Editor’s Note: This October, we will celebrate our 30th class of 40 Under Forty honorees. Each week in 2022, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia will highlight one of our 2021 40 Under Forty honorees leading up to the announcement of our milestone class this fall.
There was a time in Aaron Sims life when his legacy seemed destined to be forged in the sky. But what he has accomplished thus far with both feet planted firmly on the ground has been quite impressive.
Sims is the owner of Sims Venture Capital, a holding company for three Kingsport-based businesses – Price & Ramey Insurance, Mountain Empire Agency Alliance and Code & Color. On the surface, it looks like an unlikely path for a young man who obtained his pilot’s license at a young age and was on the verge of getting a job as a commercial airline pilot before following his father’s footsteps into the family business.
“I got my commercial rating and I was interviewing with the airlines when I decided to come work for dad,” Sims said. “So I kind of made a career switch once I had gone through all the training to be a pilot. I really just had this itch to be in this business space in general.”
Sims doesn’t characterize the move as reversing course. He recalls an essay he wrote as a 14-year-old high school freshman in which he planned to become a commercial airline pilot before launching an aviation-related business.
Flying has always been a passion, but Sims said entrepreneurship is a core part of his identity.
“It is so deeply ingrained in me that I don’t know what I’d be if I didn’t have the drive to grow and build businesses,” he said. “This is what I love to do.”
Of course, building businesses didn’t start from Day 1. While Sims was a fully trained pilot, he didn’t have any training in the insurance industry.
“I joke that I started in the mailroom – we’re not big enough to have a mailroom – but I would send marketing letters, do data entry and handle incoming mail,” Sims recalled. “I was unskilled in this industry because I wanted to be a pilot before that.”
Sims credits his parents for setting him up for success. His father Kieth was stocking grocery shelves in his early 20s when an acquaintance in the insurance business told him he probably had the tools necessary to sell insurance. Kieth Sims took him up on that offer and used his drive to eventually become president and CEO of Price & Ramey.
Aaron said his parents encouraged him to branch out on his own and tackle challenges when he was growing up, but at the same time, they were supportive on those occasions when he encountered failure.
By the time he got his start in the “mailroom,” Aaron’s father started giving him the playbook necessary for all entrepreneurs. That started by teaching him to be resourceful. Aaron would work a position for a year or two and then it was up to him to go ask his father for more responsibility. Each new position came without a lot of direction and oversight.
“My dad really emphasized being resourceful,” Sims said. “There were no training wheels and no instruction book. Those kinds of things pay dividends to me now because there is no instruction book when you’re running a company or several companies.”
Sims cherishes those lessons now that his father has passed away, and he works every day to build on his family’s legacy relying on the dual traits of resourcefulness and resiliency.
You really need those two central traits you have to hold above everything else,” Sims said. “I think we’re so afraid to fail, afraid of being wrong and afraid to change our mind that people get locked into ‘I can’t miss.’ The entrepreneurs I know, it’s the polar opposite. If I fail, I try to look for something to learn from that.”
Next week we will profile Aaron Sims of Sims Venture Capital. If you would like to nominate someone for inclusion in the 2022 class of 40 Under Forty, visit 40under.com and follow the instructions. The deadline for nominations is August 31.