Todd Petersen has over 25 years of experience in business growth, finance and sales. He was the Co-Founder, President and Chief Operations Officer for Firelands Group, LLC, and has also held key leadership roles at companies such as Coventry Health Care and others. Five months ago, Todd Petersen would have chuckled if you told him he’d be working for Heartland Dental in the near future. But, four and a half months ago, Todd Petersen found himself doing just that.
In mid-April, Petersen joined Heartland Dental as Chief Human Resource Officer. In this role he is responsible for creating a world-class human resources model, advancing the recruiting and selection process, building the company’s organizational structure and enhancing the overall culture of Heartland Dental. Petersen will kick-off Smiling’s “Meet the Executive” series.
"Heartland Dental — Great people united behind a single purpose."
Chief Human Resource Officer at Heartland Dental
When is your birthday?
Todd: July 11.
What is your zodiac sign?
What college did you attend?
Todd: I got my baccalaureate from the University of Missouri in political science and accounting, and I received my Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Illinois.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Todd: I imagine I was like most kids my age and wanted to be a policeman or fireman – my brother actually became a fireman. As I got older, I wanted to be like my grandfather who was an executive at an insurance company, and that’s exactly what I ended up doing for most of my career.
Favorite memory growing up?
Todd: After school most days I would go to my grandparents’ house. Those are my favorite memories just spending time with them. I really emulated and admired my grandfather.
What was your first job?
Todd: Detasseling corn. I think I was 14 or 15. You had to get up really early and came home with cuts all over your hands from the corn leaves.
Where are you from?
Todd: I grew up in Quincy, IL, but I currently reside in Champaign, IL.
Are you involved in the community?
Todd: Yes, I spent six years as the treasurer of United Way of Champaign County. I also took a board seat with the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club in Champaign – I spent two years as vice president, two years as chairman and two years as past president.
"I wanted to be like my grandfather who was an executive at an insurance company, and that's exactly what I ended up doing for most of my career."
Tell us about your family.
Todd: My wife’s name is Carolyn and this fall we will be married 23 years. Our son, Noah, recently turned 19 and will attend Loyola University in Chicago to study accounting in the business honors program. Our daughter, Olivia, is 16 and will soon get her driver’s license. Lewis is the family pet. He’s a 10 year old, 95 pound, golden retriever/Labrador mix.
Where did you meet your wife?
Todd: Carolyn and I met at Mizzou. We were on student government together.
How do you drink your coffee in the morning?
Todd: Most mornings I stop at McDonalds and get a medium vanilla iced coffee.
Since you commute to Effingham, do you have a morning routine?
Todd: I’m usually up at the break of dawn to go for a walk. I’m on the road by 6:00 a.m., stop at an exit to get my coffee and then it’s on to Effingham from there. There’s no traffic, so it’s a pretty easy commute.
Are you currently reading any books?
Todd: I have a couple books on my nightstand right now. One of them is about how African American migration occurred from the north to south and how that changed the landscape of our country. The other is a book by Carl Rove about President William McKinley.
Do you have any favorite books?
Todd: My favorite fiction series is Tom Clancy. My favorite non-fiction is a biography of Ronald Reagan.
What’s your favorite color?
Heartland Dental blue?
Todd: Well, dark blue. Midnight blue. That’s Heartland Dental blue isn’t it? Yeah, Heartland Dental blue.
What is your go-to food at a restaurant?
Todd: I don’t really have a go-to food. I like variety.
What’s your least favorite food?
Todd: The only thing I don’t care for is Asian food…other than sushi.
Favorite Heartland Dental memory so far? I had the opportunity to go to Orlando Florida for a week and do some observation in supported dental offices. That was, WOW."
Todd: Heath bar, but there really is no bad candy.
What is on your music playlist right now?
Todd: I listen to a lot of music. You’d be shocked. I like jazz, I like classical, I like 80’s music, I like what my kids listen to, you know new pop, and I love country.
Do you have a favorite song on the radio right now?
Todd: I like a lot of stuff that Zac Brown Band puts out. I got to see him in concert before he became a big star.
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
Todd: I have no idea! Can I have more than one?
Where is your favorite place to travel?
Todd: Rome and London are my two favorite cities.
What do you like to do on your days off?
Todd: Spend it with Carolyn and the kids. As a family, our favorite activity is snow skiing, but the beach is always good too.
Favorite sports teams?
Todd: University of Missouri and University of Illinois. Blackhawks, Chicago Bears, Chicago Bulls, St. Louis Cardinals. No Cubs.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Todd: Oh, I would love to be able to fly. If you could be like Superman all the time and fly wouldn’t that be cool?
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
What is your greatest success and failure, and what did you learn?
Todd: I don’t know about successes, but failures, I’ve had enough of those in my career. I had just been promoted to CFO at Coventry, I think I was 29 at the time, maybe 30. I had a huge project that I had to take on as CFO and there ended up being a mistake in the analysis. It was a big mistake that cost the company a lot of money. Any other boss probably would have said, “You’re gone,” but my CEO at the time, said, “Todd, you’re going to learn from this,” and he didn’t fire me. Whenever young people are coming up and they’re given big tasks and aren’t successful right off the bat, I always remember that moment. I’ve always told people the same thing, “You’re going to learn from this and you’re going to get better.”
"To me the most compelling thing about Heartland Dental is the unique culture built upon personal professional growth, and the entrepreneurial spirit that exists here."
Do you have a mentor?
Todd: I am blessed to have several mentors. The CEO when I was the CFO of Coventry Health Care, the company I worked at for 15 years. The Senior Vice President of Coventry when I was promoted to CEO. The COO of Coventry has also been a long time mentor of mine. He really taught me how to grow my leadership capabilities.
What is something your mentors taught you?
Todd: Each of them taught me different leadership skills along the way. Early in my career I would say I was very technically oriented, and every one of them helped me understand that leadership development was essentially how I was going to be able to evolve my career and influence others.
Favorite Heartland Dental memory so far?
Todd: I had the opportunity to go to Orlando, Florida for a week and do some observation in supported dental offices. That was, WOW.
What is Heartland Dental’s secret weapon?
Todd: The culture of the company.
If you were going to tell someone one thing about Heartland Dental, what would you say?
Todd: To me the most compelling thing about Heartland Dental is the unique culture built upon personal professional growth, and the entrepreneurial spirit that exists here.
What does Heartland Dental family mean to you?
Todd: Great people united behind a single purpose.