CEO Q&A: Justin A. Smith, C.D. Smith Construction, Inc.

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BizTimes: What is your philosophy on innovation within your firm?

Justin Smith: At C.D. Smith our philosophy on innovation is to work smarter. We focus on best practices in all areas of our business and are dedicated to continuous improvement and innovation. Our entire workforce is empowered and encouraged to bring forward new ideas for better ways of working. Most importantly, we communicate what works across the company to realize the full benefits of successful ideas.

BT: What is your personal history and how has it affected your leadership?

JS: This company was founded by my great-grandfather. I literally grew up here and have served in many roles. Starting as a laborer and working to my current position has afforded me a perspective to better lead the organization. Since I have done or been a part of what our teams do in the field and in the office, I truly understand what it takes to build successful relationships and projects while striving to be the best at what we do.

BT: How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

JS: To me, success is setting clearly defined goals and meeting or exceeding them. Success is knowing what you stand for and standing for it even when it’s not the easy thing to do. Success is doing what you say you will do. It is my commitment to our company and to my family that motivates me to succeed.

BT: From your experience, what are the strongest qualities you’ve seen in leaders and how do those qualities translate into success?

JS: I believe strong leaders are those who build accountable, high performing teams. To do that, a leader must also empower their people to make important decisions in their area and collaborate to influence success in other areas. Most importantly, I believe in surrounding myself with people smarter than me.

BT: What sets your firm apart from others?

JS: This is easy. Our people are what sets us apart. Though that may sound simple or even a little cliché, it’s true. At C.D. Smith more than 20% of our employees have been with the company for 10 years or more. We continue to hear from our clients and industry partners that they enjoy working with C.D. Smith because of the “get it done right” mentality of all of our people. From our newest field staff through leadership, we strive to ensure each employee embodies our core values of Hard Work, Adaptability and Building Relationships.

BT: What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

JS: Over the past year we have fully aligned our project management and financial systems. The process was intense and painful at times. However, this was a necessary step to enable us to provide the best service to our clients and business partners.

BT: What’s next for your company?

JS: Growth. I am confident we have the right people, in the right seats to position our company for continued growth. Our goal isn’t necessarily to be the biggest; we desire to grow strategically at a pace that does not compromise quality, safety or culture.

BT: What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

JS: The single biggest challenge facing our industry today is the shortage of skilled tradespeople. Let’s face it, the trades have taken a back seat to college education and strong arguments can be made for either career path. This has created a barrier to replacing the talent and skills of our veterans as they hang up their tool belts. At C.D. Smith we are proactive in our efforts to attract the next generation by partnering with area high schools and trade schools to inspire careers in construction. Recruitment is only the first step, however. Once we hire, we provide the training and growth opportunities that create a culture of continuous learning and instill a desire to live our core values. 

241 North Broadway    Milwaukee, WI 53202
(920) 924-2900    www.cdsmith.com

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