Jeremy Andrus of Traeger Grills is no ordinary entrepreneur. He has taken two consumer brands public — Skullcandy and Traeger — and they have become cult favorites.
In a recent interview with CEO.com, when asked about the lessons he learned from taking Skullcandy public that he applied to Traeger, Andrus noted the myriad of challenges running a public company has — from managing the Street to setting guidance to storytelling. He quickly pointed out that being a good CEO is a very different job than being a CEO of a public company.
Andrus recognized the adversity he faced at Skullcandy and the need to take a different approach at Traeger. As he says, "Adversity is important. Going through tough things with the right attitude and perspective, coming out the other side feeling stronger and more confident. You can do more than you could have done before. It's the best thing in the world." He is now emphasizing the experience that customers have with Traeger above all else and is building a vibrant and dedicated community around it.
What makes Traeger's community so unique is the bond that it creates. It's a feeling of belonging that's fostered through the experience that customers have with grilling. People come together to share a meal, allowing them to connect and have meaningful conversations with one another. Andrus calls this "Traegering," and it's been instrumental to Traeger's success.
When asked how he manages to sustain and grow the community when global events present significant challenges, he talked about how they pivoted to an all-digital strategy and created Traeger Kitchen Live. The series has been an enormous success, with it reaching 150-200k viewers every week. Andrus believes that the success of the series is because it has enabled Traeger to "get in everyone's living room, on everyone's back porch," and create an experience that customers weren't able to have in person.
However, the pandemic presented several financial and operational challenges besides the temporary disruption it caused to the typical Traeger experience. From supply chain issues to a massive decrease in grill sales to transportation costs skyrocketing, Andrus noted that "margins got crushed" and that Traeger "needed to rebuild and reimagine" the business moving forward. He also shared how Traeger was fortunate to have a talented team and a supportive board to help them through this period of difficulty and uncertainty.
The challenges faced by Traeger during the pandemic have not dampened his enthusiasm about the future, though. Andrus has high hopes for Traeger over the next few years and believes they will continue building a magnificent company. He recognized the opportunity not just to survive but to be more robust and efficient moving forward, and he remains hopeful that times will get better for the consumer industry.
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