Ann Simmons Nicholson has never been afraid to take risks. Her professional career took her to so many new environments, she had boxes that were never unpacked over several years until she settled down in Las Vegas. Today she owns the Simmons Group, a consulting firm that provides human resources services, training and coaching for business leaders.
How many people are on your team, and what is your management style?
We have 11 people, but we have a vast network of people we rely on when our clients have a need that we feel it would be better for someone else to handle.
I like to think my management style is to set high standards, and let people do their jobs. My business partner said I have a passion and high energy for what I do, which is infectious. This helps to get people excited about the vision and moving in the same direction. It encourages people to join the journey with me. Also, I value life-long learning and find that people in the company who embrace that value are successful.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Focus on relationships; the rest will come. Be kind and do not confuse kindness for weakness in others. Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes. Have a supportive spouse who balances you, challenges you and believes in you. Hire and work with the best people — not “C” players, but the best. Suspend your judgment — you do not know the other person’s story. That one, for me, has been the most difficult to achieve, and it has been worth the hard work it has taken to get there.
How has being a business owner affected your family life?
I come from a large family and always thought I would have five or six kids. I also believe everything happens for a reason.
I am unable to have children of my own, so I’ve continued to focus on my other family members and the time I have with them. That’s why it made sense for me to donate a kidney to my mother who needed one. That donation gave us an additional seven years that we might not have had with her.
Also, I am thrilled that my daughter from my husband’s previous marriage has allowed me to enjoy having children and now two grandchildren. I have 21 amazing nieces and nephews who I get to spoil rotten.
Having said that, being a business owner, I am able to spend more time on nonprofit boards focused primarily on children and education. This way, I have been able to affect more children through my nonprofit work. I also get a wonderful bonus family from my husband’s previous marriage, so I think my being a business owner has allowed me the time and energy to focus on families in general — not necessarily just my or a family.
What is the best business advice you’ve received?
Focus on the solution, not the problem.
Anyone can identify a problem; leaders offer options and solutions without having to be instructed to do so.
What motivates you?
Genuinely helping others. Whether it is personally, professionally or through the volunteer work our company is committed to.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People who make absolute or judgmental statements with limited information.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I will still be doing what I am doing now, just not six or seven days a week. I hope to move to a four-day work week next year to focus even more attention on our community.
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
I am so proud of this city. Not just the recent Las Vegas community response to the tragic events of Oct. 1, although I think people who do not live here now see the community how locals see it. I would not choose to live anywhere but in this great community.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
There are so many to choose from who I think could provide me such valuable learning. One in particular, though, is Princess Diana. She overcame adversity and found a passion and the internal strength to do such amazing philanthropic work. She was so genuine in her concern and caring for people, and helped by being engaged and involved. She epitomized the phrase “to whom much is given, much is expected” — a motto I live by. Also, I would love to know what she thinks of Kate Middleon and Meghan Markle.
What is something that people might not know about you?
I have a fascination with history — especially World War II. Also, I give money to anyone standing on a street corner asking for help. Anyone.
Any parting wisdom?
The most valuable thing a leader can learn is emotional intelligence. Also, understand how to read a profit and loss statement. As a business owner, no one will do that for you.