As CEO of American Innovations, Rich Smalling leads the company in providing compliance solutions to oil and gas companies and pipeline professionals. American Innovations specializes in remote monitoring systems and preventing the corrosion of pipelines.
Smalling has been with American Innovations for 20 years, helping the company emerge from bankruptcy in the early 90s. After earning his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech, Smalling began working for a large chemical company as a plastics engineer in West Virginia. Feeling unfulfilled with the technical side of the business, Smalling decided to make a change and entered business school.
“Michigan gave me a lot of tools to learn the business side of things: finance, accounting, marketing, corporate strategy, and organizational behavior,” he says. When a family investment group was looking to acquire American Innovations, they turned to Smalling.
A shift Smalling has seen is the type of people who are in the industry. “I see more employees today who want to know they’re making a difference,” Smalling says. “They want more than a paycheck. The want to be work in a positive and supportive culture.”
This led Smalling back to Michigan and the Center for Positive Organizations. As a member of the Consortium, he and other like-minded leaders support the Center and learn from each other. “I learned a lot on my own about leading a team,” he says. “I was so excited to discover the Center get exposed to all their great research, teaching and experience.”
Smalling has implemented open-book finance and is in the process of eliminating the performance appraisal and creating an employee-driven evaluation and development system. Under his leadership, the company has created a Community Service Officer, a healthy snack program, and a fund that is used to match employee donations and support local charities.
“I want our people to act like owners, find their passion, and get better,” he says.