Dan DiMicco

Founder of Living and Working the Dream

Dan DiMicco is a leading figure in the US manufacturing and steel industry, with almost 40 years of experience. Dan has used his wealth of experience to govern and successfully grow a number of companies, whilst also advising in public office with the aim of growing US manufacturing. Dan presently serves on the Coalition for a Prosperous America as Chairman, and he is also on the USTR Advisory Committee for Trade Policy & Negotiation-ACTPN.

Dan has served as CEO of Nucor, the largest steel manufacturer in the United States through its most successful period. During his time as CEO, Dan was instrumental in the substantial growth in profits and shareholder returns. From September 2000 through to the end of 2012, Nucor completed over 50 acquisitions for a total investment of $6.5 billion. In the same period Dan secured 720% shareholder returns, an incredible four times more than the total return of the S&P Steel Group Index.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

I was blessed to have a very successful 32 year career at Nucor Corporation culminating with 13+ years as CEO and Chairman. Feeling blessed, my desire in retirement is to give back, which led me to start my Angel Investing company, called Living and Working the Dream. My mission is to help young entrepreneurs, particularly Veterans and minorities to live their dream through a sound business plan and strong work ethic.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Being ‘retired’ my days now look slightly different! In the morning I exercise with my dog Pepper. I then have a leisurely breakfast, perhaps check the Financial Markets and check my emails followed by postings and responses. In the afternoon I tend to take phone calls, liaise and Mentor with our start-ups and visit facilities. I reserve my afternoons for exercise before having dinner with my family and finishing off my day with evening reading. Productivity comes with a strong work ethic and use of today’s excellent communication tools.

How do you bring ideas to life?

These days, it is mostly through contacts and word of mouth. In my days working at Nucor, I would often use a sports analogy to answer this: imagine how successful a professional football team or any sports team would be if every player had the same set of skills. They would never win a game! Valuing and using the differences between us to make us a better team would give us the best chance at bringing our ideas to life.

What’s one trend that excites you?

That’s a tough question these days, but I would say America becoming more self-sufficient as a result of the massive supply chain problems caused by Covid and the related geo-political concerns. This would be one trend that I am keeping a close eye on and am deeply involved in through “The Coalition for a Prosperous America”.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

My focus on Leadership. Leadership is about people and management is about things and knowing that you need to treat people the same way you would want to be treated yourself. Working hard to hire the right people and then giving them the freedom to use their talents and drive our success. As I’ve discussed before, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason- because we as leaders need to listen twice as much as we talk. Fostering strong two-way communication and working from a long-term perspective is critical.

What advice would you give your younger self?

As an Angel investor my experience has taught me to trust but also verify, with a much greater emphasis on verify. Not everyone you come across is completely trustworthy and I have learned that the hard way on two costly occasions. There are many good ideas out there, but most don’t really succeed.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I am a patient man!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I would say always be aware of your market and know your competition both now and coming. Overcapacity in markets will kill the even the best companies and best ideas.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Never being afraid to face a crisis head on, rather than running away from it. Additionally, you must always focus on the long term issues facing your company, and make their decisions based on being successful in the long term.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Once, there was a young man who, unbeknown to me, forged some documents involving a large sum of money. He was caught and has been in jail for several years as a result. Though I had to move on from this incident and write off the losses, I learned from my mistake of trusting but not verifying.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

After nearly 40 years in the field, my career has taught me there is no substitute for honesty, a strong work ethic and persistence. Oh, and as I said before ‘Trust but Verify’.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Flowers and condolences for my best friend’s brother who died from Covid complications.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

There is not really just one, it’s using several to communicate efficiently and to know what’s going on.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

What is your favorite quote?

“Never say Never”. A close second is a Winston Churchill quote: ”if you find yourself walking through ‘Hell’—DON’T stop walking”.

Key Learnings:

  • What makes a business run is often the habits you instill into yourself, and the people who make up your company. In the end, success is a result of the attitude you wear not what a piece of paper says you have done.
  • Strong foundations for a company are created by focusing on the bigger picture, this includes long-term planning and controlling your costs.
  • Make space for both of the above.