Employee Spotlight: Hank Smith

Getting to know Hank was simple as I found Hank to be straight forward. His easy-going personality and excellent builder experience informs his questions and his commonsense outlook make for quick solutions.

Hank has been here since the foundation of the company. His leadership has built a reputation for completed beautiful wineries that owners can be proud of. I challenge you to take a tour of wine country in the valley around Dundee and find a winery that Hank has not touched in the last dozen years. You will be hard pressed.

To be trusted you must do what you say you are going to do. Building relationships is what we all talk about, and no one knows this more than Hank. The small and tight-knit community of wine builders all talk to each other and know our team out here, with Hank at the helm, we can be counted on doing what we commit ourselves to and to do it with excellence.

Working together and communication is the banner that motivates Hank whether he is on site with the superintendent teams solving problems or spending tireless hours with clients working through the correct materials to realize the owner’s vision and getting the assemblies and design correct.

Hank is a consummate professional and in the many years I have known him he approaches every challenge with clear communication to help inform the right decisions. I have learned to reach out to him, and bounce challenges off of him even for projects outside of wine country. Hank’s years of experience in construction make him a “go to person” for the right sub-contractor or vendor to get a job done and get it done well.

Innovation is not just about harnessing the newest technology but also solving problems. Looking for the out of the box answers to difficult questions which circumnavigate obstacles and find cost effective solutions. This is what Hank is about and is very much modus-operandi over the course of a regular business day. What is difficult is, most of the time, already anticipated; and what is impossible, well with Hank’s ability to network, is resolved before the end of a business day.

With Hank joining and working to raise the bar with the rest of the peer review team and his willingness to help and mentor others, Hank will continue to make a difference at O’Brien & Company. He knows what it takes to be successful year after year and how to stand and be counted as one of the finest builders in the industry. I call him a friend and hold deep respect for his stalwart approach and sincere honesty.

— Chris Mallett, Chief of Field Operations
Lois and Dave Cho, Sarah Young, and Hank Smith at the AAPI Food & Wine Festival

Q&A with Hank

It wasn’t intentional.  In high school I had a summer job framing for a home builder.  After moving on to college I quickly became bored and restless and decided to take a break from school and work for a residential builder/developer.  I never intended to remain in construction, in fact I really liked biology and natural science.  But I found that liked working with my hands more, and some areas where I struggled in school working through problems and equations on paper suddenly made so much more sense to me when applied to something physical.  Long story short I kept doing what I enjoyed.

I really love problem solving.  I learn new things all the time, but after 30+ years of building various types of projects for all types of clients I’ve seen a thing or two and can draw upon those experiences to quickly solve issues, and more importantly, stay ahead of them.  I really enjoy mentoring and passing along knowledge, and if I’m a successful mentor those people can avoid learning things the hard way like me.

I’m proud of my experience working at O’Brien and being part of the company’s growth.  When I first started with O’Brien it was a big departure for me to work for someone else after owning my own company for so long, but I liked Keeley from the start and recognized his vision, so I was all in.  I’m proud of the role I’ve played and look forward to my future with O’Brien.

I lead the Valley office in Dundee.  Prior to us separating Portland and Valley divisions I was on projects all over the Willamette Valley and even some projects on the coast.  As we grew I fell into this niche with our winery related work mostly due to my previous high end custom building experiences.  Winery clients are tough and the projects tend to be a mixture of commercial, industrial, and residential.  We wanted to have an office close to those projects that would put us in front of those clients and help build those relationships.

I’m assuming you’re talking about food.  As this is a more rural area the choices are more limited, but there are a couple places I go regularly that are pretty good.  Trellis, Red Hills Market, Dos Mundos (food cart).

It’s important to clearly define roles and responsibilities. 

I had two children graduate from college earlier this year and I’m really proud of them both as they look to start their professional careers.

O’Brien is trying to stay ahead of changes and advancements in the construction industry.  Be open to new technology.  Use your peers for advice and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  We do our best work when we collaborate and work together as a team.  Do your job, hold yourself and your team accountable, and good things will follow.