At 16, Casey Sheahan put his new driver’s license to work. In Jackson, Wyo., for the summer, he took a job operating a shuttle for a fly-fishing guide and clothing innovator named John Simms. Almost 50 years later, Simms Fishing Products is a premier provider of fishing apparel, and Sheahan, Simms’s new CEO, is driving its expansion. “It’s funny how you connect the dots,” he says. “Early influences set a path.”
For Sheahan, Bozeman, Mont,-based Simms is the coda to a career journey in which a deep passion for the natural world has been the dominant current. “Being in the water is very magical,” he says. After graduating from Stanford University, Sheahan rock-hopped from Powder Magazine to Nike—“they took a flier on me, I didn’t know apparel or footwear”—to Merrell to Kelty to Patagonia. “I was there seven or eight months when I stepped into the CEO role,” says Sheahan, with typical aplomb. He stayed nine years at Patagonia. “All these jobs were connected to my love of the out-of-doors. I could understand what the customer needed because I was that customer myself.”
Key to Sheahan’s philosophy is what’s called "conscious capitalism.” “You lead in a thoughtful and mindful way with everything you do,” he says, from supply chain to employees to customers. Sheahan emphasizes a team-oriented approach. “There’s no real woo-woo here. …You’re trying to create a better relationship with your brand.”
Sustainability is a key value. At Simms, Sheahan focuses on product-centric strategies, nurturing leaders andprotecting waterways; after all, Simms customers need places to fish. “It’s enlightened self-interest,” he says.
Sheahan hopes to leverage Simms’s “wonderfully authentic brand” into a broader lifestyle sportswear company. Along the way he plans to continue to fish, ski and bike—some of it in the Roaring Fork Valley, where he raised his sons and still owns a home. Will he retire? Only to spend even more time outside. “I don’t know what I’d do if I weren’t working,” he says, “but I enjoy the fruits of labor, too.”
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