Dale Carlsen, founder and CEO, Sleep Train

Dale Carlsen, founder and CEO, Sleep Train


A father’s disapproval to starting your own business can be daunting, but despite his father’s serious concern about the failure rate of new small businesses, Dale Carlsen was determined to go on his own as he mortgaged his home at a 22.95 percent interest rate to open his first Sleep Train store. His idea to open a sleep shop was developed while he attended California State University, Sacramento. Carlsen worked part-time at a mattress manufacturing company and quickly worked his way to sales manager. He saw an opportunity to capitalize on a new channel of distribution for mattresses — the sleep shop, rather than the traditional sources of furniture or department stores.

Carlsen eventually gained his father’s support and his wisdom that would drive his business from the first day until now — 27 years later: “Surround yourself with good people, treat them right and make everyone successful.” Fueled by his desire to offer a high-quality product, exceptional service and low prices, Carlsen, the CEO, drove his company to be one of the top West Coast mattress businesses. Sleep Train has more than 250 stores with eight distribution centers and 1,254 employees in five states.

The company’s growth over the years has been both organically and through acquisition. Carlsen is quick to say that he didn’t build this company — his people did. He has cultivated a culture of people willing to support each other and build the company. As part of that culture, he implemented an employee stock ownership plan, which he says has fostered an “invested team mentality.” With 25 percent of the company owned by the employees, it gives them the ability of being good stewards of the company’s resources.

HOW TO REACH: Sleep Train, www.sleeptrain.com