BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week: Rick Smith

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 10:59 am

Rick Smith, president of R.A. Smith National
Company address: 16745 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield, Wisconsin 53005
Industry: Multi-discipline civil engineering
Number of employees: 160
Family: Wife, Joan, and three adult children

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?
“We invested in innovative technology and made strategic hires to expand our services and capabilities.”

What’s new at your company?
“In 2013, we were named a top 20 civil engineering firm to work for nationally, and we added 11 new professional staff. In October, we were accepted into the Wisconsin Green Tier Program by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Green Tier Program recognizes companies and communities that have a good environmental record, commit to superior environmental performance, and implement an Environmental Management System (EMS).”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
“Yes. We are planning to add staff at all levels in all four of our locations – Brookfield, Appleton, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. We will continue to partner with regional higher educational institutions to employ the best entry-level talent in our co-op programs. We will make additional capital investments in our business and in our Brookfield corporate office building to conserve energy, lessen our footprint and provide a better work environment for our personnel.”  

What will be your company’s priorities heading into 2014?
“Growth is a key priority as we look to expand existing business areas, strengthen emerging areas and enter new markets. We will continue to seek to be an employer of choice for our industry.”

How has your company managed to continue growing over the last 35 years? What has fueled your growth and longevity?
“Hiring talented individuals and staying true to our founding principles – stability, innovation and quality – is the underpinning. The key to our success has been the emphasis we have placed on building solid client and employee relationships and delivering value. We have very low turnover of personnel, which creates stability and consistency. Diversification of revenue is another factor that remains important. We strive to meet our clients’ needs for services that extend beyond the civil engineering and surveying services that have been the core of our business. In recent years, we have broadened our services to include landscape architecture, ecological, laser scanning and most recently structural engineering.”
Do you have a business mantra?
“We can always improve.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“I look up to all of the brilliant pioneers who have advanced my profession. These innovators include John Jarvis, New York water system; Alfred Barrett, Erie Canal; Herbert Hoover, 31st president of the United States; Joseph Strauss, Golden Gate Bridge; Thomas Edison; and Henry Ford. I also look up to business contemporary models that include Frank Lloyd Wright, John F. Kennedy, Sam Johnson and Al McGuire.”  

What was the best advice you ever received?
“Throughout my career, I have often recalled two well-known phrases which have inspired me – ‘never give up’ (Vince Lombardi) and ‘treat others the way you expect to be treated.’”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?
“I was at a Marquette University basketball game and the song ‘Jump Around’ played. I, like everyone else, started to jump to the beat of the song. Ever since that game, it became the norm for me to jump when the song is played. Now anywhere I travel I get recognized as the Marquette ‘Jump Around Guy.’ Regardless of what I achieve professionally, I never would’ve thought that I would be recognized nationally for my jumping skills.”

What do you like to do in your free time?
“I have fun doing a little of everything as long as it is with family. My favorite activities include swimming, running, golfing, bike riding, basketball, baseball, water and snow skiing, scuba diving, talking, singing, playing board games, and always trying new things like paddle boarding, yoga, kayaking and zip-lining.”

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