Skip links

Ep. 427 Rich Smith | President / CEO of Henderson Engineers

Ep. 427 Rich Smith | Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg

Rich Smith is the president and CEO of Henderson Engineers, a 50-year old company with more than 800 employees across the United States.  Henderson focuses on an employee-centric culture and a client-first mentality.  

Smith has spent more than a quarter century at Henderson and is responsible for setting the company’s overall strategic vision and purpose, building corporate culture, improving internal and external communication, and fostering leadership engagement.

<

 

Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg Podcast was created to share the stories of men and women in business and entrepreneurship that are both well knowing and or hidden gems. Joel believes that everyone has a story and their story matters which is why Joel is eager to connect with individuals that are bringing value to their community through innovation, leadership, entrepreneurial journeys, and developing company culture. If you would like to be a guest on Joel’s podcast please email us at joel@joelgoldbergmedia.com.

TRANSCRIPT:

RICH SMITH TRANSCRIPT

Joel Goldberg: Welcome into rounding the bases, the podcast about culture and leadership with a baseball twist. My name is Joel Goldberg hope everyone is doing well. Staying healthy out there and

Joel Goldberg: A lot to discuss with a great guest today. Everyone knows that I love talking about leadership. And so when I have the opportunity to talk to the CEO of a big company that’s certainly

Joel Goldberg: Lessons that I want to be able to pass on. And so that is my guest today is

Joel Goldberg: The CEO of Henderson engineers in Kansas City rich Smith is my guest and it has been like anyone in any profession.

Joel Goldberg: And anyone in any role of leadership and interesting time a challenging time and I want to talk to Richard about that his background and Henderson engineers over the next 3040 minutes rich. Thanks for joining the podcast.

Rich Smith: Well, pleasure to be here and thank you for getting our company’s name right, I have heard Henderson engineering

Rich Smith: So many times. So thank you for that and just kind of a side story I growing up, I always wanted to be a rock star and, you know, The Jackson five. The osmonds Little River band yellow

Rich Smith: But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t play an instrument. I couldn’t read music. And so what do I do I go into engineering which couldn’t be any further away from rock star, but I feel like a rock star today being here today. So thank you.

Joel Goldberg: For having while you’re

Joel Goldberg: You’re too kind. And I know that the role of CEO and president can sort of be like that lead singer, per se. I don’t know. I mean, how many kids grow up saying, I want to be the CEO one day of an engineering firm. They’re like, that’s proper use by the way of the word engineering right

Rich Smith: And that’s okay. That’s okay.

Joel Goldberg: I don’t know when you said that, by the way, I was like,

Joel Goldberg: How do you, how do you mess up Henderson engineer. How do you mess up the name Henderson, but okay. So it’s the

Rich Smith: It’s the engineering part and it’s so subtle, it’s just because I work here for 27 years that I’ve noticed it. But, you know,

Rich Smith: So,

Joel Goldberg: Back to what I was saying, though he probably not a lot of kids grow up saying one day I’m going to be the CEO of an engineering company. But what was there that desire to be an engineer. What was that part of who you were growing up, or where and how did you get there.

Rich Smith: And you know, I would sit. Really, I have a counselor in high school, to thank for going into engineering

Rich Smith: You know, I’m not sure any of us ever really know what we want to do and a lot of times that course kind of evolves as we grow and mature, but

Rich Smith: I had a counselor in high school that said you got some decent aptitude in science and math, the world will always need engineers, so you should go into engineering and it was pretty much as simple as that.

Rich Smith: I would say half of my mind is engineering, but the other half is more

Rich Smith: You know, branding marketing, advertising, and so it

Rich Smith: Because that mixture. I really had a lot of fun, but never really had a goal or a desire to be the president and CEO. It wasn’t like I woke up and said, Man, this is what I want to be. It just happened naturally and I think because of that. Maybe it’s a better story right

Joel Goldberg: Well, and, and so now you’re running the company, but he’s been with Henderson for

Joel Goldberg: Walk over half your life for somewhere, somewhere around there. Right. And then, so I know that on on the website.

Joel Goldberg: For Henderson engineers, which is Henderson engineers calm talks about the focus on people and that is something I you know I I think which that’s so basic

Joel Goldberg: Yet I find it so important to talk about because David glass. The lead owner, the royals said to me, You do nothing in life without people you’re you can never be successful. Just on your own. You don’t make money or have success or when

Rich Smith: Yeah.

Joel Goldberg: As just one person. And this was coming from a guy that you know it just sold the team for a billion dollars in the point was that it all involves people and so on the website. It does. It does say employee centric culture. Talk to me about that and why it’s so important.

Rich Smith: Well, I heard date more status. Once that you know once you leave a job. It’s not the work that you miss or that you remember it’s the relationships and the people

Rich Smith: And I think what we found at Henderson. Well first off our, our founder Fran Henderson started the company in 1970 and

Rich Smith: Was going to be an off the charts and amazing year for us. And it’s our 50th anniversary, we were going to have a celebration where all 900 of our employees. We were going to fly them back to Kansas City and have

Rich Smith: A Celebration a summit have a big party and power light, it was going to be amazing. And then a little bit of covert happened and changed all of that and it’s been a challenge, but really, since our foundation in 1970 it’s always been about the

Joel Goldberg: People

Rich Smith: We have an important job we’re designing buildings we have health and safety.

