I was asked to be the C.E.O. of a multi-location True Value hardware franchise in West Linn, Ore. During my 5 year tenure, I increased revenues by 3x, became Traeger Grills #1 dealer in the Nation and created a retail sales website called the Pellet Grill Outlet (PGO). I used the success of PGO to design, manufacture and market a new line of wood pellet grills called the Royall Grill. I was setting my sites on Traeger's lucrative wood pellet grill market. To achieve my success, I designed a series of after-market parts designed to fit in a Traeger. I made PGO's parts superior to Traeger's parts to distinguish PGO from the other Traeger dealers.
How I made PGO the #1 Traeger Dealer in the Nation -- by FAR!
I attended industry trade shows, purchased print & broadcast advertising and taught hardware store employees some good, old fashioned salesmanship skills. I created and marketed a new line of high-end, food grade wood pellets called American Broadleaf. American Broadleaf pellets had more flavor than Traeger's pellets. I have a background in computer software so I search optimized PGO's website to come in the #1 search result position when a person typed in "Traeger Grills" on Google.
PGO Dropped Traeger when Kieth Barrish Closed the Wilsonville Plant and moved Manufacturing to China
That's when I decided to take action. I contacted a small manufacturing plant in Wisconsin who said they could make a wood pellet grill to my specifications. We called it the Royall Grill. The number one reason to purchase a Royall Grill was because it was made in the U.S.A. I am not just a C.E.O. who sits behind a desk. In this case, by fielding sales calls is how I trained the hardware store employees to be an effective sales person. That's also how I learned that Traeger's main selling point was that it was "Made in the U.S.A."
Working the phones is how I came up with several after-market products, like the 180 degree digital controller. PGO's customers were asking if the grill would go down to 180 degrees. I did some research and found a temperature control board manufacturer in Chicago. I flew to Chicago the next day and designed a new controller. The 180 degree controller became another reason for PGO's enormous success. No one else had a wood pellet grill that could cook at 180 degrees except PGO.
I expanded the business to another location in downtown Portland across the street from the new M.L.S. soccer stadium. The new store was a hit with the soccer fans who drew a line around the block when I sold BBQ sandwiches from the meat that was cooked on the Traeger Grill. I used the new location to cross-market PGO's wood pellet grills. Things were going great until the manufacturing plant in Wisconsin started selling Royall Grill's to PGO's competitors. That was the year I learned a very hard lesson about contract negotiations.