The Innovators

10 Up and Coming Leaders to Watch

The Innovators


Innovators push the boundaries of the known world. They're change agents who are relentless in making things happen and bringing ideas to execution.

Tom Nieman, Fromm Family Foods

Next-gen Nurturing

Tom Nieman, Fromm Family Foods

Tom Nieman, owner and president of Mequon, Wis.-based Fromm Family Foods, leads with a "hands-on approach." The proof? He often smells like the product his family has produced for generations: dog food. "Of course I should smell like my workers [do]," says Nieman, who took over in 1984 (and whose grandmother was a Fromm). "I teach them how to make the product."

The Fromms got their start in 1904 raising foxes for fur and growing ginseng. Their knowledge of animal nutrition led to a pet-food business. Nieman is the fourth-generation owner of the company, which saw revenue "more than triple" between 2010 and 2013. If they prove themselves worthy--you don't just get handed the keys at Fromm--Bryan and his brother Dan will take over next.Nieman's take on leadership comes from his family's long agricultural tradition. No job is beneath anybody. "Just like each of our best employees and family members, our title is just the tip of the iceberg," says his son Bryan, Fromm's brand director.

The senior team is actively involved in the next generation's success. Dan and Bryan each work directly with a senior manager who can guide them in Nieman's philosophies without extra preaching from Dad. "They communicate to them, 'So, your dad works this way,' and they can give it to them in a different type of delivery," Nieman says.

He'll continue to come to work long after his sons take over (just as his 80-something mother does). He jokes about making the company golf-cart accessible so he can get around. After all, you don't walk away from family. --Jenna Schnuer

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This article was originally published in the March 2014 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 10 Up and Coming Leaders.

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