Rich Smith: You know, at the top of mind quality and all of that. But at the end of the day, it’s about people and that’s probably been our biggest differentiator. And what’s interesting is that if you focus on people.

Rich Smith: Some of the other important measures like profit and KPIs and efficiency and

Rich Smith: All of that utilization. They take care of themselves, because people if they feel like they work for an organization that cares about them. They can flourish and be fulfilled and they just they bring their best effort and they they want to win for themselves but for each other.

Joel Goldberg: And I think there’s something there to about how you can care about results and still care about people. Right. And we so often this is true in sports. This is true in business so often get so hyper focused on the results.

Joel Goldberg: When really, we first have to think about the process, the people what it is that goddess there. Yeah.

Rich Smith: Well, and one of my favorite books is a book by Joel man be called Love works and Joel was the or Fitzgerald be the president CEO of silver dollar city.

Rich Smith: There’s actually a parent organization that owns silver dollar city, but the whole book was about caring about your employees and he used the word love not in a romantic way. It was about caring about each other and

Rich Smith: That you if you care about your employees you invest in in you train them, you provide an environment where they can flourish great things are going to happen.

Rich Smith: But the, the other part of love is the tough love. He talked about that as well. If somebody’s not a fit.

Rich Smith: You can coach them up and try, but if they’re not a fit. It’s probably time to coach them out as well. And that’s going to further your culture and your organization. When you do that if somebody is just not working out.

Joel Goldberg: Kind of give it a try at first and see if we can

Joel Goldberg: Make it work if it doesn’t, and you’ve got to move on.

Rich Smith: And, but, you know, one of the things about being in the Midwest. We’re really nice people.

Rich Smith: And sometimes it’s hard to make those tough personnel decisions, but I can tell you that and Henderson is a nice company we care.

Rich Smith: Probably to a fault, but when you make those tough decisions. It always works out. And so, and that’s part of leadership. I mean, you’ve got to be able to consider those and make those tough decisions and live with it.

Joel Goldberg: So let’s talk about these tough decisions because here you are in the ultimate leadership role.

Joel Goldberg: On top, this culture based company that cares about its people that’s doing work. All over. All over the country. You’ve got people all over the place, not just here in Kansas City. And then like everyone else.

Joel Goldberg: Your world all of our worlds were rocked and I sent over and over again and I’ll continue to say it. I don’t care what your role is with whatever team or organization you’re in or within your family. Whoever you are, there’s the end, whatever your politics are

Joel Goldberg: Everyone was affected by this. The I you know I looked at it like this is not a work for baseball and I you know need to figure out how to make this work.

Joel Goldberg: For I’ve got it worse than whoever. It’s all relative. And I would think about say someone like you or someone

Joel Goldberg: That was running a company that was trying to figure out how to get their people home or how to keep their people employed and, you know, do you have to deal with furloughs or this or that everybody was under pressure.

Joel Goldberg: So that day hits. Tell me about the response of Henderson engineers and then how you were able to navigate that.

Rich Smith: Well, it was looking back, it was a surreal day to sit to hit send.

Rich Smith: That we’re going to work, remote and literally within minutes to see people packing up their laptops their monitors or docking stations and

Rich Smith: It hasn’t been the same since. And for a culture driven company. It has been a challenge and something that I’ve worried about

Rich Smith: But the other thing is that we invest heavily in leadership and and not just an innocent. I’ve seen leaders just rise to the occasion.

Rich Smith: And I can’t really recall anybody complaining about the situation right it was. We’re going to make the best of this, we’re going to bond together and we’re going to see this through.

Rich Smith: I would say one of the maybe the Henderson luck things that happened with us is that we were knee deep in already working towards being more remote so you know most of our employees had laptops, we had already

Rich Smith: We were zoom companies. We were already using zoom and we just got a little bit lucky in that regard and also our work that type of work that we do.

Rich Smith: It’s conducive to working remote and so we tell you what our utilization stayed strong we doubled down on customer service with our with our clients.

Rich Smith: And people just locked arms and came together and it’s just been, you know, from that that standpoint, it’s been really fulfilling to see our company come together and I think that culture first helped

Rich Smith: But I put a lot of thought into the future and what it’s going to be like in six months, or nine months. And what is that work environment of the future going to look like. And it’s it’s it’s either scary or exciting depending on your, your makeup and your personality.

Joel Goldberg: Well I you know I was curious about that too in terms of makeup and personality, because on the on the website under your bio and

Joel Goldberg: It says level headed passionate strategic open minded. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind when we think of rich our president and CEO and

Joel Goldberg: The two words that really stood out to me there in terms of what we’re talking about. And in terms of potential crisis and adversity.

Joel Goldberg: Is level headed and open minded. So how were you able to, because look, you know, this up on top. It starts with you.

Joel Goldberg: And everyone’s going to look at you and you know it can be top down and bottom up right when you have that great culture but everyone’s looking to say

Joel Goldberg: How’s the boss gonna respond. How’s the leader. Good. How’s his leadership team going to respond, your leaders are looking at you. So was it challenging to remain level headed and open minded or was that just counting on who you are as a person and trusting your instincts.

