Monday 26 February 2024

Chris Simmons Unplugged

Posted by at 12:27 PM

Chris Simmons Unplugged

Chris Simmons grew up being told he’d be a fighter pilot one day. His father was in the Airforce as a decorated Vietnam fighter pilot and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Simmons coasted up to the University of North Dakota to receive his aviation license and became an instructor – just like his dad. The AirForce could see his talent, just like his dad’s, and wanted him to be a part of this legendary service branch.

“I was selected to be in the AirForce as a fighter pilot…160 applicants down to 16, down to four, down to me. And I rescinded my flight spot. It crushed my dad because he thought it was my way. I remember telling him, Dad I don’t want to fly the airplanes, I want to own the airline,” Simmons said.

After taking some business classes at Mankato State, Simmons got his first job selling mail metering machines – and he was good at it. Because of his natural talent, he was told by a friend to get into commercial real estate. After an informational sit-down interview with one of the top industrial owners in the state of Minnesota (Peter Mork), Simmon’s excitement sparked at the idea that every day would be different in commercial real estate. Next thing you know, as young 24-year-old, Simmons entered the industry.

“I was interviewed by John Johannson at Welsh Companies. He’ll say to this day that I interviewed him because I went in and I didn’t want the job, so he sold me to work for him. He thought I did some jedi mind trick. He offered me the job in probably 20 minutes,” Simmons said.

Simmons started out doing landlord work; getting aerials of buildings, observing and dropping off plans for Johannson, learning trade areas, spotting available space and shopping centers. He also got a glimpse at how competitive being a tenant rep broker was. Simmons wanted to be a part of that race and today, is now known for bringing a lot of big names to the Twin Cities.

“My first rollout was Einstein Bagels…I had no idea what I was doing when I was doing that. And then Caribou Coffee, they had 16 locations and I think I ended up doing about 220 of them…I did some Boston Markets and that just fed on itself. Then you start getting a local and regional name, then lastly a national name. Where the Total Wine or Bob’s or Ulta’s of the world…PetSmart come in,” Simmons said.

While determining where the next Caribou Coffee or Total Wine would be, on the side, Simmons was able to invest, dabble in ownership, and take part in development projects. He added even more variety to his day-to-day duties by getting involved in owning SportsClips franchises, SmashBurgers, and Lucky13 Pub restaurants.  

“I got bored of just being in the car, being a glorified taxi driver – I kind of mastered it, at least in my own mind. I was good at getting people in the car and getting deals done on the tenant rep side. Then I got decent at developing. But then I thought, buildings can’t talk. So, I thought it’d be great to go in and see our manager, our bartender, or the girls cutting the hair, or the guys flipping the burgers, so there’s a relationship there,” Simmons said.

Being raised in a family where he was told “they weren’t business people” but rather, fighter pilots, Simmons continues to prove his success. He says that it doesn’t matter what your path was, but an internal drive and being who you are is what makes someone accomplished.

“It’s not about the company, it’s about the mentor and its about outworking your competition. Not what school you went to, not even what degree you got. Some of the top guys in town I know are history majors, so you don’t have to go to Notre Dame or Wisconsin, you’re going to be successful when you just stay true to yourself, get your own style, and outwork everybody,” Simmons said.

Listen to the podcast here