TULSA, Okla. — Steve Smits was helping guide a billion dollar business in the coffee industry; yes, billion with a B. The world was, and still is, consuming a boatload of K-Cups. His career was in a highly admirable place. But there was one problem – it wasn’t the fishing industry.
His heart knew that, and so did his wife Mary and teenage children Tyler and Jordan. So, when a career recruiter called Smits about a leadership position at Zebco – he answered.
“I was absolutely grateful for the goodness of my career, but coffee wasn’t a passion business for me. Fishing is,” explains Smits, who was recently named Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Zebco Brands.
“I have a wonderful wife and two great teenage children, and they knew how much I loved the fishing industry,” says Smits. “So when the opportunity came to fruition at Zebco, they were truly excited because they knew that while a fast expanding coffee industry has a cool factor about it – fishing is what made me happiest,” added the University of Iowa grad.
He speaks in past tense, because this is by no means his first experience managing rod, reel and line brands. For more than seven years, the Iowa native worked in high-ranking positions at Pure Fishing.
Smits also spent time working for Procter & Gamble, and credits those years as the basis for his knowledge of successful business. “I learned to be respectful to others, disciplined, to have a clear vision – and above all, the importance of listening to consumers needs. Build products to meet their needs, and you’ll be successful.”
Looking forward, Smits says he’s most excited about the strength of the Zebco family of brands. “We have great brands - really great brands! Plus, we have people here that have years of collective wisdom, and a commitment to delivering great products to support our brands, customers and anglers.”
Few, if any, fishing brands are more iconic than the push-button family of Zebco spincast reels. Smits sees a responsibility to better utilize the legendary “33”, and other easy-to-use models, to drive increased participation in fishing.
“My family and I are outdoors people. We love to hike, ski, go whitewater rafting, and fish – and it’s deeply rewarding to be serving a company that’s in a position to attract others to fishing,” concluded Smits, as a book titled The Learning of Love – A Journey toward Servant Leadership written by former W.C. Bradley CEO, Bill Turner rested on the left side of his desk.
And to the right side of his desk, you guessed it, a travel mug full of coffee.