Rich Smith: Well, my, my father passed on to me a trade of positivity, we have all of our employees at interested in go through strength finders and

Rich Smith: We did that because we wanted to invest in our employees, but we also felt it would give them an opportunity to get to know each other better

Rich Smith: So my number one strength is positivity and I just don’t see problems right I see opportunities or I see solutions.

Rich Smith: And I just, I spend my life looking for silver linings and it drives my wife. Crazy, right, because sometimes people just want to complain.

Rich Smith: But, you know, if you look hard enough, there’s there’s Silver Linings and opportunities. And so I’m just genetically wired that way. And if I give a leadership.

Rich Smith: Presentation and it when one of those slides I talk about it actually shows leader holding a level.

Rich Smith: And that level headedness, and it’s something that Duane Henderson was the predecessor to me and I really it was interesting to me to see him.

Rich Smith: almost become more calm in the presence of

Rich Smith: Pressure or an issue. It’s just something that I think you know we always look to our leadership to see us through. Right. And so I think that’s something that I take very, very serious that that level headed and that positivity.

Rich Smith: And I think the thing we had an amazing leadership team that came together and we have a plan and we communicated that plan and we talked to our employees about that plan.

Rich Smith: And those first several months, we really clicked as, as a company, and as a leadership team and a lot of that had to do with coming up with a plan communicating that plan and over communicating that freedom to our employees so they they knew what was going on.

Joel Goldberg: Well I you know there’s there’s something to be said when when times are tough.

Joel Goldberg: About the way I mentioned it that the boss, the leader response I there were so many nights during that iOS 10 years manager, the royals where

Joel Goldberg: It almost felt like we were watching one game.

Joel Goldberg: And he was watching the other I would sit there and say, Oh man, this didn’t go all this didn’t go well. Then he goes into his press conference. And it’s like, wait, we will actually the same game.

Joel Goldberg: No, but he’s not going to go out there and and very anyone publicly unless it really had to be done, but more importantly he would say, look, this is an easy right now. During a tough time

Joel Goldberg: But everybody’s looking at me. And if I go down there going down with me and so that this was that moment right and in March. I mean, if you can, calmly help make this transition. I know it wasn’t all you

Joel Goldberg: Then they’re all going to do that. The flip side of that is you referenced how smoothly. Everybody just moved home and and the impressive this with the transition that they made that has to be a testament to the culture and the type of people you have

Rich Smith: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think that the foundation was laid. So what I worry about now is, is the future. Right. And if you’re an employee that’s been in Henderson for a year, five years 10 years

Rich Smith: You know that like the heart and soul of what we believe that what our vision and purpose is. But what I worry about is the new grad.

Rich Smith: Or somebody that comes to the organization new and they don’t have the benefit of that history and those strong relationships.

Rich Smith: And I can’t even imagine being a new graduate coming out of college and starting my first job, and I’m working in my apartment.

Rich Smith: You know behind a computer screen in like, where’s the camaraderie. Where’s the mentorship. Where’s the training right and that stuff’s important

Rich Smith: And so as soon as we can. I can’t wait to get our company back to that. But I also want to embrace you know it’s kind of like in World War Two.

Rich Smith: In the Pacific, the battleship was like supreme and you know everything centered around

Rich Smith: Naval doctrine sit around the batch of will almost overnight is switched to the aircraft carrier right

Rich Smith: And so a lot of us have this this battleship mentality about a corporate office. You know, you got to come into work every day. You got to be here at eight and leave at five and

Rich Smith: You know, you’ve got all these amenities what’s exciting to me is potentially embracing this work environment where you have the best of both worlds. You still have the ability to have

Rich Smith: connectedness between people and relationship building all those things that are important to a team to success and to winning

Rich Smith: But you also allow people the ability to have control over their work environment and what works for them.

Rich Smith: And if you can mix those two together the companies that do that are going to flourish in whatever the this post coven economy or world is is being willing to kind of let go of the battleships of the past and move forward.

Joel Goldberg: You know, it’s interesting. I was thinking about this, because when you and I talked a few weeks back, you were, you were concerned about the the new young kids coming in and walking into this, but I wonder if they’re better prepared for that than we would have been

Rich Smith: Yeah, I see that. But I see my 13 year old struggling with zoom right now. So, but, yes, I do think that is the case, there is a subtlety to this. And one of the things that we’ve been really successful at is Henderson is blurring the lines between

Rich Smith: Work and in life and it becomes one. And what I what I don’t mean is that people are taking their work home with them but relationships.

Rich Smith: Hobbies friendships, those things cross over much more now than they did when I first got out of school when I got out of school. It was, you know, you left at five and you that, and that was it.

Rich Smith: And now there’s just so much more, at least at Henderson and that’s kind of my lens. There’s so much more connection.

Rich Smith: Before work after work during work and friendships and that blurring of the line. I’m just not sure how it’s going to play out. If we continue to be, you know, more remote and less remote going going forward.

Joel Goldberg: And okay, I’m not saying that it’s not challenging times for for a younger person, but they they are wired differently. Well, we were wired differently when we were young.

