From the July/August 2011 issue of ATV Rider Magazine
High Lifter’s Scott Smith isn’t your average multi-million-dollar- company president; he’s just an incredibly lucky guy who happened to make some good business decisions and is smart enough to know how to enjoy his success.
It’s rare to see someone truly enjoying what he’s doing for a living. Most of us have serious love/hate relationships with our jobs and fantasize about one day being able to support ourselves doing something that we actually enjoy. Sadly, the truth is we will never live out that fantasy; we’ll either never get the opportunity or be too scared to take a shot at it when it presents itself. Of the few who are willing to take the shot, very few succeed. And of the lucky few who do make it, 99 percent end up losing the hobby that they once loved as it transitions into a job.
The Life Of A Janitor, 8:30 a.m.
It’s somewhere between 8 and 9 a.m. CST, and the self-proclaimed “janitor” at High Lifter Products Inc. rolls in the door. The first order of business is a quick beeline to the coffee machine (where he’ll stop at least twice more before heading into his office), next up is a quick trip through the various departments to exchange pleasantries and offer employees valuable face time and an open ear. The morning walk concludes with stop number two at the coffee machine. “It doesn’t matter if it is 20 degrees or 110 degrees outside, you’ll rarely find me without a cup of hot coffee in my hand.” While the 17.6-mile commute to work takes 30 minutes, the 250-foot commute from front door to the desk can take equally as long. “Most everyone has learned that it’s the best time to catch me, since my mind is fresh and I’m not yet preoccupied with my own projects.” Oddly, his office is quite impressive, much more so than that of the average janitorial technician, yet understandably so when you see the way High Lifter treats the Janitor’s father (Mike Smith), who not only planted the seeds for the company, but doubles as its official Hall Monitor. Prior to actually sitting, it’s time for coffee number three before embarking on a 90-minute foray through his inbox and the prior evening’s email.
Staying in touch is a high priority for Smith; whether it’s vendors, customers or one of the many people biding for a minute of his time, Smith somehow manages to squeeze them all in and responds to just about every email. “I’m just a regular guy, with a kickass job, nothing more.” The funny thing is that Smith is anything but regular; he’s actually quite the opposite in his work ethic and accessibility for a guy running a multi-million dollar enterprise, and it’s that accessibility (and a dash of OCD) that can be somewhat credited with High Lifter’s success. Granted, the company makes great products (which we’ll get into), but what it doesn’t sell, and competitors can’t replicate, is the company’s ability to connect with their customers. Whether it’s the highly successful Mud Nationals events (which attract anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 attendees) or the many smaller rides that you can find most of the staff on or even the customer rides that Scott himself frequently attends when invited, the High Lifter staff is generally always around and willing to connect with their base.
HL 101: Diagnosing The Void, 1996
The High Lifter story isn’t necessarily the stuff of movies or a motivational rags-to-riches story; it’s just a great example of someone seeing a void and filling it extremely well. As we all know, recognizing and diagnosing the void is the hardest part, and in the High Lifter case, the void was a simple bolt-on lift kit for a 1996 Honda Foreman. After finding himself in need of a few inches of additional clearance on his Foreman, Mike Smith tapped his son Scott, who was co-owner of a successful construction business, to fabricate a simple lift.