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Spotlight - Donald Smith, Don Smith Concrete LLC

image Donald Smith, Managing Member, Don Smith Concrete LLC, Middlothian, Tx

DALLAS/FT WORTH - Don Smith came to Texas from Louisiana to work in the gas industry but stayed for the construction – concrete, to be exact. After he established Don Smith Concrete, he grew a successful company that he hopes will be in his family for years to come.









How were you introduced to construction?
    I’ve always been around some kind of construction. My father dabbled in construction here and there. My start mainly came from working with the gas company starting in 1992 after high school.
    From there, I worked for the gas company in Louisiana for about three years and decided to move to Texas and work for the gas company here for about another five years. Then I started doing concrete construction as a superintendent for different companies. I stepped down and started doing my own thing in 2014.

What motivated you to start your own company?
    I was already sort of doing it, and it got to the point where I couldn’t manage work for somebody else and do my own projects. Once the company was able to supplement my income, it was an easy decision at that point.

Was there anything about owning this business that surprised you?
    I don’t know if there were any surprises. Everything that happened was expected. I’ve always had the opportunity to be close to guys who owned their own companies and different things of that nature, so I’ve always been exposed to a lot of things and self-study.
    Now, there are things being surprising and the way I’ve handled things. You can have adversity and things that come even though they’re not a surprise, but I feel the way you handle it makes a difference.

How has the business changed?
    The biggest change that I’ve had to make – and I’ve had to fight it every step of the way – is moving from having my hands on everything that happens in the company to stepping back and trusting people that I hired. That’s been the hardest thing, but I know in order to get this company where it needs to be, I have got to step back and be more of a manager of the projects’ technical aspects.

What kind of boss do you hope you are?
    I have about ten full-time employees, but I subcontract a majority of it because we have several projects going on.  I’m to the point where I’m not able to interact with the guys on a daily basis but we do meet at least once a week. I would hope my employees would view me as an understanding and empathetic boss, one who expects them to do their job and do it at a high standard.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
    I think the thing I enjoy most is interacting with the customers and seeing their vision come to fruition. Seeing something on paper, then acting, receiving and manifesting and it’s a reality through diligence and hard work and consistency.

Describe a project of which you are particularly proud.
    My focus is mainly on municipalities. We did a sidewalk improvement project on Yellow Jacket Drive for the City of Cleburne. When I got there, there was a small two-lane road, and the high school students were walking on this road while traffic was coming both ways. This sidewalk project was being built to give the children shoulder to walk where they wouldn’t be in danger of the traffic. We put in a couple of pedestrian bridges. It gave me a lot of enjoyment to see this project come to pass. I drove out there the other day and saw all of those kids walking back and forth safely and it made me feel good. The city was happy, the engineer was happy and it was just a great project.

What would your dream project would be?
    My dream project would involve being the prime contractor on a Texas Department of Transportation job. We’re aiming for it, but it takes a lot of references, doing jobs like we did in Cleburne and completing them successfully. It takes a lot of financial strength, not just saying you did the job financially but also showing a track record and a history of paying your vendors, employees and taxes. It’s not something that you just jump into, it’s something that you grow towards.

Who has supported you on this journey?

    My wife, Cheryl Smith, is a partner in this business and handles all of the paperwork for the company. Without her, I know I wouldn’t be able to do this. When I went to her and told her that I though it was time for me to go out on my own, she said she was right behind me, and she’s been right behind me 100% since we started.

Have you had the opportunity to mentor anybody?
    Yes, both of my sons followed me around and watch what I do. My goal is to teach them the business so that one day, they take it to another level. That’s my hope. When I get an opportunity to mentor them, I do, and my goal is hopefully they will step in and take over.
What do you enjoy in your free time?
    I have eight grandchildren with one on the way, and I cherish any time I can spend with them. They are the joy of my life. When it’s cold, we’ll sit out at the back of the house, and since I live out in the country and we have a lot of wood left over from jobs, we’ll burn the wood and sit around and tell stories.
    I also have a Border Collie Blue Heeler mix, Jack, and he and I just kind of run around the yard.
    I also like to copy Picasso paintings. I have several at the house. I did one for a guy about 10 years ago, and that’s kind of how I got started. He came to me with a photo of a Picasso painting and asked me if I could do it and I said yes, it’s pretty easy. After I did the painting for him, I had other people come up and ask me to do it. It’s kind of weird, but the painting itself has to inspire me and the painting he gave me inspired me. I can’t randomly paint if there is no inspiration for it. The last one I painted was a year ago, and I’ll have four or five years before painting another one.

What do you hope the future holds for the company?
    This is absolutely not the peak. Who we are now is who I hope we are 10 years from now – multiplied.
    I believe that in order for this company to be successful, the company has to be able to operate whether I’m there or not. I want the company to just be a mechanism that does the job, everybody knows what they’re doing and we get some work done. That’s where I’m at now, and I hope that that continues as it is multiplied.
    I say that these are the standards and this is how we do it. You may not have done it at other companies, but this is how we do it. I believe that if we continue to duplicate that – I teach a guy, then he teaches a guy and we get those systems in place and continue to do that – then growth is inevitable.
    I hope to get bigger but I don’t want to get bigger and not be able to manage. Ten employees is a good size, but I have a philosophy that if you have the ability to earn more, then you have the ability to do it so that you can do more good. -mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net