Joel Goldberg: You know, I mean, it’s just that the times change. And it’s often the

Joel Goldberg: The older generation that struggles with that change in the younger ones just like, well, yeah, this is the way it is. But you know you did hit on something.

Joel Goldberg: That I think is really important. I remember when we were talking, you know, you mentioned the you know the local Hangout.

Joel Goldberg: To go and have a drink or hang with employees or clients afterwards. And we don’t have that right now and you talked about when when you’re able to get everybody back. So how do you replace that void right now when you don’t have those same abilities.

Joel Goldberg: Well,

Rich Smith: You said something that’s really interesting there, and that is the the relationships.

Rich Smith: That like my kids have with their friends are different than the relationships that I had when I was a kid, and they’re just much more digital. And so I think from that perspective, being able to connect

Rich Smith: Through a you know a technology, technology or digital world is going to be easier for

Rich Smith: But how do you connect going forward. We’ve gotten creative and done some things I personally think

Rich Smith: That it may be a little bit of a stopgap but we you know we have virtual happy hours and things like that. We actually

Rich Smith: Allowed. We had one team that was that was spread across the United States. And it wasn’t just centered in one spot and we gave everybody like a grub hub.

Rich Smith: If card that they could use and have food delivered. So when they had this virtual lunch meeting they can all eat together and the company was was helping pay for that.

Rich Smith: So we’ve done some stuff like that. But really, at the end of the day what we’re hanging our hat on is communication and just trying to over communicate

Rich Smith: Use zoom as much as possible and try to break down those barriers and that can be a little bit of a challenge with engineers because

Rich Smith: You know I hate to stereotype but a lot of times engineers tend to be that they prefer to just kind of work on their own in their cube and not be bothered. And so it’s kind of a challenge to break through some of the, some of those barriers, sometimes

Joel Goldberg: And I don’t know that they view that from my experience, you would know much better than me as a as a negative stereotype either. I think others might I almost have sensed in the past that they view that as a badge of honor.

Rich Smith: Absolutely in there and I think they’re enjoying this. This new working that they’re probably more efficient and getting more done

Rich Smith: And it’s just all in their wheelhouse. So I agree, but you mentioned the Hangout. That’s interesting. You know, like my favorite shows of all time. You know, we’re like cheers and Seinfeld.

Rich Smith: And friends, where they had a Hangout. Right. They had a place where you would just socially connect. And for us it was a restaurant Bar and Grill. That was about two or three blocks away from here and we kind of joked that Henderson should buy it and we can rename it the Hindi.

Rich Smith: But it was all over a beer or two that we would talk about that, but

Rich Smith: You know, it was an opportunity to set work aside for a little bit and focus on some of those things that are really important. And that’s relationships and trust and just

Rich Smith: You know having each other’s back and I’m old school. And I think those things are really important to the success of any team, whether it’s sports or whether it’s engineering

Joel Goldberg: A couple quick topics I want to follow up on that you talked about that that happened to be really important to me.

Joel Goldberg: When I speak now. It was interesting because when I was speaking before it was mostly about culture and and it still is. But what I realized

Joel Goldberg: Once I went virtual and companies were starting to come back and say, Hey, you know, we want to hire you. We’ve got something going on. We want to

Joel Goldberg: You know, bring this virtually to our people is the topic was navigating these times, and how to do it. And you mentioned a word that I talked about a lot as being extremely important.

Joel Goldberg: In what I call small ball and I’ll be asking you about small ball in a minute foundation

Joel Goldberg: Because if you built and look, I’m not an engineer. I’m the guy that has a house in Kansas City, like most people with foundation issues because of the clay and all that kind of stuff.

Joel Goldberg: Do I go down and check for cracks in the foundation every day. No, but I need to every now and then make sure that that foundation is still there, because it is what

Joel Goldberg: You know, allows us to have this roof over our head. The foundation that you referenced before

Joel Goldberg: Is what enabled you to be able to make this pivot and do everything so smoothly, you’re trying to build that foundation on March 11 or 12th or 70 whatever the day was, you’re in trouble. So how would you describe the foundation of Henderson.

Rich Smith: Well Henderson. It’s really an amazing Kansas City success story, and in 1988 we had, I believe, five employees.

Rich Smith: And that was the day that Walmart walked in the door. They did. They literally walked in the door. And it was at that point in time that they were experimenting with the hyper Mark concept, which eventually

Rich Smith: morphed into the Supercenter concept. And we were just at the right place at the right time.

Rich Smith: So we grew with Walmart, but we took advantage of the fact that we had such a great client, such as Walmart and we began to grow and diversify into other things.

Rich Smith: And right now, if you look at companies that the vast majority of what they do is what we do. We are the third largest

Rich Smith: engineering company that does what we do in the United States, in fact. So, phi Stadium, which is the largest and most expensive sports stadium ever build the United States. We are the engineer of record for that right out of Lenexa, Kansas. Very exciting.

