My guest on the podcast today is Jeremy Andrus, the CEO of Traeger Grills and the former CEO of Skullcandy. During his tenure, Skullcandy grew from $1 million in sales to $300 million, and over the past few years Jeremy has taken Traeger from $70 million in revenue to almost half a billion with a goal to reach $1 billion in the near future.

When discussing his time at Skullcandy, Jeremy admits that while there was much he loved about being CEO, the day he left he felt a huge burden lift off his shoulders. He describes the experience like a pressure cooker, on top of which he felt a sense of dissatisfaction with his own performance.

“[I]f you ask me about my Skullcandy experience…I will tell you I loved it until I really think about it, and then I will say, “I was totally dissatisfied with the outcome and I didn’t feel sufficiently knowledgeable or good at what I did.”

So, what was the catch? The company was growing. The return on investment was high. When Jeremy left, he could have faded off into the sunset without anyone condemning him for it. But what was he really looking for?

As Jeremy considered his options, he almost passed completely on the CEO position at Traeger. What, he though, could be interesting in selling grills? But as he looked deeper into the potential of the market, Jeremy knew that he’d found something special. A space ready to be disrupted, where no one else was playing, that he could build and mold into something great.

“I want to create value. Like, I want to build something where, because of my ingenuity and hard work and thoughtfulness, willingness to take risks, I can actually build something that has value.”

Recent conversations with my own team have highlighted the fact that we don’t often feature guests that are in the Sweet Spot of Learning, an oversight that we hope to correct with this interview. Because Jeremy IS in the sweet spot—things are tough, but not too tough, and easy, but not too easy. The first five months were rough (a story you’ll want to hear!), but now Jeremy has truly settled into doing what he’s passionate about.

“I actually really love the problems we’re solving. That, to me, is the sweet spot…It’s only in the last couple of years where I’ve said, “This is it. I get to love it every day, love what I do.””

Join us as we discuss Jeremy’s journey, from childhood dreams of being a CEO to realizing he needed to be a good CEO; his short-lived but thrilling career as a day-trader; and the importance of creating experiences for other people.

Listen to the episode in the player above, or download and enjoy it on iTunes. If you’re so inclined, please leave us a review!

Takeaways from this episode:

  • Jeremy can’t think of a time when he didn’t want to be a CEO. As a child he was always looking to build a better business, or find an innovative gadget to sell door-to-door. After spending a summer working on a farm for hourly pay, Jeremy realized he preferred working jobs where he could control the outcome.
  • Ten years after college, Jeremy still wasn’t sure what he really wanted to be doing. He just knew that he was dissatisfied with his situation and wanted a disruption. In his words, he “bounced around a lot,” including a stint as a day-trader where he turned $25,000 into $2 million and then lost it all (plus another $200,000). While the adrenaline rush was exciting, Jeremy realized that just trading at the whims of the stock market was not fulfilling to him. If he couldn’t have a direct impact on the outcome, where was the value? “I want to create value. I want to build something where, because of my ingenuity and hard work and thoughtfulness, willingness to take risks, I can actually build something that has value.”
  • As CEO of Skullcandy Jeremy took the company through a period of enormous growth. However, Jeremy also felt a bit too much like he was “faking it,” and didn’t feel like he was a great CEO. When he left the company he reached out to a mentor, who helped him identify the problem. “He had a really astute observation he said, “You know what?” He said, “I think what you really want is to be better at what you don’t feel like you are great at.” And I wanted to be better at my craft.”
  • One thing Jeremy loves about his work is the growth that he experiences daily. He is not the same person today that he was six months ago, and this allows him to tackle new challenges today that he couldn’t have tackled back then.
  • On the subject of mentoring, Jeremy admits that he had a great mentor in Wayne Morino, but he feels he lucked out on the timing of their introduction and the connection they had over Wayne’s desire to help Jeremy and his company. Jeremy has tried to pay it forward but admits it can be tricky balancing mentoring requests with the needs of his own business and life. “I just want to select moments where I can actually uniquely be helpful. Being more meaningful in fewer moments.”
  • When he was first approached about being the CEO of Traeger, Jeremy was put off by the idea that there was nothing interesting in marketing grills. However, once he did his due diligence, he realized that not much has changed in the consumer experience since the 1970s, making the market a great place to build something new.
  • Even though Jeremy was excited about working at Traeger it took only a few days to realize that the culture was toxic and a lot of things needed to change. After five months of observation, Jeremy made a presentation to the board that was brutally honest in its assessment of the business. He thought for sure that he was getting fired, but he was also at peace with his assessment of the business. Despite tensions with the majority owner, Jeremy was able to push forward and overhaul the negative experience his employees had been suffering through.
  • Invest in people, not just the company.
  • Now in a period of hyper growth, Jeremy fully admits that he loves his job (with no caveats). “[W]e’re swinging big and I have confidence where we’re going and I actually really love the problems we’re solving.”

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