Above L to R, top row: Jessica Topete, Lauren Bruksch, Marilyn Valez Middle: Kathy Morris, Robin Smith, RJ Smith Bottom: Trinh Sapsin, Hannah Dominick Not pictured: Stacey Hidalgo
Growing up in a family that worked in the construction industry, RJ Smith has been a builder and designer for most of his life. He graduated from Redondo Union High School and the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in 2003 started RJ Smith Construction, a custom and spec building firm servicing Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach.
How does RJ Smith Construction provide your clients with a competitive advantage?
We are the most 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 need to make sure we keep it light on the jobsite by making sure everyone is accountable for what they need to be doing.
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.
More than half of the RJ Smith Construction team is female. Is this a coincidence or something you had in mind?
It was definitely not something I specifically sought out. I merely looked for driven individuals who wanted to take action, rather than me pushing someone into take action. Finding the perfect candidate for any position can be difficult, but I knew it would help build the stepping stones for our future RJS team.
Thankfully I was fortunate enough to come across Trinh Sapsin. With her hard work and determination, she became one of our essential project managers. Our female-driven team spans from project managers to our creative director, Stacey Hidalgo. As our female team grew, it was necessary for us to examine why our team successfully bloomed in the last few years. We still apply that thought process to this day.
I am excited about the women who are dominating the world of project management and other areas through our company. I love the fact that these women all come from different backgrounds and all have one goal in mind: Build the best home possible for our clients!
How do you encourage greatness in your team members?
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 attract the best talent to join your staff?
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 80. 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 subcontractors.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I love what I do, and I absolutely mean it when I say “love.” With that being said, I find inspiration every day—from the daily walks I take with my family to 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. Our business is only part of it. My wife, Robin Smith, my sister, Kathy Morris, and my father, Richard Smith, all work with me. We are all showing 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.