Rich Smith: But I think the foundation is I’m going to say

Rich Smith: freedom and flexibility for our employees, giving them the ability to take ownership of what they do, be engaged enough to elevate in their, in their way, elevate the company, to the extent that they can and

Rich Smith: You know, motivation is an interesting thing. And I’m old enough that I kind of grew up in the carrots and stick world where

Rich Smith: You know, if you did something you got paid for it. If you didn’t do it. You lost your job, you got put on probation.

Rich Smith: What we’re trying to do it at Anderson is to create an environment where people feel fulfilled and they want to do it for themselves and for each other. And there’s not

Rich Smith: You know, not necessarily. You’re going to make more money because you do that is because you want to do it. And so I think this notion of

Rich Smith: Really, it goes down to our purposes, the company and our purpose is to create an environment where our people can reach their full potential. And I think if you focus on that. That would probably be I was a long answer, I’m sorry, but that would be that foundational thing, right.

Joel Goldberg: It’s a great answer. And actually my fall was all covered in there so we’re good.

Rich Smith: With that, I say that I said under the best of ways i mean it’s it’s

Joel Goldberg: It’s so jives with it is in sync with so much of what I talked about. And you know that foundation is so important. I think about it in terms of the

Joel Goldberg: The defensive drills. You know, one of the stories I tell is is seeing on one of the final days of last year, Ron Washington who is the third base coach of the Braves and it was a long time manager and he’s known like rusty Coons here in Kansas.

Rich Smith: City.

Joel Goldberg: As just one of the true teachers of fundamentals in terms of baseball

Joel Goldberg: Is the last week of the season. The Braves that already clinched they knew where they were going. The Royals were out of it. And here he is just doing these drills drill after drill after drill with the shortstop

Joel Goldberg: And and I asked him afterwards. I said, you know, how often do you do that. He goes, not every day. We just need to make sure that we keep a fine tuned and that it’s a part of who we are foundation can oftentimes be your muscle memory.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, it’s muscle memory.

Rich Smith: So I’ve got a quick story. That’ll that’ll that’ll make this clear. So my first day at Henderson in starting a new job. Always sucks right nobody likes that. That’s why I’ve stayed here 27 years

Rich Smith: But my first day I walk in and they’d forgotten that I was starting. And so they were scrambling and building a cube for me.

Rich Smith: And while they were doing that are deployed came up to me and he says,

Rich Smith: Dude, you made the biggest mistake coming here. If your last name isn’t Henderson and if you didn’t go to K state, you’re not gonna go anywhere in this company.

Rich Smith: And I was like holy shit, you know, and at lunch. This is before cell phones and lunch. I went to the Hardys

Rich Smith: That was catty corner from Henderson and I called my wife and I said, I think I made a huge mistake come in here and fortunately it all worked out. But the book end of that is one year later, my one year anniversary, had my first review.

Rich Smith: And then I was I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that a annual reviews, you kind of dread and there’s a process, but when we sat down.

Rich Smith: The owners of the company were asking me things like, what are you passionate about what do you love to do what gets you excited, and how can we

Rich Smith: orientate you to help the company in that regards and I’ve never had anybody take an interest in me and care. I was just always used to doing the job. Somebody told me what to do. And I did.

Rich Smith: hear somebody was asking about me and how I was wired. That’s the sweet spot of what Henderson has done over the course of the last 30 years is trying to find that sweet spot for our employees so they can become and be their best selves when they come to work.

Joel Goldberg: I love it. Absolutely love it. Let’s get to the baseball themed questions now and let’s begin with the homerun Professionally speaking, what is the biggest home run that you have hit

Rich Smith: Well, I’m going to drift off a little bit. And this is a story of a girl and there’s a music reference there. One of my favorite songs is story of a girl by nine days but

Rich Smith: In baseball terms and in my skill with the opposite sex. I would probably say it’s a single maybe a slide in double. But when I met my wife, she was, she was my home run in. But the thing that I had to realize is that I had to up my game.

Rich Smith: And when I was in junior high, I had a teacher right in my little yearbook. That said, You are so frustrating rich you have so much potential

Rich Smith: So much potential that you just do enough to get by. And that was kind of defined who I was up to that point, and I realized that if I wanted to hit this home run with my wife Carol.

Rich Smith: That I was going to have to step up and be a little bit uncomfortable and get noticed

Rich Smith: And ultimately, I was I was successful in that. And we’ve been married for 30 years we have four beautiful kids. We’ve been together since like 85 but what that really did for me is that it opened up my eyes.

Rich Smith: To this whole notion of being comfortable being uncomfortable. And really, that’s where true life exists is putting yourself out there taking

Rich Smith: full use of opportunities to show you. And so, so I took that what I learned with my wife and have put that to use professionally.

Rich Smith: And you know if there’s something that’s really important. That’s worth fighting for. You’re going to go out there and do what you have to do with it. And I think that’s that’s been my home run. And my wife helped me with that.

Joel Goldberg: I think it’s a phenomenal lesson right now too, because it’s so easy to play it safe, especially when times are tough and we do have to keep swinging and we can’t sit there and sit still. And so that’s obviously a life lesson that you are able to figure out very early on.

Joel Goldberg: Faithfully right because it changed the whole course of your life. Okay, I’m glad that that your pursuit of your wife was not your swing and miss.

Rich Smith: I am

Joel Goldberg: I what what’s your big swing and miss.

