Carey Smith is the CEO of a fast growing Kentucky manufacturer of large industrial fans. The recession tested Chief Big Ass’ philosophy of people investment and management. Going against conventional wisdom, Big Ass Fans did not lay off employees when times got tough. Rather, Smith held tight knowing the company would be primed to meet demand when the recession ended. He attributes his people-focused decision as the primary reason the company has grown from $34 million in 2009 to $125 million today. As he explains it “… The employees recognize the respect. We’re not a family, but we are a tribe.” To quote a recent Fast Company article, “Apparently Carey Smith has a big-ass heart as well.”
With a title like Chief Big Ass, you won’t be surprised by how Smith describes what he does as CEO: “… I sometimes describe myself as a ‘hyperlink.’ I have an office, but most of the time I just walk around and try to determine if we’ve got any problems.”
Authenticity, mutually rewarding relationships and nourishing communities — Smith clearly demonstrates outstanding social health in his leadership. For this reason, he is our Grounded Leader of the Week.