As a part of our series called ‘Five Things, I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Bremmerer.
Josh Bremmerer is an innate navigator, an experienced leader in the boating industry with over a decade of experience in management and company development and a lifelong passion for boating. As the manager of Glacier Ski Shop, Josh grew the small Shop into a nationally recognized business and increased profits by 400%. With that background, it’s no wonder Josh started his own business in the boating industry: Komodo Covers.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My career path started in the kitchen. At the age of 16, I left school to enroll in a culinary arts program. For two years I spent my time working in restaurants while going to school in the morning. At the age of 18, I spent my next six winters traveling and competing in free skiing competitions in Canada and the US. At the same time, I was working in restaurants initially as a line cook and eventually became a full-on chef. I would work part-time in a ski shop to subsidize my habit throughout all of this. At the age of 25 I sold everything I owned and moved to the French Alps, where my now wife worked in a 45 person slope-side chalet. After we came home from our year abroad, I worked in my family catering company for the summer catering high-end weddings and events. Then for a brief 1-month stint, I sold cars at a Subaru GMC dealership, after which I got an opportunity to manage a small family ski shop. I spent the next eight years managing the ski shop, growing the shop by 400%, and fully digitizing the rental and sales process, including a ground-up development of an eCommerce store and boot fitting spin-off. After my departure from the ski shop, I received another opportunity to help open a marine department of a large Powersports shop — Komodo was always the plan. The marine dealership was an enlightening experience, and I have used the connections I made in those two years every day here at Komodo.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
For our first prototype cover, we used a friend’s boat as our test mule and worked with a manufacturer that claimed they had 40 years of boat cover manufacturing and design under their belt. We provided them with a CAD design of the cover and they took it from there. They insisted on scanning and measuring the boat themselves. So we accommodated and towed the boat down to their factory so they could have it for a few days. They quoted a 12-week build and design timeline after picking up the boat, which was now in need of a detail. We waited and waited, partially due to COVID-19-related shutdowns, but seven months later, I got a call from our friend who was loaning us the boat. He told me that he sold the boat and it was departing on Friday — this was very unexpected. So I called the manufacturer immediately and scheduled a test fitting for Thursday night before the boat got picked up on Friday morning. We showed up to the manufacturer on time and were graced by a “stalling tour” of the factory — the cover had not been completed. After three hours of waiting, it was ready for a test fit. The manufacturer had taken our cad designs and thrown them away. The cover weighed over 80lbs, was the wrong material, and had a nonfunctional airframe — it was not what we ordered. This was an excellent learning experience in keeping control of your IP and tools. What we learned from this is that you need to control your designs and the test mules.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We needed to make our cover a usable weight, and somehow, when I was ordering custom hardware to lighten up the cover, I got it into my mind that our Cover belt was 1” 1/2 when in reality it was 1”. This would not have caused problems but I already had 1” in ratchets, so Komodo is now the proud owner of 2000 custom aluminum G- hooks that are not compatible with our covers. The lesson still rings true in my mind today — triple check everything. Is anyone interested in Komodo Belts?
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Drew Adams of Glacier ski shop, Drew was one of the partners of the shop I managed. He has a wealth of first-hand knowledge on business structure and is always good for a long conversation over beers on leadership, P&L, and is never afraid to take calculated risks. After a late night at the shop, Drew was giving me a ride home from work, and we were chatting about business goals. He told me that a business is like a football team — “the quarterback may be the highest-paid player on the team, but without an offensive line, he is going to get sacked.”
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Customers are a diverse group, so the company needs to represent our consumer group best to serve them.
In Komodo, we like to think of ourselves and encourage the culture of embracing the company as an inclusive lifestyle, as a family in which every team member plays a key role and complements other areas.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
- The first step I would take is to take all the money out of politics
I don’t have a personal story to share on this but it seems to me that the pay to get what you want system does not help the wage and opportunity gap instead it gives huge advantages to big companies and the wealthy.
- Hire on experience, not education.
When I am looking for a new member of our team, I look for people with the skills and the aptitude for the position, with a heavy weight toward aptitude. We create products that are unique, so no one has ever built them before so looking for someone with the exact experience required was not an option.
- Third, I would make secondary education free.
I think a lot of people could be great innovators. With a current engineering or business degree costing upwards of 100k it eliminates 50% of candidates for our businesses. I believe that with a larger educated pool of applicants we would be able to hire a more diverse, more effective team.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
Our Job as executives is to steer and motivate. We are involved in the company’s direction and are always thinking long-term, and are less involved in the nitty-gritty of the HOW. We facilitate our teams getting to the HOW.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
We are not all evil. We care about our teams, and we are not here to take over the world, just specific industries.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I thought I would have more flexibility in my schedule. But as it turns out, you always have a boss. Investors, manufacturing partners, and employees all need your time, so I just work more than I thought I would.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
No, I think in order to be an executive, you need to be able to dream big and crush goals. It is not a position that lends itself to flight or fight, you need to be a fighter. I don’t mean hot-headed. Under adversity, you need to find a way to win. A win may be a compromise, but you always move forward and learn from your mistakes.
The type of people who should steer away from this position are people who do not work well under pressure, people who like relaxing, people who are set in their ways, and people who think they are the smartest person in the room.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
It is all about caring for the people you work with and viewing them as whole people. We try to do something special for big milestones and personal occasions at our company. We try to help them fulfill their passions. For instance, we bought them tickets to the local ski area for one of our engineer’s birthdays.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
We try to share as much as we can of our daily activities, tips, insights and experiences to bring as many people into the Komodo lifestyle (an inclusive, positive, familiar & fun environment) as possible.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Its going to take time. Business does not move at the same pace as consumer interactions. I went to open our first business bank account with Bank of America, and I was expecting a 2-week turnaround. After sending signature cards, it took almost six weeks to open a bank account.
- 50 to 60 hrs a week is normal. When you are the CEO of a company, there is always a fire to extinguish or a meeting to make. I went on my first vacation after I started the company, a wonderful family trip to France, and while I was away, I was inundated with last-minute decisions that could not wait for my return. It is about the ability not to let 20 minutes of work not ruin your afternoon.
- Designing and manufacturing are two very different things. From paper to production, there are thousands of decisions to make. Like many companies, we had a concept, and the product seemed simple to us. The technology we were using was proven in other sectors, and we needed to integrate them into our product. 15 engineers, two million dollars, and two years later, it was just that easy.
- The process is painful. You only fail when you stop. Throughout this process, you need to get very comfortable with iteration. When you’re inventing, whether it be a process or a product, you will not get it right on the first try. We started very optimistically about the simplicity of our designs. As we progressed, we realized over time that it is complicated to make things simple for the consumer, and eventually, if you keep working, the problem will evolve into a product.
- In the big picture, all problems are small. The important thing for you to do as a leader is not to get stuck in a hole. You need to always be looking at the big picture. We ordered our initial run of custom fabric (8000 yards MOQ), and after four months of outdoor testing, we ran into the condition that it was not up to handling — sub-zero temperatures and 60mph clocking winds caused the fabric to crack. This is the kind of problem that can stop a company in its tracks. We just contacted the manufacturer and informed them of the problem and moved on with a plan to sell the fabric on eBay. Never stop!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Outdoor activity movement, I would like to get everyone to stand up, get outside, and spend time together sharing activities. No time for politics, religion, or all of the things people spend their time worrying over, just blood, sweat, and laughs.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Speed is safety” If you keep moving forward, you won’t be stuck in the past. Plus it keeps life interesting and what more could you ask for.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Elton John seems like a rad dude, and I guarantee it would be fun.