on customer interactions.

Mark Quinn: 

I have an idea. 

Dr. V: 

Yes.  

Mark Quinn: 

Okay. On the last, the last time you were on our show. You had a small list of reviews that came back from people who weren’t happy.

Mark Kinsley: 

Well, hold on pause button. He, this is the first time he’s been on the show. We recorded with Dr. V as part of the Podium sponsorship because he’s a Podium customer. He has been on the show yet this first time. 

Mark Quinn: 

Okay. All right. But was he on the show with Podium? 

Mark Kinsley: 

He was the sponsor? Yes.

Mark Quinn: 

I was trying to trip you up and like, actually 

Mark Kinsley: 

You can’t do that with me. 

Mark Quinn: 

I could make a formal case that he has been on the show, but I’m not going to do that. Because that’s not

Mark Kinsley: 

Oh, okay. We need a jury involved there. But I got you. I’m with you. His voice has appeared on the show before, yes. 

Mark Quinn: 

He was not featured on the show. 

Mark Kinsley: 

Gotcha. 

Mark Quinn: 

Um, well, you know, actually, he tells a funny story. He’s driving along in his car, and he’s going to listen to one of our podcast episodes, and he turns it on and it’s him to your point. Because he was listening to himself, give a promo for Podium. So, I love that that was pretty funny. But, um, anyway, during the promo session, thank you for clearing that up. The promo session, I thought was really cool because you had some things like some bad comments from some customers. And if you’re in business, inevitably, that’s going to happen, right? I think you should come back some time with a small stack. And the three of us together, can read off some of those crappy comments. And then the three of us together can think creatively around ways to totally blow them away. Come over the top with a solution to address the problem that they had. So, it’s a creative problem solver. And it’s okay when someone screws up, because it actually gives you a chance to come back at them and overwhelm them with your reaction. So, what do you think that’d be fun to do? Like, we’ll figure out really cool ways to blow people away.

Dr. V: 

Yes, yes, absolutely. I think it’d be a great idea. Oh, are we still paused by the way?

Mark Kinsley:

No, we’re rolling. 

Mark Quinn: 

No, that’s rolling. When he says pause. He just means like, he wants me to shut up essentially, is what he says. 

Dr. V: 

Got it. Sounds good. Yeah, no, that would be great. I’d love to be able to do that. And though we have a tremendous number of five stars, we certainly got some of those one star and three-star reviews out there. And I’d love to be able to address them because I think you’re right. That’s an opportunity. 

Mark Quinn: 

You know, we should do we should call some of the five-star people, just call them up and try and talk them out of their five-star rating trend, talk, talk to them into like a two star and let him defend Miss Kelly’s. What do you think about that? 

Dr. V: 

That’s great idea. I love that idea. 

Mark Kinsley: 

I am in. Well, you had another great idea for us, and it’s going to be coming up. Likely next week, you got us connected with a guy named Charlie Maloof. Yeah, and Charlie is the CEO of Broad River retail. 

Dr. V: 

Correct. 

Mark Kinsley: 

And they have a lot of Ashley furniture home stores, out on the east coast. And tell us a little bit about your friendship with Charlie. And obviously, this is a chance for us to say, hey, this is coming up, make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast, make sure you’re subscribed to the email list, because you’re going to miss out if you don’t but tell us about Charlie.

Dr. V: 

Well, Charlie is an amazing CEO and one of the most beloved CEO’s that I know in the industry. And it’s mainly because of the way that he cares about his employees, and about his guests. You know, Craig Rochelle said once that culture is either what you create, or what you tolerate. And so be careful what you tolerate while you’re trying to create, into and no one knows that better than Charlie. He’s created a culture where his people really ultimately care about each other, care about the guest experience. He is a guy who clearly understands what he is, why he is, why they do what they do. He understands his vision. And he has great purpose that he has been able to instill throughout his entire company. And it goes all the way down to the way that the warehouse people interact with one another. The sales people act with one another. He actually calls all of his sales associates, memory makers. So, no one is referred to as a sales associate. Everyone is referred to as a memory maker, because he absolutely believes that they are creating memories for their guests through home furnishings. So, if you get a chance to listen to Charlie Maloof, I promise you, you’ll get some great insight on how to better your own business.

Mark Kinsley: 

Oh, we’ve got some great insights today too. So that’s a huge endorsement. We’re excited to talk to Charlie and it’s been great getting to know the man behind the lab coat, Dr. V. Allen Vonderhaar Miss Kelly’s. Thank you so much for being here. Thanks for sharing your story in your heart and heart of your company. Thanks to all your team members who do such a great job to take the message of better sleep and firmly connect that to the mattress so people can get restorative sleep and go impact the world in the positive way. We are. We’re huge fans.

Dr. V: 

Thank you. Thank you so much for this opportunity. Just got to share the story because at the end of the day, it’s not about the mattress. It’s about the way you sleep. 


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