Tips on the Journey to Success

Pine-Richland FBLA continued this year’s Speaker Series on November 12, 2018, with Mr. Smith, an accomplished CEO who shared his professional journey and tips for success. Mr. Smith grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Robert Morris University with a degree in Business Administration and Accounting. He also has an M.B.A in Business Administration from Waynesburg University. He served on the board of trustees at Robert Morris University, the advisory committee at the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, and the advisory board at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehab Sciences Master’s Program. He is currently President and CEO of Goodwill of Southwestern PA. There, he is responsible for the strategic development and operations of Goodwill’s $54 million human service agency that annually serves more than 10,000 individuals.


Mr. Smith started by talking about his own background, and he was very relatable. He explained that as a child, he started his first business at the age of six with recycling. When he turned 11, he sold candy at a grocery store. He then went on to talk about how he originally did not want to go to college and just wanted to start working, but this was a rough start for him. Eventually, he got offered a position at Goodwill. Being a lover of challenges and pushing himself to the limit, he became the CEO of the nonprofit organization. He encouraged us to be stubborn and keep doing what we love.

 Then, Mr. Smith discussed what motivated him in the past, and what still motivates him. He explained that in order to succeed, we must develop a great work ethic, have a passion for helping people, love continuous learning, and be a leader. Mr. Smith explained that leaders come in many different forms and have unique qualities but their passion for their work binds them together. He explained that great leaders model the way, are good listeners, build consensus, are stern, and are good at making decisions. Mr. Smith explained that he has an “open door” policy, meaning that his employees can come to talk to him whenever they want. This kind of relationship builds trust in the workplace and can be the first step on the ladder to success.

 Next, Mr. Smith ended by discussing community service. According to him, great leaders are great givers as well, and Mr. Smith explained that this is why he works for a nonprofit. He said that he worked for many for-profit companies, but giving back to others truly made him happier. Mr. Smith then went on to explain the function of Goodwill, which was started in 1902. He explained that giving back to the community is the best kind of business and this even helps with providing jobs in the community. Additionally, he discussed that Goodwill is not just a retail store, but a store that helps the community in many different ways.

 Mr. Smith ended with some final advice for college. He told us to save money before college and get to know people in your field to make connections through internships and shadowing opportunities. He also said, “It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do. You may not start out doing the same thing as you thought you were going to do in college or high school, and that’s okay. You don’t have to have your whole life figured out.” This is reassuring because as Future Business Leaders of America, students might think that they need to have an exact plan in their lives. However, we must understand that life changes and we must learn to become adaptable to this in order to succeed.

 Thank you to Mr. Smith for taking the time to come speak with Pine-Richland FBLA.


Mahika Sampat, Reporter