When Matt Simmons was growing up in Fort Myers, the Daniels Parkway corridor was a dirt road and Southwest Florida International Airport didn’t exist yet.
In their school years, Simmons and friends were eager to leave the small town behind. Today, they’re in business together in Fort Myers.
“There’s so much more opportunity,” says Simmons. “You don’t have to leave to do what you want to do.”
Simmons is a partner in appraisal firm Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons and in 2012 at age 28 he was the youngest gubernatorial appointee to the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board.
In 2005, Simmons launched the residential real estate appraisal division of the firm. “This year has been fantastic,” says Simmons, who estimates that residential appraisal now makes up 35% of the firm’s business (the rest is commercial appraisal). “We’ve added three residential associates in the past year,” he says.
Many of the principals at the firm know each other from childhood because they attended the same church together. Simmons’ father is the minister at Gulf Coast Church of Christ in Fort Myers.
Another source of future employees is the 15,000 students at Florida Gulf Coast University, which Simmons says is an untapped resource. “Our latest FGCU intern will graduate in the spring, and we just hired her,” Simmons says.
Although Simmons enjoys running and wants to learn Spanish, works keeps him busy. “To be honest, I enjoy working,” Simmons say. “I couldn’t tell you I have a hobby.”
— Jean Gruss
Name: Matt Simmons
City of residence: Fort Myers
Twitter handle: @MattSSimmons
Employer: Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons
Birthplace: McMinnville, Tenn.
Years on the Gulf Coast: 30
Marital status/children: Married to Alicia for 10 years, no kids yet
Alma mater: Florida Gulf Coast University
Best place to network: Real Estate Investment Society
Coolest business experience: Launching the residential division of our firm in 2005 (then called Maxwell & Hendry Valuation Services). My brother, Scott, State Rep. Matt Caldwell and I started it from scratch and initially worked out of a nine-by-nine-foot office together. We were prospecting and creating something out of thin air. It was tough, but there was an entrepreneurial excitement launching out on something like that.
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Business is much simpler than people make it. Solve problems. That’s it. You can’t get lost in the minutia of your job or else you’ll lose sight of the only thing that brings business, serving people by solving problems.
One website that makes your job easier: LEEPA.org, Lee County Property Appraiser’s website. We have the best and most comprehensive county assessor site in the country. Ken Wilkinson has done a tremendous job with that site and has pioneered many of the features now being used in other municipalities. As data collectors, that site is a major asset for our firm.
One community group you’re most involved with: Southwest Florida Museum of History, foundation board member
Favorite off-hours activity: There are off-hours? I enjoy running and reading. Both of those activities help clear my head.
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: I would be an attorney. I enjoy the legal system and most of my personal practice is litigation related, so at least that scratches the itch.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: In high school, I went to an underground boxing club and wasn’t exactly truthful about my age so that I could get a boxing match. I found another guy who said it was his first time and he wanted to fight too. Unbeknownst to me, he was the club champion and had suckered me. Needless to say, I paid the price for my adventure.
What’s at the top of your bucket list: Traveling to England. I’ve been several places overseas but have not gone there. I’d like to see London.
What new skill would you like to learn: I’d like to learn to speak Spanish. I think learning a new language changes your perspective and opens you to new things.
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Bobby Cannavale
If I had a magic wand I’d: Restructure the government to restore power to states and restrict the federal government to only its essential intended functions. New Federalism would have a tremendous positive impact on a variety of social, economic and moral questions of our time and would create 50 competing idea incubators, the results from which we could all learn.