Rich Smith: And we talked about this in Henderson in my leadership presentation that I give. We call it the rowboat mentality.

Rich Smith: And that is, you’re so focused looking backwards on your past successes that you don’t want to look forward and navigate where the industry or where your company is going

Rich Smith: And ego is definitely a big part of that. And probably around 2000 we made kind of an egocentric decision to get into a line of engineering that was completely out of what we normally do.

Rich Smith: And getting involved buying trucks and equipment and acquiring a company, it was a big deal and it failed miserably.

Rich Smith: And we, you know, ultimately divested ourselves out of it. And, you know, the thing that the two things that I think come to mind from that first is

Rich Smith: We admitted that we failed and we failed relatively fast and so it didn’t like crater. The company, but it also didn’t destroy our entrepreneurial spirit and so we learn from that. And we continue to grow and try new things, new services.

Rich Smith: And so, you know, I think we learned in a positive way that how you can and can’t do it. Don’t be afraid to fail and keep putting yourself out there and provide opportunities for your employees.

Joel Goldberg: And the last one. The small ball question and I know we touched on foundation. This is the one that I love. This is the, the one that I’m

Joel Goldberg: Writing a book on the details will be on that somewhat soon too but small ball. To me it. It’s not just a baseball thing it’s, it can be everything in life. The little things that add up to the big things, one of the little things that add up to the big things for you.

Rich Smith: Well, I’m going to mention too. And we’ve talked about one of them.

Rich Smith: But we were interviewing an individual that was going to lead our Houston office. This was probably three or four years ago when we were you know in a pretty pressure packed.

Rich Smith: interview situation with him. We’ve flown him in and he asked me at the towards the end of this interview. What’s important to you and what are you looking forward

Rich Smith: And you know, I think what what he was looking for was probably we need somebody really technical to the mind, the store with KPIs and

Rich Smith: Make sure our p&l is great but I turned to him and I said, what’s really important to me is somebody who cares. And at the end of the day, a lot of things.

Rich Smith: find their way home. If your leadership begins with somebody who cares about other people. And I know that sounds kind of sappy, but it’s something that I put my head down every night, believing in. It’s really important. And then the other thing that’s been

Rich Smith: Important is creating an environment where people feel like there’s opportunities for them.

Rich Smith: And I think people want to be associated with winners. Right. They want to be associated with organizations that have a plan that have a strategy that’s going somewhere.

Rich Smith: And if they feel like they have those opportunities that are going to stay around and be a part of it so that the small ball. It was caring and making sure that there’s an environment where people see a future and opportunities for them.

Joel Goldberg: I love that like nothing, he said to me back in May, the foundation of care leads to trust an opportunity, and that one will stay with me a long time and that that was

Joel Goldberg: I had called him the may just to check in and say, Boy, you know, how you doing, and how how tough is this

Joel Goldberg: Having made all this progress as a new manager and spring training and now everybody went home and he said, I

Joel Goldberg: Is it’s very much the silver lining that you have. It’s like, no, I view this as

Joel Goldberg: As a great opportunity to get to know people on a deeper level and and to do it even if it’s from a distance, while we’re not so wrapped up in the results. And that’s when he said the foundation of care leads to trust an opportunity

Joel Goldberg: And and for me. I mean, I look at the opportunity during this pandemic of have all these lessons learned and what can you do to leverage those. So anyway, that’s

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, that’s my two cents on that one for final questions as we round the bases with four kids. I know there are a lot of lessons to be learned a lot of lessons to be taught. I would suggest you know i mean i would assume that the one that’s at Yale.

Joel Goldberg: Even even the young kids that are that are either

Joel Goldberg: leaguers still have lessons to learn right so

Joel Goldberg: Tell me, once you’ve taught them about success.

Rich Smith: And so my

Rich Smith: I drilled this into their head and to the point where it’s kind of an eye roll on a job, but it’s something that’s that’s really important to me and

Rich Smith: I’ve got six things and I talked with them about have gotten written on note cards, but the first is work hard at work, whatever you’re doing.

Rich Smith: And it may be a sport that you don’t necessarily like but you’re trying it out and maybe a class that you don’t like, but give it your best effort and work hard.

Rich Smith: The next thing is have a positive attitude. And this is something that you know people want to be around people that have a little fire in the belly and have a positive attitude, a smile on their face and you attract positivity. If you have you know that that positive attitude.

Rich Smith: The third thing that I talked with them about is putting others first

Rich Smith: And I tell you, this is something that’s really helped me through the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of my life is that if things aren’t going well.

Rich Smith: I just focused on other people and things just automatically tend to get to get better.

Rich Smith: And Ziegler had a fantastic quote, and it was his spin on the golden rule. And he said, you can have pretty much anything you want in life. As long as you help other people get what they want in life. And so that’s something that I’ve talked with my kids about

Rich Smith: The next thing is do the right thing.

Rich Smith: And that’s a spike lee reference there a little bit. But I think a better way to word that is make your parents proud.

Rich Smith: And you’re going to be faced with decisions throughout your life, you know, whether it’s how you want to spend your time or your money or the friends you know the jobs you’re in

Rich Smith: And you think about with this decision, what I’m doing. This is going to make my parents proud. I mean that’s something that’s pretty easy to answer, you can look in the mirror and kind of make that decision.

