Within the massive electrical power industry, Faribault-based manufacturing company Trystar has positioned itself in a growing area of the market, ensuring critical facilities and events stay powered.
Whether it is supplying power to a large industrial construction project, providing critical backup power to hospitals and data centers, or supporting 12.5 million watts of electricity used at the Super Bowl, Trystar makes power accessible and reliable.
Take the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in 2018, for example. Electricity needs ranged from the PA system to the concessions stands to the surrounding blocks of events and business activities, which created a situation where the existing electrical grid couldn’t handle the demand. Trystar provided the equipment and support to bridge that gap.
“We’re a custom-solutions provider for the electrical power industry, which is billions of dollars big,” says Andrew J. (AJ) Smith, Trystar CEO. “Most within the industry have made it their business model to create thousands of the same thing over and over again, and they’re not willing to customize product.”
When the standard electrical grid needs to be backed up, augmented, supported, or — in the case of a natural disaster — replaced, each situation requires a different solution.
The demand for such services is growing exponentially as the under-funded and unreliable power grid becomes more taxed, Smith says. That demand has resulted in incredible growth for the company in a short period of time, with the majority of equipment going to clients nationally and even 10-15% of sales internationally.
“We will end 2022 at about 2.5 times the size we were just a few years ago,” Smith says. “That’s a pretty rapid clip.”
Smith came aboard in 2019 when the family-founded company was solely based in Faribault. Trystar has since expanded to include a Burnsville office and facilities in Troy, Mich., and Houston, Texas, which became part of Trystar via acquisition. During the pandemic, the Faribault operation moved into an upgraded 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with an additional 20,000-square-foot addition for new offices. Recently Trystar had to add an additional 75,000 square feet of manufacturing space to the facility to support the rapid growth and new product line development.
“People might assume that during COVID when all the events were being canceled that there would be less of a demand for power, but as a matter of fact, we were using the equipment for supporting things like the stand-up testing and vaccination sites that the National Guard was being deployed to,” Smith says. “We are the industry leader in these types of solutions.”
Rapid growth creates challenges, including talent recruitment and creating and training new positions within the company, says Vanel Sanchez, human resources director. There are about 200 employees in Faribault and over 100 others at the other locations, and the need for new hires has increased 20-30% per year, Sanchez says.
“The growth has really been dramatic,” he adds.
That rapid growth is part of the reason Smith and Sanchez began working with Enterprise Minnesota on employee leadership training sessions.
“We realized we had to start standardizing our process to create leaders internally and to create the Trystar leadership flavor,” Sanchez says.
Abbey Hellickson, an Enterprise Minnesota business growth consultant, began working with a mix of current and emerging Trystar leaders in spring 2022 to help support career pathways. Sessions have included communication styles and employee engagement techniques, among other things.
“We wanted to give them a common language in leadership roles,” Hellickson says.
Smith says the sessions have been valuable, and the employee feedback has been stellar.
“Because we have such great employees, the best thing we can do is train them to advance within the company, and we want our team members coming up with innovative ways for us to scale our business,” Smith says. “We also want a consistent set of tools and management philosophies.”
Sanchez says company culture works in Trystar’s favor in an industry that’s challenged by a big need for talent. Founded in 1991 as a family company, those initial customer-centric values trickled down through the decades of employees.
“It is a family-like culture where employees are going out of their way for each other, and all of them are rallied around this single mission of serving the customer no matter what,” Smith says. “That’s what I’m really focused on maintaining as we grow.”
That culture results in word-of-mouth referrals from current employees, Smith continues.
“Most of the time, your best recruitment and staffing comes from networks of your employees, and the environment we’ve created has allowed us to do better than most,” he says.
Looking forward, Smith says he doesn’t see an end to the demand and growth. Data centers are popping up all over the country, large-scale special events are rebounding after the worst of the pandemic, and natural disasters will continue to occur.