Kevin Price, Host of the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston) recently interviewed Jeffrey Mowrey.Here’s that interview.
About the interviewee
Jeffrey Mowrey is the Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Easy Rest Adjustable Sleep Systems. Mowrey entered the bedding business in 1988 as a distributor of a specialty bedding line in a small regional territory. As he succeeded he was granted more territory until he became one of the largest distributors in the United States for that brand. When the brand exited the U.S. market in 2007 he partnered with Mo Maghari, an executive for the former brand he represented, and started the Easy Rest Adjustable Bed Brand.
Mowrey is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Smith Business School. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Maryland Food Center Authority since his appointment by the Governor in 1998.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
Easy Rest Adjustable Sleep Systems is a leading national retailer that specializes in adjustable bed sales in the Continental United States. The company sells direct to the consumer with a personalized, in-home consultation. Easy Rest’s customers receive white glove delivery service to their home and guaranteed in-home service should they ever need it. Easy Rest is the only company in the United States who sells, delivers and services its own line of adjustable beds. Since 2007 the company has offered a modern line of high-quality, U.S.-made, electric, adjustable beds and adjustable mattresses to fit every health and comfort requirement, budget or lifestyle. Easy Rest’s beds and mattresses are made in factories in Tennessee and Kentucky. Easy Rest is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. Additional offices are located in Tampa, Florida and Minneapolis, Minnesota. There are 100 employees and 50 Independent Contractors working for the Company’s headquarter operations.
What type and size of companies do you have as clients?
Easy Rest markets their product predominantly to people with medical need, people in the 50+ demographic and to pregnant women on bed rest. Consumers purchase the product for a variety of health and lifestyle reasons.
What comes to mind when you see this topic?
As someone who has been a business owner for the past 27 years I believe the biggest issues that have grown to affect businesses today are government regulations, taxes and bloated entitlement programs.
There are more government agencies, regulations and mandates than at any time in our Country’s history and most people have no idea how costly and time consuming complying with all of them has become. As a company that sells a product nationally we are subject to federal, state and local regulations in all 48 Continental U.S. States. Compliance with Department of Transportation Regulations, Federal Do Not Call Legislation, Obamacare Implementation, Employment Regulations, Food and Drug Administration regulations, to name just a few, take up an inordinate amount of time, manpower and money.
Taxes have also become unbelievably burdensome to the average small business owner. The average American does not understand that most businesses pay their business taxes at the personal tax rate. As a result it is difficult to keep capital in the company and use it for growing the company because the tax burden for most small business owners reaches 50% or higher.
In addition to regulations and taxes another major challenge facing our company is hiring motivated employees. We hire a variety of skill levels for different departments in the company. It is particularly challenging to hire unskilled labor – people without college, and in many cases, high school degrees – for entry-level call center and warehouse and delivery positions. We are proud of the opportunities that we are able to offer unskilled and “second chance” employees and we work diligently with the city and state to help these people find gainful employment. We have many employees who have started through second chance programs and have been with us for many years and are key employees in their departments.
The problem that we face is that with all of the government allowances and programs that can be received both federally, as well as from our state and city, many people choose not to work and collect benefits instead. It is often only when benefits have expired that they look for employment. Once they have worked long enough to be eligible for benefits again they do something to intentionally get fired and start collecting benefits all over again. We regularly hear an employee who wants to get fired say “why should I work this hard when I can get paid to stay home?”
And it’s not just the entry-level employee that has this philosophy. We have sales positions across the country unfilled for the same reason. We are not a company who believes that all entitlement programs are bad. However, from our perspective and experience, it seems that they have grown too large and are now having the opposite effect than intended. Instead of being a stop gap measure to help people until they can get a job, from what we are seeing it is becoming a job in itself.
What are the best practices when it comes to this issue?
A loosening of regulations and a lowering of tax rates would be the best solution but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So in lieu of that solution it is important to really understand all of the regulations that affect your business and have processes and people in place to ensure compliance. The administrative side of the company has to be very organized and on top of all deadlines and rules. In addition, it’s important to have outside accounting and legal counsel that you trust.
With regard to the hiring challenge I think that you have to continue to look for people who are motivated by a desire to succeed and improve their personal situation. Look for the people who have an inner fire and a desire to continue learning and improving.