How I Came Up: CEO of Premier LogiTech Darryl Smith, Loop21
From Marine Corps to CEO.
You’ll think twice before discarding that packaging your computer came in after speaking with Darryl Smith. He’s the CEO and co-owner of Premier LogiTech, a logistics and technology organization in Grand Prairie, Texas, that offers what he refers to as “value-added services.” In an effort to deliver higher quality and cost-effective technology solutions, the company offers packaging, assembling, warehousing, configuring, installation, and disposal of products including computers, laptops and tablets.
A one-time Marines officer, Smith is still a morning person — “I leave my house around 5:30 a.m.” — and often relies on his military experience to succeed with LogiTech, but not without the help of his employees: “Our workforce is about 95 percent minorities, and a lot of females,” Smith says, laughing. “I always tell people this is payback for being in the Marine Corps, a pretty macho all-male environment, so now I deal with a lot of women.”
Here, he talks to Loop21 about his transition from the Corps to CEO.
Loop21: What was your first job?
Darryl Smith: If you count mowing lawns, that’d be my first job, but my first real job where I got a paycheck was working for the Los Angeles Unified School District in shipping and receiving.
Loop21: Describe the most important transition in your career path.
DS: Probably getting out of the military. I was a marine officer for six years. I enjoyed it and it was tough decision but I decided to get out and went to business school.
Loop21: Did you always know that you would be a logistics manager?
DS: I always had an interest but it wasn’t clear that I would buy and operate a logistics company. I was pretty much resigned to operating any type of business that would make money and that I could add value to, but it just worked out that I got LogiTech.
Loop21: Do you feel that college prepared you for your career?
DS: Having a level of education helps when dealing with executives because now we’re really stepping up our game, we’re going after some pretty big accounts and developing strategic relationships with big companies — we do a lot of work with Dell and are getting ready to partner with AT&T — but there are entrepreneurs who don’t have a high school diploma and they do OK. I would argue that my experience in the Marine Corps was more helpful because it just takes perseverance and some guts to get it done as an entrepreneur.
Loop 21: On a scale of 0-5, how important has your professional network been to your current success?
DS: Oh, 5. It’s been critical, particularly my undergraduate network at the U.S. Naval Academy. My classmates have been instrumental in my business part of finding opportunities and getting counsel on different business issues.
Loop 21: What tips can you offer on building a professional network?
DS: There are books you can read on it. One’s called “Never Eat Alone” [by Keith Ferrazzi]. It’s a good primer in networking because it explains the importance and provides some tips to engage people. There’s a process to it, things you need to do on a regular basis to keep a network fresh. I think you just gotta get out there and find the organizations that interest you and that align with your goals and get involved with them. People like to do business with people they like.
Loop 21: How important was having a personal vision to your success?
DS: You have to define as best you can what you’re trying to get done, but you have to recognize that things change and you have to be flexible. While having a clear goal, there’s still a lot of ambiguity in being an entrepreneur, so it’s important to have a sense of what you’re trying to accomplish but be prepared to make adjustments because the world changes fast and you have to able to make the distinction between changing because it’s time to and just changing things.
Loop 21: Did you have personal or professional mentors that played a pivotal role in your success?
DS: I have people who are advisors. I don’t have a mentor, but it does help to have people in your life that you can bounce ideas off of and who can help you avoid some mistakes.
Loop 21: What has been your biggest challenge to date?
DS: Being an entrepreneur has been very challenging! I did this without knowing we were about to go into a recession. As an entrepreneur, you’re no longer relying on a big company brand, you’re marketing yourself. When I worked for Accenture, a big global consulting firm, my business card opened a lot of doors that, as an entrepreneur, are not necessarily open. It’s liberating but knowing all the issues about your company is a lot of stress that you don’t have when you work for somebody else. I did a lot of all-nighters. I was sleep deprived and did a lot of traveling. As an entrepreneur, you wake up in the middle of the night with stuff on your mind. You have to learn how to shut it down. You have to learn how to pray.
Loop 21: What personal quality makes you successful?
DS: It’s not just one. Flexibility, perseverance, and dedication are all the most important. And leadership; you gotta be able to lead people to be an entrepreneur. Ultimately, just my relationship with God. For me, it’s really important to have that spiritual foundation to survive all this because you can be sharp and smart and work hard, and if it doesn’t work out, how do you deal with that? You gotta have something to fall back on and keep you strong and stay in the fight.