Last updated on December 9, 2022 - My Free Marketing newsletter 👀
Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack, is a 71-year-old Houston-based entrepreneur with a net worth of $300 million.
Besides being well-known for his philanthropy (he does a bunch of things around the Houston area to give back to people in need) he’s well-known for making INSANE million-dollar bets on various sports games.
You might think he has a crazy gambling problem. But actually, these are very strategic marketing campaigns to promote his furniture store.
In this post, I share how Mattress Mack grew his small furniture store into a $200 million dollars a year empire, and we got the behind-the-scenes scoop on how he pulls off these massive bets without impacting his net worth and his company’s longevity.
Plus, there’s a lot of great life advice along the way.
Let’s dive in.
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Mattress Mack bet $10 million dollars on the Super Bowl and LOST… but somehow still made money.
How did he do it?
Well, let’s just say that he’s not one to do things the conventional way. But he is one to succeed, even in seemingly crazy circumstances.
He went from living on his parent's couch decades ago, to being a legendary $200 million entrepreneur. So I sat down with him to get to the bottom of his story…
I had a health club business way back in the ‘70s. We expanded to too many locations, went broke, and then at that point, I didn't have any money. So I moved back in with my parents, which was kind of self-defeating.
One Sunday morning, I got up and turned the television on and there was a religious program where a preacher was preaching messages. So I started to watch for a while, and he said, “Let me tell you something: the world doesn't know you a favor. You owe the world a favor… Get up, go to work, and make something out of your life.”
I went out the next day and got a job at a small furniture store there in Dallas. Turns out, I found something I was good at and got into the furniture business.
You do what you have to do and you enjoy the price.
Now that Mattress Mack discovered something he was good at, he jumped on the opportunity to turn his new skill into a highly profitable business.
My wife and I came down to Houston with $5000. We started our business with a bunch of abandoned model homes out on the highway and the odds against us succeeding were about a million to one.
All of her friends, neighbors, and relatives back in Dallas—probably all mine, too—were thinking that we were going to fail and come back to Dallas But Linda and I both had a great big unfair advantage. That unfair advantage was called desire.
You can do anything you want to do if you want to do it bad enough. I believed that in 1981 and I believe that is just as true today.
Failure wasn't an option for Mattress Mack. The more we scratched beneath the surface, the more it became abundantly clear that instilling positive values and beliefs are key to his business success. And Mack really takes this to the extreme.
He has a secret bathroom in the back of his furniture store just for himself (where he also sleeps on the floor during hurricanes or ice storms) and for years he’s been writing inspirational messages all over the tiles, like…
“Difficulties are stepping stones to success.” I don't think that's taught in schools as much as it should be. It's kind of like getting beat in a football game—you don't get a participation trophy. You either win or you lose.
Having core beliefs and principles are Mattress Mack’s key success now, but in the early days of his business, it wasn't enough to get a constant flow of customers coming through his store. If Mack wanted a thriving sustainable business, he needed a LOT more people to hear about it.
So he purchased an ad slot on a local TV station, and recorded a commercial that went viral (before going viral was even a thing).
My famous line was, “Gallery Furniture will save you money!” and I said that 10 million times. I can't tell you how many parents have told me that the first words out of their child's mouth was not Mom or Daddy, it was “Save you money.” Because of how fast television moved back then, people came flooding in and bought furniture and we kept going from there.
That day they made about $25,000 in sales, which was an enormous amount of sales at the time… Now, the most sales Gallery Furniture has made in a day is about $4 or $5 million dollars.
In a DAY.
From being broke to appearing in his own legendary commercials, MattressMack finally started getting major recognition across the nation. Everything seemed to be going right… But this success was abruptly stopped in its tracks.
I was at the front of the store, it was Thursday night before Memorial Day, and one of the warehouse guys called me and said there was a fire in the back. I said, “Well, put that sonuvab*tch out.” Firemen ran in there with this alarmed look on their faces and started screaming, “Everybody out, everybody out, everybody out!” And I told them, “I’m staying here, I’m going down with the ship.” And they said I could either get out or get arrested. So I stumbled out, looked over, and the flames were going up 40 feet in the air. It was just this huge fire. We had $10 million dollars of merchandise in that warehouse and it burned up in about 30 minutes.
The damage done to the warehouse was irreversible and for most people, this would be the end of the road. But Mack didn't give himself a second to dwell on his misfortune.
We had opened up a little store two months before in Westheimer, a main shopping area of Houston. We moved into that warehouse by three o'clock in the afternoon, the trucks got there, and we delivered $250,000 worth of furniture that next day. “What does not destroy me only serves to make me stronger.”
Things would slowly go back to normal, but this setback didn't stop Mattress Mack from taking one of the biggest risks of his career: The huge bets he places on sports games.
It's a promotion. I started it way back when the Texans first played the Cowboys in the first regular season NFL game between those two teams. I said if the Texans beat the Cowboys, you get your furniture for free. The Texans were ahead at halftime, but they ended up losing. So that bet worked out real well.
Then we did one for Houston vs. Seattle—that was $9 million dollars in liability. I was in the exercise room for three hours because I was too nervous to watch the football game because my liability was $9 million dollars. The phone rang at the end of the game, and it was my wife. So I asked who won the game and she said, “Seattle won, dummy. We’re out $9 million dollars.” But sales were way up. That was a tremendous two-week period.
From the outside, it looks like Mattress Mack just loves to gamble. But there’s an extremely clever marketing strategy behind these bets. Here's how it works:
Is it genius or does he just love to gamble? I'll let you decide.
But there are lessons we can learn from the madness.
Late to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise. You’ve gotta promote your business. Quiet businesses don't get a lot of business. You gotta get out there and you’ve got to advertise. You’ve gotta promote yourself whether it's online or analog. You’ve gotta get people in the store buying things and then you’ve gotta take care of those customers. If you take care of them after they buy something, that’s such a rare thing nowadays, so you'll get tremendous loyalty.
And his advice on how businesses can compete with the IKEAs and Amazons of the world is golden…
You become part and parcel of the community and if you do that, people will want to do business with you. And if you treat them right over the long term and take care of their problems, they’ll come back. We're high-touch. Amazon's high-tech. Good for them. We approach it from a different point of view. Every day I try to call about 90 customers. If I get through that list, I'm happy.
I had to ask Mattress Mack a couple of questions about life in general. First: Does he ever think he’s working too hard?
That never crossed my mind. I've heard so many people retire and they’re dead six months later because work gives meaning, purpose, and accomplishment to life. People ask me all the time when I’m gonna retire… I’m gonna die at the front desk and I’ll die happy.
And for someone who's just starting out in their career and wants to be wealthy and successful, this is what Mattress Mack had to say about that…
We all get pigeonholed. I think you need to fail forward fast. Try 10 or 12 different jobs and find one that you love and then you'll never have to work a day in your life. If you like what you do, it makes life worth living.
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