Q: Describe your company.
A: Simon/Myers provides strategy and creative services to national brands facing moments of transformation in their business or marketing functions. We partner with our clients to help them both understand and respond to shifts in their market, channel or audience. All of our creative work is data and research driven, with a goal of being actionable and driving bottom-line results.
107 N. Hale St., Suite 200, Wheaton, IL 60187
Industry: Brand strategy and creative agency
Number of employees: 20
Family information: Married to Tia Simon and have two daughters, Lauran 24 and Abbey 21.
Hometown: Glen Ellyn
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: Yes. We anticipate continued growth across our three business units -- branding, digital and experiential -- as well as our strategy and client services functions.
Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?
A: Uncertainty. When COVID hit we were able to impact our clients' businesses and guide how they go to market to reach their customers. We've been able to provide strategies and creative content as they modify their marketing tactics and spending.
As a smaller agency, with brilliant people, we were able to pivot quickly to support their business. So one thing we learned this year is to expect the unexpected.
Next year brings a lot of uncertainty regarding economic recovery. The recovery to date has been very uneven, however most of our clients are weathering the storm. It is uncertain what the prolonged impacts are of COVID and the recession will be.
As a company we need to retain sufficient cash and be nimble to tackle whatever challenges arise next.
Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?
A: Good question. Simon/Myers isn't a follower of business trends, I try to say this as humbly as possible. As we continue to grow the agency, we are constantly evaluating our positioning to determine how to best serve our clients.
I'm sure it is part luck, but is also from hard work that we tend to be out front on how a brand strategy agency should work and what tools to use. Everything, from our structure, size, technology and product offering reflect that ethic. When we look at the landscape of agencies in our industry I feel like we hold a unique space that is on the front end of "trends."
Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie executive, what would it be?
A: Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?
A: My father, Larry. Although he is now retired, we talk business a good deal and he still sends me relevant articles on a weekly basis. He taught me to value your people, be analytical and be persistent.
Dad also shows me how to give back -- until recently he has continued to teach certification courses to students through a professional organization he's been associated with for many years.
Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
A: Simon/Myers may have a lean staff, but we deliver significant impact to national clients.
Q: Was there a moment in your career that didn't go as you had planned? What lesson did you learn from it?
A: Early in my career I felt that if you didn't have certain characteristics, age, education, etc., that fit the stereotype of a business executive your voice wasn't really heard.
By the time I was in my early 30s I was very frustrated by the lack of impact I was able to make on the organization I was with and knew that my best route was to start my own business. I was honest with my boss and the CEO of my intent to start my own business, and as a result they were very supportive as they moved me to different departments to learn more about business as I contributed to the company's success.
I give them both a good deal of credit for the successful launch of my first business and the continued success of Simon/Myers.
The value of being vulnerable and honest with those surrounding you can be your greatest asset. I try to encourage our staff and executives to do the same. At Simon/Myers we refer to that attribute as egoless collaboration.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Whenever I can, I'm either hiking, fishing or wilderness camping. The best trips are the ones shared with my family or some good buddies. COVID has encouraged more people to enjoy the outdoors, which I'm really pumped about.
Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. It is a science fiction classic. Asimov took his inspiration from the fall of the Roman empire and extrapolated it on a galactic scale.
It was written in the 1950s, so it at the same time reflects the era in which it was written and what civilization could be like thousands of years in the future. I believe some of the greatest innovations and creativity can come from unexpected pairings of ideas and concepts.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Making sure all our team is taken care of and happy where they work. We have an incredibly talented group of folks we work with and they deserve to have challenging and rewarding work that helps them reach their professional goals. My job is to equip them and to clear the way for them to reach those goals.
Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?
A: Landscape architecture. My background is industrial design, so I miss not being involved in day-to-day creative (I now focus more on business management and financials). Landscape architecture takes all the normal aesthetic aspects of design into consideration then introduces the element of time, as the landscape changes through the seasons and from year to year. Plus, I enjoy getting my hands dirty, literally.
Q: What was your first paying job?
A: At 15 I started working at the Oswego Dairy Hut, which was sadly torn down in October. The best first job of all time. It was a social hangout for all the high school kids so it never felt like work.
Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?
A: Wrigley Field. More for my business partner, Jim Myers, than for me. He is a die-hard Cubs fan.
Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why. (besides your company)
A: I'm not on Twitter, but I am on Instagram. I've recently started following BrownGirl_OutdoorWorld. I'm an avid fly fisherman and enjoy wilderness camping. With the recent social unrest and the rise of Black Lives Matter movement, it felt like a great way for me to engage in and learn more from the social movement in an area I'm passionate about.
I love how she is changing the narrative around who can enjoy and benefit from the outdoors and what the obstacles are to achieving that. For me, being a better member of the professional community and being a better leader is often accomplished by drawing inspiration from areas totally unrelated to our business.