1. Tell us a little about your personal background
I think the name gives me away a little bit; I come from a Greek background. I went to the University of Wyoming. The only relatives I have here are my brother, and my mom and dad, and all my other relatives are in Greece. I started out on a route truck, which is analogous to the hard-working people we have at Schwan's who are delivering pizza and ice cream to homes today. I know what it's like to walk in their shoes.
2. What attracted you to the Schwan Food Co.?
Photo by Per Peterson
Dimitrios Smyrnois took over at the Schwan Food Co. on Oct. 7.
There are a lot of positives to the Schwan organization, but if I could point to one thing, it's the vision that Marvin Schwan had. When you look at the vision of the founder of this company, you can't help but getting pretty inspired, you can't help but get motivated. The vision has been there a while, and it's important we continue to make that vision a reality.
3. How did the recession affect the business landscape in the U.S.?
When you look at the consumer and what we've gone through since 2008 there have been challenges. Yes, today it's a little easier than it was at the peak of the crisis, but it's not easy. You look at unemployment rates across the United States, when you look at the disposable income our consumers have, it's not easy. It's been challenging. But I think challenges are good because it makes an organization, a business community stronger. There are positives to some challenging times.
4. How have businesses regained their footing since the recession eased?
The companies that are well-operated and focused on the consumer can withstand tough times. It becomes harder during those tough times, but if your fundamentals are right and your focus is right, I think you can withstand tough times. Makes you even more prepared for the good times.
5. What makes a good leader in today's business world?
You've got to ask the followers what makes a good leader. A leader without followers is obviously not effective. I will say a good leader is a person who is ethical, has good values, a good foundation and a person who is willing to walk in other people's shoes, to work hard, listen and make good decisions. Transparency is also very importance because that's a way to earn trust very quickly, and most of us want to be led by someone who they know where they stand.
6. What are your long-term goals for Schwan?
It's very simple. I want (Marvin Schwan's) vision to be a reality. I would like 15,000 people to be very aligned to his vision and for us to continue this great heritage and legacy that Marvin Schwan started. And that vision's not going to change. If you ask me that question in a year, it's going to be the same answer. I agree with this vision; it's one of the reasons I'm here.
7. How important is community involvement for a large company in a relatively small town?
I think it's important for every town. We do business in 500 locations in America, so our community involvement is extremely important. It's a little more special here in Marshall because this is our birthplace. It's about those consumers living in those communities - we need to meet their needs to earn their hard-earned money.
8. What are your plans for engaging with the community?
We already started. We've had a meeting with Dr. (Connie) Gores, the president of the school here, and with (Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director) Cal Brink, and the mayor. I think that's very important, and it's part of transparency. It's important to meet all the community leaders and understand where they're at.
9. What's your take on the relationship a city has with the community in terms of corporate identity?
I'm a consumer-centric person, and we obviously have consumers in this community where Schwan's was started. I think there is a natural and important identity that comes with where your birthplace is.
10. What kinds of challenges or benefits are there to having plants spread out in states across the country?
The United States is a very big country, and you have 365 million consumers spread out in all these communities and we've got to meet their needs with our products. We need to be sure we're present where the consumers are present. In this big of a country, sometimes it's a challenge, but it's also a benefit.