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Life’s Work: An Interview with David Simon

David L. Simon is the Founder and President of Simon Bros Media. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco State University Foundation. David is a San Francisco State University alumnus where he majored in Journalism. He also served as Advertising Manager for the school newspaper, which he considers the start of his business career.

After graduating, he gained experience working at local newspapers in the Bay Area, including the San Francisco Magazine. Throughout the start of his career, David obtained skills in marketing and advertising. It was when he became a Promotion Manager where he “realized that television programming and creating content was something [he] really enjoyed doing.” A few years later, David became Senior Executive with major media companies including Fox, Dreamworks, and Disney where he worked on projects for the first international Disney Channels. Throughout his career journey, David decided to start his own company, Simon Bros Media in 2000 where he launched international channels and served on boards.

WORKING AT DISNEY AND DREAMWORKS

David served as a Senior Vice President/Managing Director at Disney, and before that, head of DreamWorks Television Animation Studio. David’s most proud achievement was creating the international production company at Disney. He hired a team of people around the world to produce content and promote the theme parks. “Disney was all about family – they treated you like a customer and they really cared about everybody trying to get along and trying to understand the goal of the company.”

David was inspired to start his own business when he was working at Disney, learning more about strategic planning and the importance of teamwork. He wanted to bring the skillset he learned in setting up businesses for other people, helping with production, equipment, and hiring people to his own business. 

STARTING SIMON BROS.

David used the skills and experiences he learned working at Disney and Dreamworks to start his own business, Simon Bros Media. The company advises global clients, including Fox, Microsoft, and Sony. “I’ve learned to listen to other people so I hate to use the word ‘I,’ but I tend to use ‘we’ because everything I do is part of a team and that’s something I learned from Disney.”

The first year of becoming an independent company was a moment that stood out to him because the focus was all on being a leader, which comes with having a lot more responsibilities and strategic planning. He credits having mentors to help him throughout each step of the way. “No one knows everything all the time and being able to take advice and sometimes criticism from somebody you know and trust because they’re telling you for a good reason.” When asked what he looks for when hiring someone to work with him, David says “experience is very important but I think attitude is equally important. It’s more important that they are really interested in the job.”

LESSONS AND ADVICE

For David, honesty and having a sense of humor is most important. “Life is too short to take everything too seriously, humor is something that keeps things alive and especially in the business I’m in, you can’t take everything so seriously.”   

A lesson he learned after college was that “if you’re good at what you do, people will notice.” He took to heart a message from his good friend to never use the word “I” and instead use “we” because everybody is part of the team. A piece of advice that he would give to an entrepreneur starting out is to keep an open mind about what you want to do. “My advice to graduates is that telling a story and understanding the business is important.”