At a young age, Siân Smith had an eye for business.
She recalls delivering pamphlets door to door as a child in her native Montreal, Quebec. “I was getting three cents per pamphlet,” she says. “When I got my $12 paycheck for going to 400 houses, I thought, ‘This is awesome.’”
She even brokered a number of deals with her younger sister. “I would rent my books out to my sister. If she really liked one, it would cost a little more,” she says with a laugh. “I’d also sell her my pennies. If you give me a quarter, you get 10 pennies back. More is more.”
At this year’s ASA Women in Industry Spring Conference in downtown Chicago, Smith gave attendees a glimpse into her formative years that helped shape the person she has become both personally and professionally.
Smith, the senior director of procurement for Concord, Ontario-based Noble Corp. (No. 25 in the 2016 Supply House Times Premier 150 distributor rankings) and the first chairwoman of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating, was the keynote speaker during the conference’s opening evening event sponsored by InSinkErator. This year’s Women in Industry attendance skyrocketed to 130 attendees, up from 75 last year.
During Smith’s nearly hour-long “Blazing Your Trail to Success” talk, she shared what she calls her “Top 9 List” of impactful moments in her life, many occurring in her professional career that have seen her tackle numerous executive management positions with Canada-based Emco Corp., and now with Noble.
- No excuses. “You have to keep going. Don’t let yourself be held back.”
- Embrace the discomfort. “Practice living in the discomfort zone.”
- Set stretch goals. “Challenge yourself to set targets that you may not think are possible. There is no harm in setting these. You may get further than you think.”
- Engage people. “Have fun. Engage people by being creative. I work at this regularly.”
- Leadership can be lonely. “A wise person once told me, ‘As a leader you never get a break.’ Whether you like it or not, you are on stage 100% of the time. You have to be natural and you have to be yourself. You have the ability to inspire others through your own behavior.”
- Be prepared to challenge tradition. “It can be frustrating, for sure, but keep trying.”
- Trust your instincts. Smith, who also enjoyed stints as an Air Canada flight attendant and working for the Canadian Cancer Society prior to entering the PHCP-PVF industry, referenced a conversation she had with Emco and Hajoca President Rick Fantham about moving over to Noble. “One of his favorite questions is, ‘If you had to make a decision in the next seven seconds, would you…?’ Moving to Noble was a life-changing decision for me, and in seven seconds I said yes, I’m in.”
- We do business with people. “A big piece of what we do is interacting with people. It’s not all about what’s up here (brain), it’s about here (heart). Let people know who you are.”
- Be courageous. Smith recalled a conversation she had with an individual when she first was elected to the CIPH Board of Directors. “A woman has never succeeded here. Good luck to you,” is what Smith was told by this person. “Find inspiration everywhere. Don’t let silly stuff get in the way,” she said.
Smith, one of the more engaging and inspirational speakers I’ve heard in sometime, wrapped up her remarks by asking Women in Industry attendees what their own “Top 9 Moments of Impact” lists look like.
“What moments in your career changed who you are personally and professionally?” she asked. “Continue to try new things and take risks. The path is going to be varied and filled with new adventures. To quote Anita Roddick (founder of cosmetics company The Body Shop), if you think you are too small to have an impact, go to bed with a mosquito in the room. Blaze your own trail and embrace who you are. Women can succeed in roles in this industry that may not be traditional and they will make a huge impact.”