Employee Spotlight: Bill Smith

What’s your role at PS&F?

My role is to provide local surety expertise in support of Parker, Smith & Feek’s goal to grow the Portland and Southwest Washington surety practice. I have been in the Portland market writing surety on the company side for over 30 years, so I am pretty well entrenched in the market.

What’s made you so passionate about the surety industry?

Simply stated, I love to help contractors succeed. One of my long time clients is a family owned landscaping firm whom I’ve known for close to 30 years now. I’ve seen them do extremely well, and I’ve also seen them go through a very rough patch, where I was frankly afraid they were going to go out of business.

I stuck with them regardless as I was bonding the character, not the balance sheet. My manager at the time asked, “Are you sure about this? Are you sure these guys are going to survive?” I told him, “I’d bet my house on them that these guys will never cause me a problem.” They’re still a client of mine, and still a family-run business on their third generation. It’s that kind of stuff that makes me most proud, when I can help someone like that and build a trusting relationship.

Surety is so relationship-driven as an industry, and I like to spend time with my clients and see them succeed. I thrive on relationships; it’s part of what makes this role such a nice fit for me.

Do you volunteer with any organizations or charities?

I’m very much involved in 4-H in Clackamas County. My kids have been showing mini-dairy goats and horses for years now, so I’m very involved with that group.

I’m also involved with Habitat for Humanity. I have had my youngest daughter and son work with me on several Habitat builds. I just…love to build things so it is a natural fit for me, plus I get to help some less fortunate families and share that experience with my kids.  When I’m out there working on a house, I just eat that up. I should have been a contractor!

Last year I started working with the AGC chapter to get kids involved in the construction industry. I put on a Contractor’s Night event at a local school where I invited some of my clients up on stage and asked them questions about how to get into the industry. It was very well received! I’m already planning to do another one for the Oregon City School District On May 14th and it will be greatly expanded from the last event.

There’s one last item I would like to mention – the local chapter of the AGC is involved with a non-profit called Veterans Legacy of Oregon: Camp Alma Veterans Wellness Camp, which provides counseling and other services to veterans coming home with PTSD and similar issues. They live on this campus for a time and the staff teach them how to grow their own food, provide counseling on-site, and overall just try to ease that transition for the soldiers who have given so much to their country. They always need construction work done, which I love to do. My dad retired from the Marines after serving 33 years, so this organization really touched my heart.

You live on a farm – how did you come to be a farmer/surety broker?

It all started with my kids and 4-H. My oldest daughter got a horse when she was 12, and she got involved in the 4-H horse activities – showing horses and doing rodeo gaming events.  She later got involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America) too, and the younger daughters were starting to be involved in 4-H as well.

Long story short – we stumbled into the goat business! We raise mini dairy goats. The girls raise them, take them to the county fair shows, and win all sorts of trophies and ribbons. It’s been a lot of fun. Right now we have 26 goats, with 15 brand new babies this spring. It’s all very busy and fun. In all, we have had over 120 baby goats since we first went into the goat business. Not really a business, but more of a hobby, I have to say. 

Now we don’t have them all here (laughs). The girls sell them all. They are mainly sold as pets – plus for their milk and cheese and all of that. One person up in Vancouver even bought goats from us to lease out for landscaping and yard maintenance. 

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I was born and raised in a family who liked to hunt and fish. So I do a lot of outdoorsy things – hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, but mostly hunting and fishing.

Sometimes people are curious and ask me how I find the time to do all of it, and I say that it’s because I got my kids involved. They’ve grown to love it! And let’s just say that I taught them well – they’ve turned out to be far better at it than I am.

What’s the best career advice you ever received?

First of all, someone told me once to do what you’re passionate about. If you like to build things or help people, then do it. Do what you do naturally, and have fun with it. If you can’t have fun with your job, then you need to go find something else to do.

And the second one is if you always tell the truth, you’ll never have to remember what you said.

What’s your best hunting story?

I go back to my kids, as usual. My oldest daughter and I use to go deer hunting on a ranch in Condon, Oregon. We’d spot the deer off in the distance, and then we’d have to figure out how to get closer to them. It would take us an hour or two to work our way over, and then we’d start to crawl. We’d literally crawl through the grass for hundreds of yards, just to get as close as possible so she could get a nice, clean, ethical shot. She was always my one-shot wonder!

Since then she’s gone off to college, and met her husband, and just grown up. But one day, she said, “You know, Dad, I really miss those days when we would crawl in towards the deer, and I’d get that clean shot.” So, those are really fun memories for me, knowing they were fun for her too.

PROFILE:

Where are you from? Everywhere – my father was a Marine. I was born in California

Family? Wife, Connie; daughter, Nicole (28); son, Austin (25); daughter, Megan (22); and daughter, Hailey (17)

Favorite vacation spot? Kona, Hawaii

Favorite sports team? Seahawks and Oregon State

Favorites food? Thai food

Portland favorites? Good Coffee and Never Coffee – We are a coffee family

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