(Reprinted from Springfield Business Journal. Used with their permission)
By Brian Brown, SBJ reporter
If the true mark of a leader is one who steps to the forefront when a leader is needed most, then Jason Smith more than qualifies.
Smith became the president of Environmental Works Inc. at the worst of times – one week after the death of company founder Robin Melton, who died in a plane crash on Sept. 15, 2012.
“Over a weekend of extreme uncertainty and grief, I gathered with Robin’s family, fellow management and co-workers at all levels of the company to grieve the loss of our friend and leader. As the shock gave way to sadness and anxiety, the employees worked together to figure out how we could continue on,” Smith says. “On the morning of Sept. 17, I addressed the Springfield office staff regarding our loss and did everything I could to help everyone cope with the uncertainty of the moment.”
In the weeks that followed, Smith worked with other company managers and the board of directors to create a way forward for the firm Melton built. The company performs environmental services, including investigations, remediation, consulting and emergency cleanup.
“I never met someone who truly views challenges as opportunities the way that she did. What would discourage others, would motivate her,” Smith says. “Being problem solvers and an ‘easy button’ for our clients is a reputation EWI strives for. I pride myself in being a consultant of fresh ideas.”
In 2000, Smith’s career with Environmental Works began as an entry-level environmental technician, conducting field work on remediation projects throughout the Midwest. Through the years, he was promoted first to project manager and then to principal scientist. He served the company as something of a technical expert, managing 12 scientists and project managers through a diverse set of projects before being named president.
In June, Smith was one of five managers from the company’s two offices – the other is in Kansas City – to buy the 59-employee business from Melton’s estate.
Today, he manages the company and is responsible for revenue growth, workload allocation, client interaction and development of strategic goals. He says he’s buoyed in his position by what he learned from EWI’s founder.
“The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision,” according to Ken Blanchard, author and management expert. For Smith, it’s Melton’s visions that he hopes to carry forward.
“My mentor was Robin and we would spend hours at a time just talking about new ideas to solve our client’s problems,” he said. “She showed me how to enjoy making your own career by not seeing any boundaries in what we can do. My goal is to have that same effect on all our associates.”