JACKSON, Tenn. – April 10, 2012 – Through four different careers in business, Harry Smith learned many different principles that allowed him to lead others with humility, fairness and integrity.
He shared those lessons with more than 200 in attendance at Union University’s Business Through the Eyes of Faith luncheon April 10 in the Carl Grant Events Center. Sponsored by the McAfee School of Business Administration, the event is designed to encourage and equip members of the West Tennessee business community to integrate their Christian faith into their workplaces.
“It’s good to be transparent with your people,” Smith said. “Let them know you’re not perfect.”
Smith, former president of Schilling Enterprises in Memphis and past chairman of Union’s Board of Trustees, began his career in business as a newspaper carrier, a job he held for 11 years in his hometown of Florence, Ala. After college he moved into public accounting for 16 years before taking the reins at Schilling Enterprises, a Memphis-based business that was heavily involved buying and selling car dealerships.
His fourth career – serving on non-profit boards – is where Smith has focused his energies since selling the last of his companies in 2005.
Smith is the author of the book “Driven to Deliver: 9 Keys for Going the Distance in Life and Business.”
When he began at Schilling, the company had more than 1,000 employees, and Smith acknowledged that he was overwhelmed by the responsibility.
“That’s when I really learned to pray,” he said.
As president of a sizeable company, Smith said he took several steps to integrate his Christian faith into the workplace. For example, he hired a company chaplain who ministered to the employees. Smith also sent a personal letter to every person who bought a vehicle from one of his dealerships, including with the letter a bookmark on which the famous poem “Footprints in the Sand” and a Bible verse were printed.
Smith didn’t allow alcohol to be served at company functions, and his company created and ran several television ads that had nothing to do with selling cars, but that were designed to communicate a positive message to the community.
He stressed the importance of relationships and being a role model and said that while he tried not to be outspoken about his faith all the time, he did take advantage of strategic opportunities to share his faith with his employees – such as during times of illness or the death of a family member.
Smith also said it was important for leaders to hire employees who share their principles and that it was important to have an accountability partner, a mentor and a daily quiet time.
He encouraged business leaders to be actively involved in their communities and to respect authority.
“You can’t be a good leader if you’re not a good follower,” Smith said.