Growing Together

"Many CEOs are most concerned about the deal. But that's the wrong way to think of it. It's like getting married. Any deal will be fine. But what's the impact of marrying the wrong person?"

Steve Gunn

Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO

Sleep Country

Back to CEOs

CEO Insider: Steve Gunn, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Sleep Country

Sleep Country is the largest mattress retailer in Canada. At the time of Birch Hill's investment, Sleep Country had 159 stores throughout Canada and also operated the Sleep America banner in Arizona.

On Growing Together:

"We have had experience with several other equity partners in the past. When Birch Hill contacted us in 2008 we were a public company and our stock price had dropped with the recession looming. We decided it would be better to be private with a partner like Birch Hill. Even the best partners can get spooked in tough economic times. Birch Hill was the only group we trusted to walk through the recessionary valley with. We wouldn't have done it with anyone else."

On Working Together:

"The deal closed in the worst of the recession. Often, at the first sign of any trouble, financial partners try to grab the wheel and tell you how to drive. Birch Hill is smart. They're patient and calm. They know how to add value without interfering.

The tipping point moment – proof positive we'd done the right thing – was about six months later when we were trying to decide if we should expand or not. We thought Birch Hill might be reluctant. Their unequivocal response was, "What would you do as operators if we weren't your partners? If it's good for you long term, go ahead and do it.""

Advice to CEOs

"When choosing an equity partner, many CEOs are most concerned about the equity deal for management. But that's the wrong way to think of it. It's the equivalent of getting married. Most management equity deals will be fine, but what's the impact of marrying the wrong person?

You want someone who's smart, empathetic, who adds value without hurting your values. Financial players all appear to be smart and articulate the time of the deal, but who can you really relate to and work with for the next five or ten years? For me, Birch Hill is the best there is, period."