TZL 1387 (web)


TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? RS: In order to be a good leader and run a solid business, I have to hire people I can trust, people who will push me to become better at my job and people who will make raSmith a better company. I believe in playing to people’s strengths and carving out roles for individuals that will allow their strongest skills to shine. I don’t believe everyone needs to be good at everything. For example, if an engineer really likes to develop grading plans and can complete them more efficiently than anyone else, they should not be forced to spend their time practicing writing stormwater management reports. I would pair such a person with someone who is equally good at stormwater management reports, and both individuals would be happier. The client is happy too because their project is being designed quickly, efficiently, and under budget. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? RS: First, it’s important to separate ownership from leadership and not confuse the two – which can be difficult at times. Second, you have to ensure that the individuals or entities to whom you are transferring ownership have like-minded philosophies and visions for the firm. In a service firm, people are your greatest asset, so the last thing an owner would want to do is transfer his/her company to a new owner who will destroy its culture and create issues for its employees and clients by providing directives to leadership that may be counter to a firm’s culture or practices. Third, one has to try to be unemotional about the process and make decisions based on logic rather than emotions and feelings. The greatest pitfall to avoid is starting a transition process without being completely ready to commit to it. Ownership transitions require a tremendous amount of time and resources for both the purchaser and seller. If a party’s words do not match their actions, you can end up spending an enormous amount of time on a process without making any progress. In the long run, this can take away from other areas of a business requiring significant attention and do potential harm. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? See CREATING OPPORTUNITIES, page 8

separation between work and family. Part of this is of course working with family, but another big portion of this is that being the president of a company is a 24-hour responsibility. I’m constantly thinking about how to best take care of our clients and how to create opportunities for our employees that will enable them to advance in their careers and support their families. The end of the work day usually marks the time I can begin to think and strategize about how raSmith can evolve for the better. TZL: Trust is crucial. How do you earn the trust of your clients? RS: Earning the trust of clients starts with being honest and ends with fulfilling our firm’s commitments. If we make a mistake, we admit it, we rectify the situation, and we move forward. At the end of the day our job is to make our clients lives’ easier and solve their problems. We pride ourselves on being a trusted advisor. We regularly receive feedback from clients whose trust we’ve earned and that’s a major reason why they continue to work with us. They know our people and they know what to expect when they work with us – quality work completed in a timely manner. “I’m constantly thinking about how to best take care of our clients and how to create opportunities for our employees that will enable them to advance in their careers and support their families.” TZL: How has COVID affected your business on a daily basis? RS: COVID has changed the way we do business. raSmith went from essentially not allowing remote work to encouraging all office personnel to work remotely. At present, about two-thirds of our office staff work remotely. COVID forced us to rapidly develop guidelines, safety practices and capacity limits to do our best to ensure that everyone in the company was kept safe and healthy. We’ve also implemented a system to track and manage staff who are impacted by COVID. We have to ensure that we conduct appropriate contact tracing and ensure that our people who are impacted are made aware of the federal and state benefits, in addition to our corporate benefits, to ensure that they and their families are taken care of in their time of need.





❚ ❚ Irvine, CA

❚ ❚ Naperville, IL

❚ ❚ Appleton, WI

❚ ❚ Brookfield, WI

❚ ❚ Cedarburg, WI

❚ ❚ Madison, WI

❚ ❚ Milwaukee, WI

SERVICES: Cold-formed steel engineering, construction inspection/management, development management, ecological, GIS, grant writing, hydrographic surveying, land development, land surveying, landscape architecture, LiDAR, municipal engineering, structural engineering, traffic engineering, transportation engineering, UAS, water resources, water/wastewater engineering MARKETS: Civic/community, education, entertainment/ hospitality, government, health care, industrial, office, parks/recreational facilities, residential, retail/mixed use, senior living

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RIL 12, 2021, ISSUE 1387

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