In a journey that has taken Bill Sims ’89 from studying engineering and receiving both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree to becoming president and CEO of The Accent Family of Companies, Sims says that continuous learning and having a drive to understand everything is what led to his success in the business world.
Sims spent his time with Business Honors students during the Mays Transformational Leader Speaker Series – a series that recognizes business leaders in industry and gives them an opportunity to share their knowledge with the communities of Mays – walking through his achievement of finding that drive and success.
Accent Family of Companies was started 30 years ago by Sims’ father, and the company continues to be family-owned. The company has experienced great success as it is the world’s largest supplier of packaging and packaging equipment for the recycling and waste industry, and is a major supplier of building materials for the residential and commercial construction industry.
During Sims’ time as president, the company has gone through great strategic and cultural change. He created a robust team and infrastructure that embraces an entrepreneurial approach and supports the change that accompanies fast-paced growth. Essentially, Sims wanted to incorporate a culture of analytics within his company, and that started with company strategy.
“Mr. Sims himself leads with an entrepreneurial attitude despite not being the founder of the company,” said Emma Gaas ’18, a business honors and marketing major. “He educated himself in business by reading books and by receiving coaching from successful business people.”
One of Sims’ strategic inspirations came from Jim Collins, author of the book “Good to Great,” which discusses why some companies make the leap and some don’t. Collins looks in detail at the strategies of the 11 breakthrough companies and how they have found the success they experience today. From this book’s findings, Sims implemented a number of strategic approaches into Accent.
One of these strategies is based off of a “first who, then what” approach. In this approach, companies seek out and add the right people for the company first, building a superior team, then determine the best path to greatness with said team. Instead, many companies today do the opposite – a “first what, then who,” approach.
Accent’s strategy has evolved through three stages over the life of the company:
- The lean startup stage, where you have to be very entrepreneurial and take great risks
- The growth stage, where Accent expanded to new markets, developed new products, and leveraged its supply chain to enter new businesses
- 200 X 20, Accent’s current stage, a six-year plan concentrating of revenue growth to $200 million by 2020 and improving shareholder return
Wrapping up the session, Sims left the students with a few works of key advice to finding success and happiness. When fielding questions from the students about work/life balance and the pursuit of an MBA, Sims advised, “Make time for what you want to do.”
Klaire Hetmaniak ’21, a business honors major, summarized the session: “Bill Sims’ work and development with his company taught me the importance of continuing to learn new things even after I graduate because one never knows what his or her future holds.”