Five Tips from a Successful Businessman: Jim Hagale

Bass Pro Shops executive Jim Hagale offers advice for success.

Story by Eddy Hoyle + Photos by Collins Doughtie

Jim Hagale is shown with his greatest catch, his wife Mary Martha. The couple own a home in Palmetto Bluff.

Jim Hagale is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Bass Pro Shops, having joined the company in 2002 as Executive Vice President responsible for merchandising, distribution, finance, human resources and information technology. His reputation preceded him. He founded Hagale Industries in 1969 and began a successful career in apparel manufacturing and marketing and became a well-known leader in the retail industry. He earned his B.A. in Accounting and Finance from the University of Notre Dame.

Hagale and his wife of 44 years, Mary Martha, live in Springfield, Mo., and enjoy a second home in Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, where they spend time with their six adult children (including two sets of twins) and 13 grandkids.

His favorite quote is from Abraham Lincoln: “I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” Here is his advice on success.

Tips for Success

1. Mountain tops inspire leaders, but valleys define them. “We all will have things go wrong along the way,” Hagale said. “You must be persistent and believe in your capabilities.” Hagale learned this firsthand. After 32 years, he lost his business and just about everything else. “The business failed and ended up in litigation, yet my wife was so supportive through our recovery. I learned it’s how you live every day that will bring opportunities. Others see your ability to function in good times and bad, how you cope with adversity and your leadership. What you do each day will define what happens. Every day matters. And it helps to have a good wife who can guide you.”

2. Experience is a hard teacher. “We aren’t going to live long enough to make all the mistakes there are to make, so we must learn from others. Life isn’t easy,” Hagale said. “Social and personal responsibility are about character…we don’t change it when we come to work.” He said there are winners and losers and doesn’t believe everyone should get a trophy. “You work hard and seize the opportunities available in the USA that don’t exist in other places in the world. This country gives us the opportunity to dream, to take risks and to know that you may succeed or fail. This just isn’t the case in other places.”

3. Never take yourself too seriously. Hagale believes one should lead from behind and by example. For him it’s not about titles, it’s about trust. He values the special, unique culture at Bass Pro Shops because it’s a large and complex company with a family-oriented atmosphere. Hagale says it’s important to set the right example and always do what’s right – even when nobody’s watching.

4. Listen to others. “Valuable input should be heard from all involved, but sometimes a consensus can’t be reached. Casting the deciding vote is hard and mistakes can be made,” Hagale said. “When that happens, leaders must own up to it, admit when they’re wrong and recognize when a change in course is needed.”

5. Education is critically important “For most of us, school is a time for us to mature, learn, understand the importance of time management, and learn social interaction and skill sets for life,” Hagale said. Lifelong learning builds on this foundation.