Jan 18

It is vital to evaluate a company’s resources and capabilities when planning operations, according to CEO Todd Simmons.

To discuss managing growth while increasing quality, poultry and pet food producer Simmons Foods Inc.’s CEO, Todd Simmons, opened up about the importance of keeping people first, leaning on strategy and finding well-rounded leadership. 

“That transition for us from a more commodity producer to a value-added producer was painful,” Simmons told Dean Matt Waller of the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business regarding the company’s shift to producing quality, value-added products. 


How does putting people first improve operations?

When building and renovating facilities, while it is important to choose optimal equipment and layout, says Simmons, it is critical to keep in mind how employees interact with the equipment and each other.

Simmons Foods also values employees’ professional development as well as giving constructive feedback and training to improve the overall health of operations.

If Simmons Foods employees’ safety and professional development are maintained, then they will have more opportunities to “be curious” – one of the company values – meaning they can notice flaws in a system or suggest new ways of doing things.


How did shifting strategies boost the health of the business?

One of Simmons Foods’ major shifts was when the producer moved away from making dry pet food and pet treats and focused solely on producing wet food.Simmons Foods RoundLogo

The company recognized that it did not have the same capacity and resources as other larger companies to make dry food, and the shift paid off as more pet owners switched to wet food during the pandemic.

The second major shift was when Simmons Foods focused more on a business-to-business model rather than developing a consumer brand, for example, selling pet food ingredients to other companies.

“And so it made sense for us to play in a market that was more niche, larger restaurant chains that were high quality, high service level, had single point of contact for the buyer,” said Simmons.


What does Simmons Foods look for in leadership positions?

“We want people who are very boots on the ground,” said Simmons. “And when folks come here, we want to maintain that you need to wear all the hats, and you need to understand that our job is really out in the facilities, out with the customer understanding their problems.”

Simmons’ word of advice for any struggling companies is to ask themselves “what are we really good at? Look yourself in the mirror. What do you have the money, the capital resources to really execute on?" 





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