Drama belongs on Netflix, not in business. Very early in my career, I realized how damaging interpersonal politics can be in a business. The key to team success, in my experience, has been setting clear expectations on how teams communicate and how they deal with conflict. Walking the walk is the hardest — but most important part of that.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bart Zoni, Managing Partner of Chiromatic.
With a background in bio-engineering, Bart Zoni joined Chiromatic to develop health-focused sleep solutions.
With 15 years’ experience in brand marketing, medical communications, digital engagement, strategic planning, analytics and people management, he has carried a strong focus on driving growth, fostering client loyalty and inspiring market innovation.
Zoni has helped invent and bring to marketing a variety of products including: experience in marketing branded prescription drugs, medical devices, therapeutic sleep, skincare and consumer packaged goods.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
You could imagine that a neuroscience background and career in pharmaceuticals usually doesn’t lead into mattresses! When the opportunity arose to develop a new health-focused sleep system, something clicked. The last great public health frontier is sleep — and virtually nobody is addressing it. I saw Chiromatic as an opportunity to bring a true science-based approach to an industry that’s been driven more by marketing than innovation for the past 100 years.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most meaningful moments always involved walking through unexpected doors and taking chances.
The most memorable story was more of a disaster — I set up an important medical conference on a cruise line off the North Sea in Norway. Thought it would be cool — but was I wrong. That sea is like a carnival ride. What do you do with 100 seasick physicians? There’s a joke in there somewhere…
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Right now we’re working on developing sleep systems with our LoomAir 3D technology for mattresses. It’s a game-changer for how a mattress interacts with your body and is designed to supercharge the health benefits you get from sleep. Mind and body. The problem with mattresses from the past 100 years is that they are always a compromise between support and comfort. We think you should have both.
The stories we’ve had from customers have been amazing; whether that is someone suffering with back pain or perhaps waking up with numbness getting relief. One of my favorite stories is a woman who called after sleeping on the new technology for a few days to say she’s walking her dogs without pain for the first time in recent memory. We want people to live their best life and our sleep concepts can be a big part of that.
How do you think this might change the world?
Sleep disruption is the silent health crisis of our time. Too little sleep and, more importantly, low quality sleep is linked to anxiety, depression, obesity, lower back pain, heart disease and even cancer. With this, one third of adults and up to 40% of young people have sleep disruption. I believe that our LoomAir technology could make a huge dent in this problem because the right bed is a big part of getting more health benefits from sleep.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
In a world of gadgets, software-driven solutions and technology that tracks your every move — I think our technology represents a simple elegance that I find very appealing. The #1 design rule we followed when developing LoomAir 3D was this: IT WON’T PLUG IN. The centerpiece of our platform is a marvel of textile weaving that creates a dimensional 3D mesh out of recycled water bottle material. The magic comes from the physical properties of these textiles and how they are combined with other layers in the mattress. No data. No batteries. No firmware updates. It feels great!
In some ways, the uber-connected world is causing stress, anxiety and sleep disruption that Chromatic is seeking to remedy. We didn’t want our technology to be part of that problem.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
When we were deep in our R&D phase, I went out to hit some golf balls and clear my mind. My golf bag had this mesh material on the strap to relieve pressure from the weight of the bag and the bells went off. This revelation couldn’t fix my awful golf game, but it set us on a path of discovery that led to the LoomAir 3D design we have today.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
We think the key to driving change is taking the conversations about mattresses and sleep away from mattress sales floors and online e-tail and bring it into the doctor’s office. Your bed and your sleep environment is a health choice, not just furniture. That’s why we partner with Chiropractors and other health providers to spread the word. That shift will ultimately be good not only for mattress buyers but for public health as a whole.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
The way we’re building support and relationships in the clinical community is at the heart of our approach — but the “retail” experience we’re designing for our Experience Center in Morristown NJ is very different than industry norms. The mattress buying experience is completely broken. Buying a mattress is a very important health decision, but today you make that decision by walking into a warehouse sized room filled with salespeople and hop onto 20 beds for 2 minutes each. Then you buy one.
We’re taking a more consultative approach by choreographing an experience where we learn about a person, their health, their sleep environment and their needs. Then we match a system to their unique physiology and preferences based on science. We even will be offering instant consults with health professionals as a service.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There’s a preeminent pediatric allergist, Dr. Gary Rachelefsky, who I had the great pleasure of working with for many years on really beautiful National health initiatives in asthma. He was not only one of the most brilliant medical and scientific minds of our time but he taught me more than anything else how to make that science relatable, likable and easy. The secret to fixing health problems isn’t just the science — it’s how the science becomes part of society.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Making things that help people heal and feel better in their lives is truly a wonderful vocation. Working with local charities to distribute free health products to people in need has been an extension of that. One of my favorite initiatives was sending shipments of special numbing gels to combat veterans in Afghanistan. Apparently the biting insects there are a nightmare, and we were able to bring a little relief to the men and women serving there.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Changing is not quitting. Sometimes a “never-quit” attitude leads to clinging to failing strategies. Cutting a product or initiative that you put your heart into was always very hard for me — but business moves fast and hanging on to old ideas can be very costly. I once co-founded a business based on 4 products. Two years later, three of these were on the shelf. It saved the business.
2. Drama belongs on Netflix, not in business. Very early in my career, I realized how damaging interpersonal politics can be in a business. The key to team success, in my experience, has been setting clear expectations on how teams communicate and how they deal with conflict. Walking the walk is the hardest — but most important part of that.
3. Curiosity is fuel for success. In one of my first jobs, I was told not to ask “why” and just do things. I left for a company that encouraged asking “Why?” — guess which one stayed in business? Curiosity is really the fuel for success.
4. “You think you know… but you don’t know” — I wish someone had told me A) How much I don’t know and B) How strongly I’d feel that I did know these things. Learning to question myself constructively has been a great source of personal growth.
5. Get some sleep. My personal experience with sleep was migraines. A busy social life, frequent all-night work sessions and a feeling of invincibility left me with terrible migraines early in my career. Taking care of myself and getting a good night’s rest was all it took to get back on track. Maybe it’s why I believe so much in what I’m doing now!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Take your nights back. Slow down. Disconnect for an hour. Leave the phone out of the bedroom. Talk to your family. Sleep 5 more hours a week. It sounds small and trite, but if everyone did these things — we’d be so much stronger, healthier and energized to tackle the world’s problems!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” -Catherine of Sienna
There came a point in my career when I realized that I have the most value when I nurture my greatest intrinsic strengths rather than growing into a mold someone else built.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
60 seconds? How about 10?
Bad mattresses and poor sleep cost Americans $300billion every year. Chiromatic is the only health-focused mattress brand with technology that can change not only how people sleep but how they live. Let’s put a dent in this problem and share the spoils!