A Conversation With ISPA Chair Kathy Roedel

a conversation with ispa chair kathy roedel
Kathy Roedel

The chair of ISPA’s Board of Trustees looks at the association’s strengths and future course

Shifting consumer preferences, technological innovations and new regulatory requirements are ushering in unprecedented changes to the bedding industry, fueling the need for greater collaboration and leadership. The International Sleep Products Association recently embarked on the creation of a strategic plan to help steer its constituents through these uncharted waters.

At the helm is Kathy Roedel, chair of the ISPA Board of Trustees, and executive vice president and chief services and fulfillment officer for Minneapolis-based Select Comfort, manufacturer and retailer of the Sleep Number brand. She recently spoke with BedTimes about ISPA’s strengths, leadership strategies and her vision for guiding the association into its second 100 years.

BedTimes: BedTimes published a profile of you in December 2014 (available at www.bedtimesmagazine.com), but to refresh our readers’ memories, please tell us about yourself.

Roedel: After earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University, I began my career at General Electric, where I spent 22 years in various leadership positions for GE Healthcare and GE Information Services. In 2005, I left GE to become Sleep Number’s senior vice president of global operations. Since 2011, I’ve been the company’s executive vice president and chief services and fulfillment officer. In my daily role, I lead our supply chain and home delivery services team. My key focus is on delivering a great experience for Sleep Number’s customers, so they will build a lifelong relationship with the brand. 

BedTimes: What personal benefit do you receive from being a member of the ISPA Board of Trustees? What prompted you to join the board and assume the role of chair?

Roedel: My reasons for active membership in ISPA and for assuming the role of chair are very much aligned with Sleep Number’s strong support of all industry-related committees. We are committed to the success of the mattress industry and believe that supporting ISPA and helping set its direction will benefit the entire industry. As one of the few vertically integrated retailer/manufacturers, we bring a unique consumer focus to the work of ISPA, and we believe passionately in the importance of having a consumer-centered industry. I am excited to head our ISPA leadership team in setting forth a vision for our future, with a prioritized path that serves consumers, member companies and all constituents. We look forward to finalizing and communicating our strategic plans early this year.   

BedTimes: Why should members of our industry be actively involved in ISPA?

Roedel: Every member of the mattress industry has a unique perspective on what success looks like for themselves, their business partners and end consumers. ISPA is most able to lead and give the highest level of value when it has the broadest possible perspective. We are strongest when everyone’s voice is heard.

BedTimes: What are ISPA’s greatest strengths—or more important—its greatest opportunities?

Roedel: ISPA has a long and distinguished history of providing value to the sleep products industry and our partners through collaboration and investment in capabilities that benefit our members. Together we are stronger, and deliver benefits to our industry that individual companies may not be able to do for themselves. ISPA is recognized most often for delivering  industry intelligence and advocacy through government relations for our membership. We will build on these core capabilities as we finalize our path forward into the association’s second century. 

BedTimes: Speaking of advocacy, recycling has been a big part of ISPA’s efforts for the past several years. What are your thoughts on its efforts, success and ongoing progress? 

Roedel: First, let me say that ISPA’s government relations team provides a valuable service to our membership with early trend identification and influencing legislation through direct and partner lobbying efforts on behalf of industry interests. ISPA President Ryan Trainer’s personal expertise in this area makes him uniquely qualified to guide ISPA actions on behalf of our members.

I think one of our most impactful and trail-blazing efforts has been in the area of mattress recycling. Recognizing the trend of environmental stewardship and recycling by consumers and government agencies, ISPA deftly created a new model as an environmentally friendly and financially viable way to dispose of mattresses. By working with influential states, especially California, ISPA developed a mattress-recycling template for an industry/government partnership that benefits consumers, communities and business. With a track record of success in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island, ISPA is able to offer a replicable implementation path for other states, reducing complexity and cost for all. 

BedTimes: ISPA celebrated its centennial in 2015 and now is embarking on its next 100 years. What do you see ahead for the association?

Roedel: ISPA has an esteemed, 100-year history of leadership and value to our industry, with strong participation and collaboration of mattress manufacturers and suppliers, largely in the United States, with growth in international membership. We have much to be proud of and to leverage as we look ahead to the next decade. 

With such a successful history, it may be tempting to continue with the same agenda—to minimize risk and play it safe, to stay close to the shore. But we know that the sleep products industry continues to evolve as consumers’ interest in health, wellness and sleep, as well as their shopping behavior, changes. The lines have blurred in the definition of a mattress supplier, manufacturer and retailer. The world has gotten smaller with e-commerce and the emergence of new global players. 

As ISPA leaders in 2016, we have the opportunity to define a vision for our future that embraces the changing face of what it means to be in the business of delivering a great night’s sleep through our collective products and services.   

The ISPA executive team has begun the work of charting a course for our future, knowing that we must “lose sight of the shore” to ensure our relevance in a rapidly changing world and industry. Last fall, we set out on a journey of discovery, listening to our past, current and potential future membership to gain insights into how ISPA can become an indispensable asset to our industry as we begin our second 100 years. We know that as the International Sleep Products Association, we must engage an international membership in new ways. We will need to consider the different faces and players in our industry and the best ways to engage with them. ISPA will expand and improve our core capabilities to remain strong and advance the interests of our membership as we embark on a bold agenda.    

As the ISPA chair, I am honored to work with a dynamic team to help crystallize our goals for the ISPA of the future. I look forward to sharing that compelling vision and path forward with everyone at our upcoming ISPA EXPO 2016 Industry Breakfast on Friday, March 11, in Orlando, Florida.

BedTimes: On a personal note, how’s your daughter? Are you two still enjoying horseback riding?

Roedel: Julia now is 13 and in the eighth grade. She loves playing her violin and is in two orchestras. She also loves playing soccer on her school team and city leagues.

And yes, we both love to ride. Julia has her own horse named Glitter and has an impressive show record in English-style riding. I ride every week for fun and exercise.