Working lunch with Rob Killgore

Mattress matters and Sleep Train success

Back Article Jul 31, 2011 By Douglas Curley

A  job well done will pay off in your  retirement plan.

If you’re in the sleep business or, more specifically, work for Sleep Train Mattress Centers or one of its two West Coast subsidiaries, that’s your mantra. While employees throughout the US are experiencing recession-related layoffs, furloughs, pay stagnation and reductions, Sleep Train employees are becoming proud holders of the company, which is employee-owned as of last September.

“It’s almost like one of those ‘just what the doctor ordered’ kind of moments,” Killgore says. “As we were looking at our 5-year strategic plan for growth and expansion, we determined it was also time to focus on succession planning. We promoted a bunch of regional vice presidents to give them a little more direct authority, we divided the company into five major regions and then we gave our employees the benefit and responsibility of ownership.”

According to Killgore, who was promoted to COO in June from senior executive vice president, the impact on staff and sales has been “incredibly positive.”

“It really has fired up our employees,” he says. “The recession was difficult on everyone in retail. But we got through it, we thought, with flying colors. We had no mass layoffs. No store closures. We were able to keep our advertising and services up, and we actually grew our market share.”

In fact, according to the new COO, in 2011 Sleep Train is experiencing one of its best years ever. Year to date sales are up 20 percent.

“I think the ESOP has a lot to do with it,” Killgore says. “It has really energized our company and all of our employees. [Owner and founder, Dale Carlsen] wanted to reward the employees who stuck with the company through the hard times. As a company, we like to do things from the ground up. We rely on our front-line people to help drive our growth initiatives and help make the customer right.

“I think our customers like it too,” he continues. “They like buying from an owner, and now all of our employees are owners.”

Occupation: Killgore, 44, was just named the COO of Sleep Train Mattress Centers. He oversees strategic planning and daily operations of the Rocklin-based company and its nearly 1,200 employees in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Killgore has been with Sleep Train for 25 years, starting as a part-time delivery driver while attending Sacramento State, where he met Dale Carlsen, founder and president of Sleep Train.

Personal: Along with his wife of 16 years, Jernee, Killgore lives in El Dorado Hills with their four children: Sophia, 5; Alexandra, 8; Isabella, 11; and Greyson, 14. The family stays busy with soccer, gymnastics, swimming and tennis and visits San Diego and Lake Tahoe on an annual basis.

Up, down and away: In 2004, Killgore earned his pilot’s license. He regularly flies a Cessna 172. “I love carving holes in the sky. It’s my getaway.” He also enjoys scuba diving. “In the sky and under the sea. What more can a guy want, other than a loving family and a great job?”

Lunch: At Ruen Thai Restaurant in Roseville, Killgore orders his favorite: Kow Pad brown rice stir-fried with chicken, fresh garlic, eggs, carrots and onions.

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