RJ Smith CEO/President, RJ Smith Construction 930 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach 310-648-8353 rjsmithconstruction.com @rjsmithconstruction Growing up in a family that worked in the construction industry, RJ Smith has been a builder for most of his life. He graduated from Redondo Union High School and the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2003 he started RJ Smith Construction, a boutique, full-service construction company that builds high-end custom and spec homes in the South Bay.
How does Rj Smith Construction provide clients with a competitive advantage?
We are competitive due to the fact that we build custom and spec homes. This helps us understand and find “bang for your buck” items and materials that we can pass along to our clients. We have a full-time estimator who helps us track budgets and bids to make sure we are up to date with all the current market pricing. This applies to projects in process and not just prior to the build. That way we know exactly where we need to be.
How would clients describe you?
Fun, but serious when we need to be. I love our project meetings with clients and subcontractors. We keep it light on the jobsite by ensuring everyone is accountable for what they need to do.
How do you encourage greatness in your team?
By supporting them. One of the best things about our company is how well everyone communicates internally. Our team is great at communicating with designers and architects, but we also excel at communicating with our own team members from other projects to help with any questions that may come up. I love that our team supports each other seamlessly.
How do you encourage open employee dialogue?
I have mandatory one-on-ones with project managers and employees. If there’s an unresolved issue, I want to make sure there’s a connection with my team to work on said issue together. “Stepping on glass” around one another is not ideal. Having a healthy work environment begins with open communication.
How do you attract the best staff members?
We attract great, talented people by understanding that no one who works for RJ Smith Construction needs to fit into a certain box. The people working for us range in age from their early 20s to 80s. It really is a family business. Making sure our team as a whole is happy and hungry is what it is all about.
Describe your leadership style.
I love watching my team grow. I’m very much here for them. I encourage them to utilize the knowledge and experience of not only myself but also those working with us, such as our subcontractors.
What is your advice for someone just starting in your line of work?
If you’re able to surround yourself with colleagues who have the same drive and determination, I can almost guarantee you will see a shift in your work ethic and surroundings. Plus, learn, learn and learn some more. The craft of build and design is always evolving. You have to stay on top of it.
How do you find time to fit it all in?
Consistency and time management. I have a schedule set out for my entire week and am adamant about keeping every meeting prescheduled. With that being said, it’s just as important to set allocated time for just the family.
What are some ways you stay grounded?
I work hard and like to remind myself why I work so hard, so having small getaways with my family is a must. It’s always nice stepping away, unplugging and enjoying the world outside our everyday life. I believe it inspires me and recharges me.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I love what I do, and I mean it when I say “love.” I also find inspiration from the daily walks I take with my family and the weekly meetings with our extended team. It’s easy to find inspiration when you’re constantly surrounded with like-minded individuals.
Has fatherhood made you a better entrepreneur?
Fatherhood has made me a better entrepreneur because I understand that my kids watch and judge everything I do. I have to show them the best way to be a man and what that involves. My family and I show my kids how to be respectful, and we guide them through the business world we live in. We want them to supersede us and become better entrepreneurs than we could ever have imagined. We are laying the groundwork now.
What role does your family play in your career?
My family plays a huge part in my career. I work alongside my father, Richard Smith, who works with my team daily. I work with my wife, Robin Smith, tackling real estate and future spec projects. My mother, Timme Gunderlock, is an interior designer and always willing to help. I love how integrated my family has become in the world of building. As my kids continue to grow, they are also slowly giving me their interior design ideas—their two cents about brick colors and what color our Soro house should be painted. I love it!