Actor Jon Hamm uses voice to tell inspiring story of family business

Hamm joined Scripps News to discuss narrating the story of Hästens, a family-run Swedish bed manufacturer that has truly stood the test of time.
Posted at 2:22 PM, Apr 02, 2024

The character of Don Draper, an advertising executive on the award-winning show "Mad Men," is known for being a no-nonsense businessman who will go to any length to close a deal. But now actor Jon Hamm, who portrays the iconic character, is using his voice to share the inspiring story of a family business and how it's persevered for generations.

"When Business Is Love: The Spirit of Hästens: At Work, at Play, and Everywhere in Your Life" is written by Jan Ryde, the current CEO of Hästens and fifth-generation family member to head the Swedish bed manufacturer. 

In the audiobook, Hamm narrates the Hästens origin dating all the way back to 1852 and how the company has evolved over the years to become a prominent worldwide brand known for its high-quality, handmade luxury beds. The Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor joined Scripps News Tuesday morning to talk more about Hästens' history, lessons the company learned along its journey, and what inspired him to share the story.

"This project kind of came across my desk and I started looking into it and I thought it was actually kind of an inspiring story of a different way to kind of not only run your business, but how to think about life and engage with life on many levels ," Hamm reflected. "As you mentioned, this is a fifth-generation company — well over 100-year-old company — that started making saddles back in the 19th century, and beds, and has persisted throughout generation after generation after generation, and is now kind of the premier bedmaker in the world."

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Hästens has a longstanding reputation for manufacturing some of the finest beds in the world by using natural materials to create luxury pieces. And while some of their finest beds can sell for upwards of $400,000, Hamm says the story about Hästens is less about exclusivity and more about a company creating an inclusive and positive work environment — a symbolic antonym to the cutthroat character he plays in "Mad Men."

"There's a better way, and this [story] is sort of a roadmap for that better way," Hamm said. "Treat your customers, treat your employees, treat the business the way you would want to be treated. You can look at it antagonistically as this sort of zero-sum game ... but I think we've evolved, hopefully, evolved past that way of thinking to a more magnanimous and — as Jan puts it in the book — 'infinite' way of thinking of business."