Rich Smith: Something that I’ve talked with them about that when they got a little bit older and they were getting more into college age is creating your own personal brand.

Rich Smith: You know, what is it about you that you want to hang your hat on. What is your foundation

Rich Smith: What differentiates you and what makes you stand out from the noise. You know, I want them to be able to start thinking about that as they go into college and and onto that in their careers.

Rich Smith: And then the last thing that I talked to them about in this goes back to my, my personal home run. And that is be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Rich Smith: And there’s man, if you can live in the front row of life and be out there, you know, why wouldn’t you do that right in life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Rich Smith: And I want my kids in the people that are around me to experience life to the to the fullest. So those are kind of the six things that I’ve been into my kids.

Joel Goldberg: I love all that such good lessons, not just for kids for for anyone to them and it’s never too late to

Joel Goldberg: One figure that out into, as I said before, just to keep on learning. We all need to keep on learning. Okay, so these four final questions as we were on the basis that was one

Joel Goldberg: I never quite know what these are. So I don’t prep you on them. They just kind of come as we’re going. So let’s let’s go with a really nice light hearted one

Joel Goldberg: I, too, would agree with you that. Cheers. One of my favorite shows of all time. You got a if you could sit down at the bar cheers, and he had one guy. You could sit next to or gal who would it be

Rich Smith: So good would have to be it’s, that’s a tough one.

Rich Smith: You know, it’s easy to think about pop culture in Hollywood, but it would have to be jesus christ i mean the the questions that you would have it would just be amazing that would that would be it for me.

Joel Goldberg: I think that, you know, that’s all.

Joel Goldberg: That’s always the question that comes up with like the if you could go golf with four people in time, you know, who would it be right. And those are always. Those are always interesting answers so

Joel Goldberg: I’m looking at here dogs in the background, it’s the first time I’ve gotten bit by that but but

Joel Goldberg: I feel like in this day and age, it’s just like

Rich Smith: It’s all okay

Rich Smith: It’s all okay yeah

Joel Goldberg: Okay. Third question, as we round the bases. I know you’re a big sports fan. I know you had a chance to go to the Super Bowl last year.

Joel Goldberg: You guys also are involved in a lot of amazing projects on a very regular basis. So to partner here you have a favorite sporting event, you’ve attended and then do you have a favorite personal Henderson engineer project.

Rich Smith: So the Super Bowl was amazing.

Rich Smith: The final on the on the big Kansas Jayhawks fan don’t hold that against me.

Rich Smith: Been to one final four and that was pretty amazing. But the Super Bowl was something else and you know my wife and I

Rich Smith: Were I think we were up until three or four in the morning, both nights that we were there just it was just an amazing fun environment and to be there with friends was pretty cool. The other question was,

Joel Goldberg: favorite, favorite Henderson engineers project that you’ve

Joel Goldberg: Been involved with our scene.

Rich Smith: That that’s that’s pretty easy, because again, I’ve already said I’m a Kansas Jayhawks fan and Allen Fieldhouse is sacred to me.

Rich Smith: And to think that our company was involved in the Hall of athletics and the renovation that several renovations of Allen Fieldhouse and also knowing that the success on that project lead to

Rich Smith: additional opportunities with sports. We went on and did work at University of Missouri, we went on to work at West Virginia Notre Dame Michigan Rutgers and it all started you know just down the street in Lawrence, Kansas, that’s, that’s a that will that will stay with me.

Joel Goldberg: And it goes to show that even a k state company.

Joel Goldberg: Can do good work. Okay. Right.

Rich Smith: Absolutely. And we’ve done some fantastic work at K state as well. And a lot of the stuff surrounding bill Snyder stadium. We’ve done as a company. So I know a lot of our employees get a lot of pride out of giving back and working at their alma mater like that.

Joel Goldberg: Well, I thought that it matters. It’s personal. Right. And so obviously you want all of these jobs and everything that you do at Henderson engineers to be personal in some form or another, but when it hits home like that.

Joel Goldberg: It’s got to be a major sense of pride beyond the normal final question, the walk off as we round the bases

Joel Goldberg: You mentioned to me before that you are a silver linings type of guy. I’m the same way you and I are wired that way, always looking for the positive, that doesn’t mean that you’re upbeat and everything is rosy every single day, but

Joel Goldberg: If there’s just a little bit left in the glass, then you’re, you’re, you’re not talking about it being empty you’re seeing what is their. That’s the way I live my life to it could drive some people crazy. Same thing with my wife’s like, wait a minute. Can I just have a bad day, but

Joel Goldberg: There’s never been a more important time to me than to find that silver lining right now.

Joel Goldberg: When so many people are down and out, whether it be health wise, whether it be emotionally. We certainly know what’s going on politically in this country right now. So where does the hope lie in you, not just in Henderson, but just overall for people at a time that has been trying

Joel Goldberg: I’m wrapping up with a heavy question so

Rich Smith: Yeah, that, that is that is anyone

Rich Smith: There that the focus right now in our world is way too much on the negative. And it’s almost like it’s celebrated, whether it’s on Twitter or Youtube or in on the national networks and we have to find a way to get the good news out there. Have some some amazing things that are happening.

