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Opinion: 'Pioneering the Superstore' explores Smitty's history

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Smitty’s Super Markets were an integral part of the Springfield landscape until they were purchased by Albertson’s in 1997. The book tells the story of Smitty’s founder, Clyde “Smitty” Smith. Born in 1919 in a small town in Iowa, Smith was fortunate to find both his life calling and lifetime mentor when he went to work at Keith Rushing’s Grocery Store in 1936. Gaining both experience and insight from Rushing, Smith was able to open his own store in 1946 in Roland, Iowa. That store eventually burned down, forcing him to relocate to a store in Jefferson, Iowa, in 1948. After two years, Smith was able to sell his Jefferson store and purchase a larger store in Marshalltown. Through hard work and perseverance, innovative marketing and promotion, and intense customer focus, Smith was able to build a chain of leading supermarkets in Iowa, Arizona and Missouri.

The Good Stuff: Smitty openly shares the ups and downs of his life. Readers learn what made him successful and about his regrets.

The Not So Good Stuff: The book comes off a little like watching someone’s home movies. If you are connected with the story, you will find it interesting.

The Bottom Line
: Find your passion, work hard, and treat others well.
Read It? Yes, if you have any connection with the Smitty’s story and want to learn of its history.

Three Key Concepts:
1. Working hard on something you are skilled at and passionate about produces exceptional results. When you love what you do, you tend to do a lot of it. If you do a lot of something, you tend to get really good at it. Smith epitomizes this principle.

He was fortunate to discover his vocational calling and passion while still in high school. For those growing up in the Great Depression, hard physical work was the norm. Smith’s father was a coal miner, and Smitty spent time working in the mine and as a farm laborer prior to his time at Rushing’s grocery store. Smith didn’t choose the life of a grocer because he wanted an easier life. He found money and merchandise changing hands to be fascinating.

Smith loved being in the grocery business. That passion spilled over into everything he did.

2. People living their passion create a positive ripple effect. When Smitty’s operated in Springfield, the stores were known for their great customer service and cleanliness. Store appearance is where my own personal story and the Smitty’s story intersected. At the time, I owned Springfield Janitor Supply, and Smitty’s was one of our best accounts. They were committed to keeping their stores clean and attractive. Other grocers, and businesses in general, wanted their floors to shine like Smitty’s. This focus on the customer had a huge impact on me and the overall success of Springfield Janitor Supply.

3. Share the wealth. Profit sharing and bonuses were a regular part of the way Smith did business. If the store or a department was profitable, his people got to share in that.

When Smith decided to expand his upper management team in the Phoenix area, he chose from among his existing store managers. Dave Trottier, eventual owner of the Missouri division, was passed over for the promotion. When Smith had an opportunity to expand into Missouri, he invited Trottier to share in the opportunity as a partner, eventually selling all his interest in the Missouri operation to him.

Smith’s legacy continues to impact the Ozarks through the Summer Fresh chain of grocery stores owned and operated by Trottier and Brent Brown.

Randy Mayes is owner of Success Coach Network in Springfield and co-founder of Leadership Book of the Month. He may be reached at rmayes@thesuccesscoachnetwork.com.
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