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Tips From The Top: One On One With Omaha Steaks’ Todd Simon

I spoke to Todd Simon, a fifth generation owner of Omaha Steaks, about his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Todd: Even though I went to business school, I took some time to study photography for a full four years alongside my business curriculum. But nowadays, my true passion outside of the family business is community service.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Todd: I think even though we are a fifth-generation family owned business, it was never a forgone conclusion that I, or any of my siblings or cousins, would be involved in the business; or if we were involved that it would be in a leadership role. My dad and uncle made it very clear we would have to work our way up in the business by displaying a certain level, or more, of excellence. That said, I’ve done just about every job in the company, starting in the box room at age 10, to my first real job after college in production. Because of that, I think a broad experience in the business coupled with getting the right amount of responsibility in different stages was very beneficial. Along the way you make mistakes and learn from them.

Success and failure is something you learn from, and trust me, I have had plenty. For example, in 1995 I saw a way to acquire new customers much more efficiently. But instead of insisting that we invest heavily and scale that up, I made a more administrative decision to conserve cash. While that was a good short-term fiscal decision, it actually hampered our growth for the next few years.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Todd: Every leader should be able to listen, while at the same time maintaining a strong point of view when necessary. They should be able to cut through the noise to get to the heart of the matter. A leader can achieve this by developing three or four big themes around the business, getting alignment on them and making sure everyone understands them.

A leader should consistently be thinking about the rest of the team. Don’t be too quick to judge, and let team members work through their ideas and take risks. You’ll learn a lot about your team from how they deal with successes and challenges.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Todd:

  1. Understand the unit economics of whatever business or project you are involved with.
  2. Think long term.
  3. Develop the ability to make quality decisions with incomplete information.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Todd: Always pause to consider a decision before you act impulsively. Don’t let your current emotional state drive your larger perspective on your business.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Todd: Volunteer in your community. Whether it’s one day a year at your kids’ school, or serving in a leadership role at an organization, there’s so much to be learned from giving back.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Todd: Photography, art and community service. I get a lot of creative input and inspiration from my participation in the arts, and oftentimes it’s very applicable to my work. You never know where inspiration will come from. My work with non-profit leaders has also given me a different perspective on problem solving, since many of them are addressing some of the most difficult problems our society faces.

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Todd: I’ve always found being a part of a family legacy that has lasted more than a century exciting, but what has made it so inspirational is that I get to be a part of a business that’s all about bringing people together around a delicious meal. Participating in one of our most important cultural rituals – the family meal – is an honor and a responsibility that I take seriously and that has become a touchstone for my team as well.

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