By Becky Gillette
Kristen Smith has a vivid memory of being eight years old and sitting in the lap of her father, Robert Smith Jr., while he designed a logo for a new company he had founded, Glass, Inc., with six other people in July 1999.
“In that moment, I had no way of knowing how special that memory would be for me twenty years later, as he and the entire Glass, Inc., team have built one of the largest glass companies in the Southeast,” said Kristen, who is handles communications and public relations for Glass, Inc.
“I remember watching him hustle, striving to satisfy customers and make ends meet. Much of his time was spent building meaningful, long-lasting relationships with people. He built genuine relationships with people from the very start and I believe that’s why he has been so successful.”
Kristen said her father instilled in her at an early age that people do business with people they like. “It isn’t about the sale,” he said. “It’s about the connection you have with people and how you relate with them. If you get to do business with them, well, that’s just a bonus.”
One of those people that Glass, Inc., has done business with from the beginning is Williams “Bill” G. Yates Jr., who heads the largest construction firm in the state. Yates said when he first met Robert Smith, he worked for a large glass company and has just been transferred to Meridian.
“He was assigned to one of our projects and that project was behind schedule,” Yates said. “Our first discussion was somewhat tense, but Robert stepped up and made things happen. And since that time, he has always made things happen in a very positive way.”
Since founding Glass, Inc., the company has collaborated with Yates Construction on a large number of projects, many of them showcase projects such as Turquoise Place in Orange Beach, Fl., the MAX in Meridian and the CenturyLink’s headquarters in Shreveport, La.
“Glass, Inc., has outstanding skilled employees who are committed to a culture of safety and quality, and they are devoted to providing the best services and products to their clients,” Yates said. “Whether the project is large or small, Robert and Glass, Inc., respond like it is the most important project they have ever had.”
Smith attributes their success to a couple of factors. One, he had close to 20 years of experience with glass before helping found the firm. They could take on large projects because they had the expertise to do them.
He also attributes much of their success to having a good relationship with Yates Construction. Glass, Inc., did a lot of jobs for Yates during the casino building boom days in the state. Work expanded to surrounding states including beach condominium projects in Florida and Alabama. The company went from doing $50,000 to $100,000 glass projects to doing million-dollar glass projects.
“We have done more than 3,000 commercial glazing project all over the Southeast,” Smith said. “For the Children’s Museum in Jackson, we bought the materials and installed all the glass material on the inside and outside of the building. Our slogan is we do anything from window panes to skyscrapers. Our biggest commercial project to date, the Turquoise Resort in Orange Beach, FL., included 30-story and 24-story buildings. We have done about 100 towers in the Panhandle of Florida and the Coast of Alabama.”
Smith said in the past 20 years since Glass, Inc. was founded, glass has become increasingly popular.
“Most architects these days are trying to add more glass,” Smith said. “To make a building almost feel like you are outside has been the trend over the past 20 years. It has also gotten a lot more technical than it used to be. Forty years ago, clear, clear insulated and tinted insulated glass were the three major categories of glass. These days, there are high performance coatings to make them more energy efficient. And we are putting in a lot of hurricane impact systems. If something is blown into it, the glass stays together like a windshield in a car protecting the inside of building from having windows blown out.”
While much of the work has been new construction, the company also has done retrofitting jobs such as putting in hurricane impact glass systems after Hurricane Ivan. Currently the company is retrofitting the former World Trade Center in New Orleans, La. installing new hurricane impact glass systems in what will be a Four Seasons hotel.
The company has underway a big project at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a ten-story building for ALSAC, the fund-raising side of St. Jude’s. That project is nearly finished while they are in the middle of a huge project to build a research tower on the campus.
No two projects are the same.
“You are always working on something different,” Smith said. “It is not a monotonous work. Every building looks different. Each project has its own challenges. There are always issues that arise on construction jobs. Experienced companies know how to get in there and solve the problems, and keep it going. The key to our success is we have been doing it a long time, and having good, seasoned employees with a lot of experience. That is why we are one of the top glazing companies in the Southeast.”
Other family members involved in the business include Robert’s wife, Beverly Smith, who is chief financial officer, his son, Rob Smith, manager of the Gulfport office and his son, Justin Smith, a project manager\estimator out of the Meridian corporate office.
Currently they have about 85 full time employees. On any given day, they may have another 85 temporary employees for big jobs. For more information, see the website glassincorporated.net.
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