New Simmons CEO aims to ‘restore the focus' to bedding major
Gary Fazio says company must be more competitive
David Perry -- Furniture Today, July 30, 2010
LAS VEGAS — Gary Fazio, the new CEO at Simmons, says the bedding major must "restore the focus" to its business to become a more competitive player.
In an exclusive interview with Furniture/Today, Fazio signaled a new direction for the company, revealing the outlines of the leadership strategy he will bring to Simmons.
The bedding veteran, who left his chairman's job at Houston-based Mattress Firm to take the Simmons post earlier this month, promised an analytical approach to the business, one for which he has been noted in his bedding career.
Fazio, 59, said he is assuming the Simmons job without preconceived notions about what he may want to change at the company. In his first 60 days he wants to "take in as much as possible," he said. "I will sit and listen."
But he did identify a couple of priorities he will be pursuing: "We need to be more competitive. Our priority needs to be more revenue-focused than it has been."
Last year Simmons saw its sales plummet by 13.2%, the biggest decline of any major "S" brand. The previous Simmons management declared that Simmons had actually gained market share last year at several price points, except at those below $500, but Fazio did not put a positive spin on the company's performance.
"We didn't perform well," he said. "We will not accept that again." He also said: "We lost share last year."
What happened? "There was an inability to focus the entire organization on our course, given what we went through last year," Fazio said. The company faced uncertainty last year as a financial restructuring slowly took shape. Simmons eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, quickly emerged, and got new owners, Ares Management and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund - which also own competitor Serta.
Those new owners put Fazio into the CEO's spot as president Steve Fendrich exited the company.
Fazio said the uncertainty "distracted" the Simmons organization last year. "It was not their fault," he said. The problems were "not product or people related," he said.
He positioned Simmons as "the leader in innovation" in the industry, and said the new Beautyrest Black and ComforPedic lines debuting at next week's Las Vegas Market are strong offerings.
Asked about his initial impressions of Simmons, he said he has found "very good analytical processes" and "a very professional team."
How long will Fazio remain at Simmons? "Until the job is done," he said. "That means restoring focus, building market share and having the company run like a charm with or without me."
He elaborated on that point by saying that he is planning to install a president. "I believe in succession planning in a major way," Fazio said. "It's essential."
That was evident in the way Fazio managed that process at Mattress Firm, where Steve Stagner, Fazio's colleague, became CEO earlier this year when Fazio moved into the chairman's post.