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D. Scott Smith: business leader showcase

By getting to know how business leaders tick, we can relate and learn from their experiences to make each of us better leaders ourselves. This interview with D. Scott Smith is a page turner.

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Tell us about yourself and your work.

Sure, my name is D. Scott Smith, I’m 36 years old and I focus on commercial real estate. I work in both the brokerage and in the Professor capacity. I’ve been doing real estate since 1996. Real Estate and Business is all I’ve even done and it’s probably the only thing I know how to do.

Walk us through a typical day in your life.

I get up anywhere from 7am-9am and spend some time with my son while I drink coffee and check emails and social sites. Then I make my way to the office, and bother my co-workers.

I make some emails up and do some research and have face to face meetings or prearranged phone calls, until around 3 or 4pm. Then, I usually take lunch and maybe grab another Starbucks. Maybe then answer some more texts and do some more market research. Then head home.

I have dinner with the family and discuss how our day went, spend some time together before putting the kid to bed, and, then head to my business center on our farm, where I do my creative thinking and reading, and make videos, and all that. I try and go to bed around 12 but sometimes it’s more like 2am.

Where were you raised? Where all have you lived?

Ok, well I was born in Southern Virginia in the Tidewater area and then moved to Gloucester, VA in 1990’s. I went to high school there. I move to Laurel, MD which is between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD. I did this because I have a sister in Maryland and so I had a quick commute to both cities.

Then after some jumping around, I moved to Baltimore, MD. Then when my son was born we moved from the city and now we live on a family farm in the countryside north of Baltimore. We took a barn and converted it into our home.

How did you get into your current career?

I was not afforded the luxury of college and I could not keep a job so I started my own company at age 19 right out of high school. I think about six months later I was homeless or I guess today it would be called having a mobile address. Anyway, so I saved up enough money to get my own place. That’s when I moved to Laurel, MD. I called up my friends from Gloucester, VA to come and work for me, so we had a revolving door operation. Some stayed, some left.

What did you do before your current career?

I played music in a bunch of punk rock bands. We went on tour, made some albums, and met a lot of people. I learned about survival and DIY through those days. Also about performing on stage and being in front of people. Then I just turned the DIY (Do It Yourself) theme into a business model.

At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Probably anything but grown up.

What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?

Ok wow, so this one is tough. I’ve always been the extreme type. So I had to basically have a break down and lose everything (side note: I’ve been a millionaire twice already and lost everything twice) until I was forced to learn that it’s really all about quality of life issues.

Without that, everything else is in vain. You can be rich but if your quality of life is poor so are you. So now I enjoy working from home, instead of my home being at work. To relieve stress I blow stuff up on the farm and have big parties with as many friends and family that want to come. My son is a lot like me so he makes me have that separation as well. But honestly, I’m not good at it. I have to stop myself sometimes and redirect.

What keeps you up at night?

I have ADD so pretty much anything. Sometimes my mind can’t shut off and I don’t sleep at all. I don’t worry about stuff that much. It’s more like, I get a thought in my head and I can’t let it go sometimes I just get up and start working on whatever y my thought is. Sometimes it’s what I have to do tomorrow, sometimes its complex leverage matrixes with tax delusion effects. Sometimes it’s just the fact that I can’t sleep is why I can’t sleep. It’s very annoying.

If you could spend one day in the life of another leader, who would it be?

There are so many and all for different reasons. I think the most common thread throughout them all is that they are all trailblazers in their own right. They stood alone and made a success of it. I don’t really care about how good you are at your job, or how many units you’ve sold. I want to know that you have heart and you have your own skin in the game and have something BIG at risk. That to me is a life worth living. Not that you can take someone else’s ideas and make some money with them. Who cares about that? I want to see your passion, what you stand for, manifest into something physical into your own creation.

I guess the ones that stand out the most, and who I would want to be, but for none other than to know what is going on (or went on) inside their mind: Walt Disney, Ron Paul, Michael Phelps, Amelia Earhart, The Beastie Boys, The Ramones, Donald Trump, Dave Ramsey, Henry Rollins, Jesus Christ, Bob Ward CCIM, Ben Cachiaras, Warren Buffett, and Jay Papasan. All of these people are brilliant and stand alone in my opinion. Now I don’t agree with all of them but I respect what they have done and how they have done it and their successes are unable to be duplicated.

What tools can you not live without?

Smart phones, Power Point Projectors, and my composition books. Also, dry erase boards and pretty much any book ever published.

What about you would most people not believe unless they knew you?

So this is going to sound kind of weird but my friends and family know this. I have big time social anxiety and would never leave the house if I could. I hate crowds and seriously become freaked out. Even out to dinner I have to be near a door or something. People and crowds just really freak me out. Some people like at conferences or something, mistake my anxieties for me having an attitude or like I’m too good to talk to people because I don’t hang around. It’s actually not that at all, I just really need to get out of there!

What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest? Why?

Probably the longest is PMA (positive mental attitude) from Napoleon Hill. The most recent would be those Michael Jordan videos where he talks about all the times he has failed and that’s why he succeeds. And the Will Smith videos where he talks about work ethic. I think those three elements combined are the most inspirational ever.

Stay positive, don’t be afraid of failure, and work your ass off.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jeff Brown

    September 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Amen brother — You’re no doubt an inspiration to more folks than you’ll ever know.

