Grilling Up a Storm
Recently graduated from BYU, Jeremy B. Andrus (BA ’96) was applying to consulting firms for jobs. He sent out 22 applications. The first 21 would not even give him an interview; Andrus could not understand why he was not being given a chance. The last firm, the Monitor Group, hired him.
“I saved those rejection letters in a plastic bag. I felt this need to prove to the firms that would not even give me an interview that I could succeed,” Andrus says.
In the twenty years since, Andrus graduated from Harvard Business School, led Skullcandy® from start-up through IPO as CEO, and became the CEO of Traeger Grills, the position he now holds. It is safe to say he has proven he can succeed.
When Andrus joined Skullcandy in 2005, he didn’t think Utah would be a long-term home. “Utah wasn’t a thriving entrepreneurship place at the time. Going out to raise money for Skullcandy was hard. We met with every fund, and there was no interest,” he says. However, this has completely changed in the last few years. “The Marriott School has caught the vision of how to inspire, educate, and mentor entrepreneurs, and the community is really benefitting from it.”
He is now an important part of that vision as he mentors and works with BYU students. Just recently, two students sat in his office for over an hour discussing ideas to build a product to improve communication amongst friends during outdoor activities such as skiing and snowboarding.
While getting Skullcandy started was difficult, its sales just exploded in 2007. “There is an element of magic in growing fast. You will have a great concept and execute really well, but nothing happens. Then you just catch lightning in a bottle and it takes off,” he says. That is exactly what happened at Skullcandy when sales grew from less than a million dollars to nearly $300 million a year.
Andrus has since hung up the headphones and picked up some tongs by becoming the CEO of Traeger Grills. He knew he had made the right decisions once he started talking to costumers, who told him things like, “This grill changed my life.”
Though Traeger Grills has been around for 30 years, Andrus insists that it is just as entrepreneurial as Skullcandy, and similar in other ways too. “Both Skullcandy and Traeger are lifestyle brands. Food is the ultimate lifestyle. This allows mainstream consumers like myself to create amazing food.”
Inspired by Clayton Christensen’s (BA ’75) assertion that “management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well,” Andrus’s first priority in his companies is creating a positive culture. “I try to create an environment where people can learn, grow, be satisfied, become self-confident, and develop new skills,” he says. “As a manager, you can make a difference in people’s lives.”
“It is important to me that when people look back at their experience at Traeger, they know this was the most meaningful part of their career.”
To get to where he is, Andrus has relied on a personal philosophy. “Business is about pattern recognition. You need to recognize what makes an organization succeed or fail. While I was looking for my next project, I wrote down what I did not do well at Skullcandy, so I could evolve. I can learn from my mistakes to get better,” he says. “There is no end point in a career. Getting better as a person is the most satisfying part of my career.”
—Collin T. Mathias ('16)