Rich Smith: You know, probably, I just got goosebumps thinking about this, probably the thing that the biggest opportunity that we have as a society has to do with

Rich Smith: Just the racial and social unrest right now. And I think we finally gotten to a point where

Rich Smith: We’ve raised a generation where they’re not going to stand for it anymore. And we’re going to do something about it.

Rich Smith: And I sense it within our company and we want to do some things we’re doing some things, but we have employees that are holding us accountable.

Rich Smith: And I think the time has come, that you’re going to see some changes that are well needed and are really going to help not only the United States but help the world be in a better place.

Joel Goldberg: That gives me chills to think about that. And that right there is an amazing silver lining. It’s filled with hope at a time where truthfully I just think we need to start listening to each other a little bit more. And that’s hard to do on 280 characters.

Rich Smith: Yes, yes, you know,

Joel Goldberg: It’s there are a lot of positives of social media. There are. I live in that world.

Joel Goldberg: And I’ll find the Silver Linings there too. But I’ll tell you, there are a lot of moments where where you do lose some hope. Just because of the nature that’s the nature that our kids have grown up and we talked about that before.

Joel Goldberg: You know we what we asked a girl out by maybe having a note or walking up and saying, Hey, do you wanna, you wanna, you want to go out on a date or however we said it right and now they just fire off a text message. Yeah.

Rich Smith: Well you know I made a comment that we’ve we’ve raised a generation that looks differently on the world and

Rich Smith: when my kids were younger, I would take them to school and I cherish that time to spend that five or 10 minutes with them.

Rich Smith: And I’ll never forget this. My daughter was in middle school and they were they were learning about the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, and she was asking me about it. And I was old enough to be alive. I don’t remember it specifically. But at the end of the conversation, she said to me.

Rich Smith: When did racism in

Rich Smith: And in her mind right in her middle school mind racism didn’t exist. Right. And so she was asking me for my perspective and there was silence in the car and I struggled with that but but but it stuck with me because, again, in her mind and what she’s been exposed to.

Rich Smith: Racism didn’t exist at least at that middle school level, at that point in time.

Joel Goldberg: I’ll leave you with this one that I got to actually come up with with something just to finish that isn’t quite so happy, although this is important. I had a podcast guests. Early on, during the pandemic.

Joel Goldberg: Very successful entrepreneur, he’s black. They were watching a Sesame Street his daughter who was younger and it was about, you know, racism and civil rights and she turned to her father and said something along the lines of, Dad, I thought, Martin Luther King already took care of this.

Joel Goldberg: And think about that. That’s the perspective of a young girl, a young African American girl that was saying, wait a minute, I thought we were okay here.

Joel Goldberg: And we’re not. Yeah, so you know that one is really stuck with me but I agree with you. The next generation.

Joel Goldberg: Is going to take things to it. They already are taking things to a new level. And that you see that with your young employees, you see that with your kids.

295

Joel Goldberg: I see it with my kids. What was acceptable when we were kids, is no longer acceptable. What was acceptable.

Joel Goldberg: When our grandparents were kids was not acceptable when we were growing up with our parents, and on and on. So that, to me, gives me a lot of hope. I was just going to finish it up on a light note and say, as soon as you officially open up candies.

Joel Goldberg: I

Joel Goldberg: Want to be one of those early customers.

Rich Smith: Absolutely, we will have a spot right on the corner, just like in tears in will have a beard in these together. Okay.

Joel Goldberg: No norm.

Rich Smith: Or Joe or whatever it is.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, I’ve, you know, twist my arm on that one.

Joel Goldberg: I can’t wait till we can all get back to that and just having more of that face to face, but this is where we’re at right now we have to make the best of it.

Joel Goldberg: We can still do these podcasts, we can still do these zoom meetings, I know you guys were doing that right from the beginning. So congratulations on continuing that culture that 50 year culture in a year that was supposed to be celebrated.

Joel Goldberg: You guys are still. I know, making an impact and getting it done.

Joel Goldberg: If people want to find out more about Henderson engineers, they can do so at Henderson engineers. COM. Pretty simple right there. Notice again engineers not engineering third engineering company.

Joel Goldberg: By the name of Henderson engineers, the CEO and president is rich Smith rich. Thanks so much for spending the time I really enjoyed it.

Rich Smith: This was fun. Thanks for making me feel like a rock star.

Joel Goldberg: You already were a rock star. Come on.

Joel Goldberg: He is a rich Smith. My name is Joel Goldberg. You can reach me at Joel Goldberg media.com thanks for listening. I hope that you’ll share this with your network and friends and catch you next time on rounding the bases

Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg Podcast was created to share the stories of men and women in business and entrepreneurship that are both well knowing and or hidden gems. Joel believes that everyone has a story and their story matters which is why Joel is eager to connect with individuals that are bringing value to their community through innovation, leadership, entrepreneurial journeys, and developing company culture. If you would like to be a guest on Joel’s podcast please email us at joel@joelgoldbergmedia.com.

Leave a comment

Name*

Website

Comment