  2. jpapasan

    September 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Great profile on a great real estate leader. Thanks for the nod, Scott. I can say with absolute certainty that’s the first time I’ve been mentioned in such august company. Funny, I love that Henry Rollins is on that list. I had some formative high school and early college years slumming at the Antenna Club in Memphis. This was the age of cassette tapes and I usually had Black Flag in the mix.

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Business News

Leadership versus management: What’s the difference?

(Business News) The two terms, leadership and management, are often used interchangeably, but there are substantial differences; let’s explore them.

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leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

Is it merely a matter of preference, or are there cut and dry differences that define each term?

Ronald E. Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, described what he felt to be the difference between the terms, noting the commonality in the distinction of “leadership” versus “management” was that leaders tend to engage in the “higher” functions of running an organization, while managers handle the more mundane tasks.

However, Riggio believes it is only a matter of semantics because successful and effective leaders and managers must do the same things. They must set the standard for followers and the organization, be willing to motivate and encourage, develop good working relationships with followers, be a positive role model, and motivate their team to achieve goals.

He states that there is a history explaining the difference between the two terms: business schools and “management” departments adopted the term “manager” because the prevailing view was that managers were in charge.

They were still seen as “professional workers with critical roles and responsibilities to help the organization succeed, but leadership was mostly not in the everyday vocabulary of management scholars.”

Leadership on the other hand, derived from organizational psychologists and sociologists who were interested in the various roles across all types of groups.

So, “leader” became the term to define someone who played a key role in “group decision making and setting direction and tone for the group. For psychologists, manager was a profession, not a key role in a group.”

When their research began to merge with business school settings, they brought the term “leadership” with them, but the terms continued to be used to mean different things.

The short answer, according to Riggio is no, not really; simply because leaders and managers need the same skills to be productive and respected.

This editorial was first published here in June of 2014.

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Business News

Does Raising Cane’s have the secret to combatting restaurant labor shortages?

(NEWS) Fried Chicken Franchise, Raising Cane’s, has turned to an unusual source of front-line employees during the labor shortage- Their executives!

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White paper sign with black text reading "Help Wanted."

I wouldn’t call myself a fried chicken aficionado or anything, but since chains are designed to blow up everywhere, I have experienced Raising Cane’s.

I’m pretty sure the Cane’s sauce is just barbecue mixed with ranch, but hey, when you’ve got a good idea, keep with it.

In the further pursuit of good ideas, the company has resorted to an intriguing method of boosting staff in a world where the lowest paid among us are still steadily dying of Covid, and/or choosing to peace out of jobs that they don’t find worth the infection risk.

Via Nation Restaurant News: “This is obviously a very tough time, so it was a joint idea of everybody volunteering together to go out there and be recruiters, fry cooks and cashiers —whatever it takes,” said AJ Kumaran, co-CEO and chief operating officer for the Baton Rouge, La.-based quick-service company, from a restaurant in Las Vegas, where he had deployed himself.”

The goal of this volunteer mission, which involves 250 of the 500 executives deployed working directly in service roles, is to bolster locations until 10,000 new hires can be made in both existing locations and locations planned to open.

It’s obvious that this is a bandaid move – execs exist for good reason, and in terms of sheer numbers (not to mention location and salary changes), this is hardly tenable long-term. But I can say this as someone who’s gone from retail to office, and back (and then forth…and then back again) several times – if this doesn’t keep everyone at the corporate level humble, and much more mindful of employees’ needs, nothing will.

The fast-food world is notorious for wonky schedules only going up a day before the week begins, broken promises on hours (both over and under), horrendous pay, and little to no defense of employee dignity in the face of customers with rank dispositions. With the wave of strikes (Nabisco, John Deere, IATSE) making the news, and lack of hazard pay/brutal physical attacks over mask mandates still very fresh in workers’ minds, smart companies are hipping themselves to the fact that “low level” employee acquisition and retention needs to be much more than the ‘work here or starve’ tactics that have served since the beginning of decades of wage stagnation. The best way for that fact to stay front-of-mind is to go out and live the truths behind it.

In Raising Cane’s case, the company also announced that they’re upping wages at all locations — to the tune of an actually not totally insulting $2 per hour, resulting in a starting wage of $15 and a managerial wage of $18.

Ideally, paying people more to cook, clean, and customer service all in one job will actually attract people back to fast food work. Seriously consider the fact that the people cleaning fast-food toilets are the same people making the food that goes into your mouth. The additional fact is that it’s better for everyone’s health when they’re paid enough to care about what they’re doing and stay healthy themselves.

Of course, one does also need to consider how much inflation has affected the price of goods and housing since the ‘fight for $15’ began almost a decade ago in 2012. Now, raising wages closer to the end point of multiple goods still might not be enough!

AJ Kumaran continued, “The chicken prices are through the roof. Logistics are very hard. Shipping is difficult. Simple things cups and paper napkins — everything is in shortage right now. Some are overseas suppliers and others domestic suppliers. Just in poultry alone, we have taken significant inflation.”

That’s global disruption for ya.

It remains to be seen whether this plucky move can save Raising Cane’s dark meat, but I’m very pro regardless. Send more top-earning employees into the trenches! No more executives with 0 knowledge of how the sausage sandwich gets made.

No more leading from behind.

Why not? What are ya? Chicken?

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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