The Last Word: Do the right thing

Richard A. Smith, M.S., P.E., President

R.A. Smith National Inc.

16745 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield, WI 53005-5938  

Number of employees: 155

Services: Civil engineering, including infrastructure, transportation, traffic, storm water management, water resources, bridge and structural, municipal, construction services; land development, including commercial, retail, industrial, residential, landscape architecture and irrigation design; and geographic information systems (GIS), information technology, 3DViz, grants/legislation services and surveying.

The past year has been a tough one for Richard A. Smith and his civil engineering firm, R.A. Smith National Inc. Like most engineering companies, R.A. Smith has been in survival mode, as the recession has halted most construction projects. The downturn has forced Smith to make some painful decisions, including layoffs and contingency plans. Smith says the recession also has opened his eyes to the true character – good and bad – of the leaders of companies he has dealt with over the years.

“The current economy does not corrupt the minds of trusted leadership. Rather, it is the opportunity to reinforce what all humans long for: ‘Doing the right thing.’ Today, more than ever, those in power and position have the responsibility to engender comfort and compassion toward those whose careers are hanging in the balance. How we treat people is a reflection of how we conduct business and often is a picture of our personal lives.

“Actions are guided by the wonderful gift of free will that is embedded in each of us.  Franklin D. Roosevelt said, ‘Confidence thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them, it cannot live.’

“The test of who we are is often displayed by how we act when faced with adversity and crisis. The challenging times of today give us a chance to validate our principles of what is right. Our integrity and ethics are what prevail in the minds of those who entrust us as well as those who engage our services or purchase our products. Respect and pride are traits revered by all. It has been said that it takes years to build a reputation and only 10 minutes to destroy one. This lesson reminds us that consistency is what makes us successful, not just for a period of time, but for life.

“Right is not always what is written in contracts, but rather what should guide our conscience. Our individual judgment is the difference between just working and becoming a consummate professional. The latter are people who are always ‘Doing the right thing.”

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