Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Jon Smith: A Catalyst for Transformation and Growth

The pandemic has been a testament to leadership skills. Leaders were forced to row through the treacherous waters of unprecedented challenges. Jon Smith undertook the role of CEO at Hydromax USA, just before the outbreak of COVID-19. He is a retired Naval Officer with over two decades of leadership experience. Throughout his journey, Jon has held several leadership roles and has been instrumental in the growth of the companies. 

Jon has completed his graduation from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Executive Leadership Program, earned a Master’s degree from Central Michigan University (Business), and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College in Strategic International Studies. Furthermore, he is accredited in ABET (Engineering and Technology), holds an EIT Certification from the State of Maryland, is Lean Level 3 certified, and is a Six Sigma Green Belt.  Jon is a Graduate of the Omaha Executive Leadership Program and sat on the North American Manufacturing Leadership Council of Frost & Sullivan. He has served as national President and Chair of the Board of Directors, for Veterans in Energy (VIE)—a national 501(c)3 organization guiding Veterans to the energy industry, as well as professional development and retention guidance in support of veterans, for utilities and the supporting industry.

Before joining Hydromax USA, Jon was the President, Mobile Pipeline for Hexagon Lincoln, LLC, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Presently, he is the CEO and President of Hydromax USA, a leading national provider of comprehensive testing and inspection services for gas, water, and wastewater providers. Despite undertaking the role in a catastrophic business climate, he was swift in pivoting the company commercially and in cost structure to reduce risk, perform as an essential service for customers and deliver results. His extensive experience enabled him to draw out a peerless strategy. Jon leveraged innovative technology & solutions for customers, which positioned Hydromax USA to uniquely integrate advanced technologies to gather and process high-quality data into actionable insights from the data center to the field.

Recently, we had the fortune to interview Jon Smith and understand his course of action through this pandemic. In this article, he walks us through the journey of Hydromax and how he has progressively honed his leadership skills and outperformed expectations.

What was the inspiration behind establishing Hydromax USA?

Hydromax USA was founded in 2003 in Evansville, IN. The purpose was focused at that time on the wastewater infrastructure and the need for municipalities to be compliant with government standards and orders.  HUSA has grown over time to now include the water and natural gas providers with technology-enabled solutions. Today, we have over 800 associates and operate in 40 states.

Could you explain the services and software that Hydromax offers? 

Hydromax USA operates services in the natural gas, water, and wastewater infrastructure industry.  We perform condition assessments, leak detection, and prevention, as well as cross bore and hazard identification in those buried infrastructures. We also are advancing into SaaS solutions to enable the digital transformation of compliance and safety systems of record, and our technology-enabled field services, along with our Louisville Technical Center ensure the highest quality and accuracy in the industry. 

Has digitalization proven beneficial for your industry? 

Digitization has been not only beneficial but essential for the Utility and Energy industry.  With the current need for reliable information to protect infrastructure and public safety, new advancements are being looked for every day.

Whom will you describe as your influential leader who has helped you in shaping the entrepreneurial journey? 

I would say my parents were the ones who started my journey, but if you asked for one person in my career, I would have to say that I’ve had the great fortune to learn from some of the best leaders in each industry I was in.  My key was to seek out leaders who would mentor and grow my view of the world and the people in our organizations.  They taught me how to build outstanding teams and organizations with purpose.

The pandemic was a one-of-its-kind situation for all. How did your team withstand the consequences of the pandemic? 

The key for us was to communicate, communicate, and communicate.  I can’t say enough when things changed so fast in the way we performed our work, to how we went to market, communicating internally and externally was key.  Through this journey, I used a saying that I found powerful that “in every hurricane, hidden treasures are revealed” you have to be good at finding the treasure.

Considering the current business landscape, what leadership skills must a leader possess? 

I will say planning for the unplanned. There is no more “it can’t happen” in business.  Business planning and leadership have to be done understanding the unexpected and moving quickly.  Your business needs to be agile and always looking for the next curveball.

Failures are disguised lessons for an individual. What is your perspective towards failure?

If you don’t fail, you’re not taking risks.  Leaders need to encourage the innovation and mindset that goes with maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit.  But, they also cannot allow a failure to devastate a business or the person. An individual must be keen to take calculative risks. 

What is the importance of environmental stewardship?

I believe sustainability and ESG have to be a focus of today’s C-Suite leaders.  You have to be good citizens of the community and the world if you are going to make an impact today.  And remember that little things matter.  Every step taken is a step forward in these areas.

According to you, what has been the reason behind your successful and flourishing entrepreneurial journey?

I would say my main strength has been to build powerful, diverse organizations that have great leaders in them.  Once this is accomplished, and you have the best people leading businesses or functions, you trust them to get the job done.  Be there to break down barriers, but let them lead and grow, not only in their careers but those that are in their organizations.  You have to recognize that as a CEO, you have a three-legged stool for your leadership model.  People, customers, and shareholders, and all have to be in balance or the stool falls over.

Is there any specific message that you would like to share with the readers? 

I always believe people spend too much time on the past.  Plan for your future and don’t dwell on the past.  You control the next 24 hours, and what you do with it is up to you and will differentiate you from how others use their 24.

Key Takeaway: “As the leader be there to break down barriers, but let them lead and grow, not only in their careers but those that are in their organizations.”

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