Robert B. Trussell, Jr., Bus Ad ’74
To a finance guy, it’s pretty much all about the numbers. So when Bob Trussell did the math — 10,000 minus 70 to be exact — he discovered he was 9,930 units short of his sales commitment the first year he distributed Tempur-Pedic Swedish mattresses in the United States.
“It was close,” laughs Bob. “We turned it around by convincing the company’s owners to make a pillow marketed through chiropractors,” he recalls, adding they couldn’t even pay for the first shipment.
Sales reached $300,000 that first year. Only a year later, they hit $2.5 million, six million the next. By the time Bob retired in 2006, the company’s sales totaled more than $1 billion worldwide, becoming the most profitable mattress company in the world.
To a man who spent 20 years in the racehorse business before it softened, it’s appropriate to say he’d hit his stride. Bob had taken a calculated risk, backed in part by his entrepreneurial spirit and his financial know-how.
“My Marquette education served me well,” he says. “Finance is all about learning how to evaluate risks. When you’re growing a business, you spend half the time trying to figure out the ‘whys.’ We had a good month. Why? Were we just lucky? Was it because of one good customer? Is it sustainable? A lot of [knowing what questions to ask] dovetails with my education,” Bob says.
In addition to mental know-how, Bob also appreciates his unwavering faith. As his career in the horseracing industry came to an end, “Our family was in crisis and we didn’t know what we were going to do,” shares Bob. “Our faith got us through. We rolled up our sleeves and went to church. We put our faith in God.”
Now that Bob is retired from running Tempur-Pedic International and is vice chairman of the board, he says he’s enjoying dedicating time to Catholic causes, such as forming a Catholic radio station, producing pro-life commercials on television, and launching a media campaign to inspire discouraged Catholics to return to their faith.
Was it a difficult transition from CEO to board member and volunteer? “It was and it wasn’t,” offers Bob. “The fun part was building the business from nothing. Your heart was in your throat half the time,” he recalls.
Not exactly comfortable for most. But for Bob, that’s just part of the thrill.