Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:29 pm
Rick Smith, president of Brookfield-based R.A. Smith and Associates Inc., says creativity, flexibility and loyalty to employees are the keys to his company’s success.
"I always tell people to come up with one or two alternatives," he said. "It might take more time, it might cost more, we will probably suffer in profitability, but the long-range benefits far outweigh the loss in profits."
Last month, the civil engineering firm opened its first office outside of Wisconsin in Pittsburgh. Such growth is, in part, due to a continuous effort to receive client feedback, Smith said.
"What we try and do is stay ahead of the market by anticipating what people’s needs are going to be in the next year to five years and start to develop those services in the organization so we can truly be a help," he said.
Therefore, his company is malleable, always adding new services, constantly changing.
"We have added landscape architecture, IT Services, 3D visualization, training classes, we develop some software within the organization, we have a GPS system," Smith said.
The company works to understand the long-range objectives of clients and is even willing to refer a project to another firm, if that’s what is best for the customer, Smith said.
"We see if a different approach or alliances we have with other companies might not provide a better solution," Smith said.
One of the most unique aspects of the company is its ability to diversify, Smith said.
"We wanted to diversify so we wouldn’t be dependent on any one market sector, and I worked on cross training employees so they could do private and public sector work," he said.
Treating employees with respect, honesty and integrity has driven his company’s success more than anything else, according to Smith.
"People are our greatest resource," he said.
Chuck Stevens, the marketing director for the company, said he feels part of a team under Smith’s leadership.
"[Rick Smith] values your input, your thoughts, your ideas, suggestions, he seeks it out constantly," Stevens said. "He has a very open policy to invite participation to the firm."
Smith said he is discovering that as his company’s success is becoming more visible, more people are seeking jobs at R.A. Smith and Associates.
"To have professionals seek out this company as their first choice of employment is tremendous to me as a business owner," Smith said.
The company also has had no problem retaining employees, said Tim Barbeau, director of the public works division for the firm.
"That doesn’t happen in the engineering and surveying industry all that much," said Barbeau, who has been an employee for more than 11 years.
The employees appreciate the company’s ability to create a balance with their home and personal needs, Stevens and Barbeau said.
"I think it’s an emphasis of the firm to create a life-work balance, which is so important today with so many demands on everyone’s time," Stevens said.
"Rick encourages family activities, encourages people to have the time to coach baseball, participate in kids activities," Barbeau said.
In addition, community service is a major aspect of the firm’s philosophy, and many of the senior staff members volunteer at community organizations, serving as role models for other employees, Stevens said.
Development and empowerment programs have also been incorporated into the culture of the organization.
"I was able to take part in a management training program in 2003," Stevens said. "It really helped me build an awareness of what is possible for making a successful company."
R.A. Smith has increased the staff every year the firm has been in business, and the company again is reaching out to add to its staff.
"We are doing a lot of recruiting now on college campuses," Smith said. "We are looking for the best talent to join our organization. I feel proud of the people I represent."
June 25, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI