Why Loyalty Wins, And How An Admirable Entrepreneur Creates It.
It was my first meeting with the former CEO of SkullCandy, who is now CEO of Traeger Grills. Weeks prior, I “hacked” LinkedIn and miraculously connected with a few of America’s best entrepreneurs. My tactics were working, and this meeting was evidence. Establishing the connection to these respected entrepreneurs was a thrill, and getting to know these people on a more personal basis changed my life.
I thought to myself “I can’t believe this guy responded to my random but intentional LinkedIn message and is willing to meet up!”. Nervously and eager, I get into my car and head south from Salt Lake City, eventually arriving to his office an hour later. Jeremy greets me with a big smile and says “So, is it cool if we take your car to lunch?” “Sure thing!” I responded. I remember driving and Jeremy saying “I used to run a company in the consumer electronics space called Skullcandy. Have you heard of it?” “Of course I have! I owned a few sets while growing up!” in response. I asked Jeremy where he went to college, and he responded with “Boston”. Jeremy went to Harvard, where he received his MBA. He doesn’t seem to like telling people that however, and this brings me to lesson #1.
Lesson #1: Modesty Is Respected. Jeremy never prides himself on his successes when I meet with him. He always lets his actions speak louder than his words. When we talk, the conversation always focuses on challenges, opportunities and solutions. It is never about “ I did this or that, and now I have this much money or brought X company to their IPO”. It is about “we have this challenge in X, and we believe Y is the solution. This week we are rolling out Y to address this challenge, and Z is why I think it will work” I have always admired the modesty with which Jeremy approaches conversations. Modesty demands respect, and every leader I know practices it.
Every time I see Jeremy interacting with his staff, I am impressed by how he treats them. The administrative assistant is treated in the same fashion as the Chief Strategy Officer. Jeremy always smiles and brings humor into conversations. You can tell people like Jeremy and that Jeremy likes people. He has good relationships with everyone on his staff. Why? This brings me to lesson #2.
Lesson #2: Authenticity is Important. One of the most important lessons I acquired from Jeremy is that you must be authentic to be trusted and admired. Jeremy exercises it himself, and he makes sure everyone at Traeger Grills exercises it, too. When you visit his office, you see that his staff members LOVE the product. They use it almost everyday and are passionate about what they do. Grilling outside his office is commonplace, and it builds up this authenticity I speak to. The same applies to Skullcandy. They have a skate park built into their top floor, and supposedly on a snow day employees get the day off to snowboard or ski. Authenticity trickles from the top to the bottom of these organizations, and that’s how you build great cultures and brands. You have to be authentic to be a leader. Jeremy, along with the brands he has cultivated, is a prime example.
Have you found yourself in a conversation with someone who was condescending, who thought they were better than you and wasn’t afraid to show it? Leaders never make you feel this way. Leaders make you feel as though you are on their level, and this brings me to Lesson #3.
Lesson #3: It Pays To Practice Humility. This is similar to being modest, albeit there is a key difference that I want to make clear in its definition. This is about not thinking you are better than other people and achieving a level playing field from the onset of a conversation. Jeremy is great at this. In the beginning, I was intimidated by top executives. I would think “ but they have built this and sold that. They have so much more experience than me. What do I have to contribute to the conversation? I better just shut up and listen!” Wrong.
People like Jeremy aren’t afraid to share their challenges, and they always find ways to relate to what you are going through. They exercise empathy and value your advice just as much as you value theirs. I remember struggling with politics at the organization for which I used to work. Jeremy drew from his experience, lending me key insight that helped me better address my challenges. He made me feel like I was as capable as he was in achieving success and solving problems. He let me know that he too deals with these issues, and we worked together as colleagues and friends to come up with solutions. Humility is a powerful tool that leaders exercise day in and day out — put this into your toolbox, and surely people will respect you more for it.
When I met with Jeremy’s colleagues, I was always impressed by their creativity, their vision, their practical skill sets. It was obvious these were “A players”, and that having these members on board plays a pivotal role in creating successful outcomes at Traeger. This brings me to Lesson #4.
Lesson #4: Hire “A Players” And Place Trust In Their Capabilities. Through my interactions with Jeremy, I am certain he would agree with this idea that “I don’t hire people to tell them what to do. Rather, I hire people so they can tell us what to do.” Jeremy believes in his team, just as much as his team believes in him. From what I have seen, he recruits impressive talent to ensure impressive outcomes. He knows that he isn’t an expert in all areas of business, so he finds people who have expertise and inspires them to jump on board, to make sure they are a unit with all the know-how necessary for solving diverse sets of problems. He goes beyond just knowing them on a professional basis — he builds friendships. Those friendships create the foundations of loyalty necessary for success. And this brings me to my last point.
Humility, authenticity, placing trust in your team, and having your team trust you — all of these we know to be important. In my mind, when these moving parts come together, you build the foundations of loyalty. Loyalty creates an intense desire within to do everything in your power to make sure that you make those around you and the company successful. It is undoubtedly a key component of success. I remember having a chat with Traeger’s SVP of Sales. During this chat, he said to me “I’ve been working with Jeremy for a long time. When he decided to lead Traeger, I was ready to step down from my job to join him. What’s special about our relationship is an overriding commitment to ensuring each other’s success. I will do everything it takes to make sure Jeremy and Traeger is successful.”
Indeed, they have a great formula for success, and I am excited to see Traeger grow under Jeremy’s leadership. Accomplish loyalty in your team in a favorable market, and you too will make heaps of progress. That’s what I have learned from Jeremy, and that is what I try to execute every day at Recharge Labs.