Moving Up the Food Chain: Mike Simmons Boosts His Risk Management Skills with the RIMS-CRMP

Mike SimmonsMike Simmons is the vice president of risk management at WKS Restaurant Group, a large California-based franchisee with five brands and 300 locations in 17 states. A self-proclaimed “human sponge” for information, Simmons achieved his RIMS-CRMP certification in March 2017. While preparing to recertify in 2021, he reflected on his experience taking the exam and how he ordered up its information amid COVID.


RIMS: What influenced you to take the exam?

Simmons: The RIMS-CRMP spoke to me because it was clearly strategic risk management–oriented and offered more of an opportunity for risk managers to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise to the C-Suite.


RIMS:What was the experience like to study for the RIMS-CRMP and to take the exam?

Simmons: Because I already knew the certification included concepts related to strategic management, I had a good sense of the way I wanted to approach studying for it. Strategic risk management is not the same as a conventional risk approach because the risk manager is asked to understand more about the interaction between the risk function and business outcomes in the short- and long-term. I approached the study work by taking my role out of the customary risk application and answered every question as though I were the Chief Strategic Officer for an organization. This made studying for the RIMS-CRMP vastly different than other certification programs I had encountered.


RIMS: What test-taking techniques did you use?

Simmons: Much of the material was organic and readily available in my memory. The testing is the hard part. For me personally, successful test-taking requires constant reassurance in my mind that I studied the best I could, that I have command of the material, and that the test will be fairly administered. Once I got past these three potential barriers, the test was no longer fear-inducing.


RIMS: Why was it important for you to achieve the RIMS-CRMP?

Simmons:Certifications look great on resumes. Some companies use the RIMS-CRMP and others as a way to cull down the pool of risk manager candidates. This fact was more of a side benefit to me. I am driven by knowledge and learning. Studying for the certification exam was a very rewarding experience because I had a chance to “re-learn” many of the concepts I knew were in my knowledge bank but may have forgotten to deploy as often as I should.

The RIMS-CRMP was new when I sat for the exam and it offered more than just the same conventional risk management wisdom and concepts. It gave me a chance to expand my understanding of my role and, as a result, make my role more relevant and engaging to the C-Suite. The certification tells others that I may have something to offer that isn’t information from a silo, because I have the ability to look over the business landscape and see challenges from a multitude of perspectives. Decision-making and solutions come much easier when we integrate multiple perspectives into the strategic formula.


RIMS: How have you applied the knowledge from the RIMS-CRMP to your work in restaurant service and food retail?

Simmons: I have the chance to demonstrate my knowledge of the connection between risk management and organizational values every day. I work for a large restaurant franchisee during a time of great uncertainty. Risk managers are all about bringing clarity because of our need to anticipate change, embrace it, and roll with it. A risk manager’s value is derived from our flexibility and willingness to leave paradigms at the side of the road when other solutions could be the better option. COVID-19 has challenged every risk manager in the world to look at their organization through a whole new lens. Our success is dependent upon our ability to identify the best solutions to all of the organization’s problems, not just workers’ compensation, liability, insurance, etc.

I am on the board of a regional risk management organization known as the Foodservice Industry Risk Management Association. Our members are risk managers, safety, claims, and security people from a variety of restaurant, retail, and hospitality organizations. COVID-19 forced the association to seek out new ways to reach our members and address the troubling issues of the day. In my role as an officer, it is important that I co-lead us to find ways to engage as many people as we can and to deliver a message of hope and clarity. This is a strategic risk imperative for the group and the RIMS-CRMP has helped to prepare me for the task.


RIMS: What advice would you give for future RIMS-CRMP exam takers, especially since they will likely be in a virtual setting?

Simmons: Take it slow. Do not rush to get to the exam phase of the process. Obtaining this certification can be a very fruitful and rewarding process. It is important to connect the dots between conventional risk strategies and the competencies of the RIMS-CRMP.

Enjoy the learning and the experience that comes with reviewing the material effectively. Time is efficient but trying to reduce the time around preparing for the exam to get it over with will likely result in a missed opportunity the first time out. Not knowing the material will only add to the stress of the exam process, too. When it is over, know that many people are looking at this certification in our industry so patience and taking your time are worth it.


Learn more from Mike Simmons in his October 2020 RIMScast episode How One Franchisee Navigated Restaurant & Food Retail Sector Risks in 2020

Interview by Justin Smulison, RIMS Business Content Manager