Belinda Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of specialist insurance and technical training company, Rapid Solutions.
Belinda is an experienced business professional with a 20-year career in the insurance, construction, education and not-for-profit sectors. She matches this with a strong commitment to her community and is currently the Chair of the charity, Got Your Back Sista, as well as supporting many other local charities.
Since joining Rapid Solutions in early 2017, Belinda has driven the development of a strategic plan that is further positioning the company as a leader in its field while growing market share in the pest management and building inspection sectors.
- What makes a good leader?
It’s a question that I think about a lot and I’ve done a lot of reading, a lot of study over the years through my MBA and read all of the books, or at least a good chunk of them, on the topic. Somebody recently gave me some really solid advice – three core principles to live by – and I’m really using them on my leadership journey at the moment with Rapid.
They are: firstly, to treat people with respect, always. Secondly, is to give and receive feedback, and thirdly is to always do what you say you’re going to do. They’re really simple, but when I think about all of the learning that I’ve done, all the experiences that I’ve had, that I really can distil all of that experience and learning down to those three core principals.
In stepping into a new role 12 months ago at Rapid, I really took those principles in with me, so that it’s really easy to hold myself accountable to that and really easy to share those accountabilities with my team as well.
- What do you believe has shaped your leadership style?
I think making lots and lots of mistakes. In terms of my current style, I think I’ve tried every style. My first leadership, I was quite young. I was in my early 20s and like a lot of people really thrown into a management position before I was ready, I had some good administration skills, but really didn’t have any experience, even life experience, to back that up. I think what I’ve been really good at doing is learning from my mistakes, learning from other people.
I’ve been really fortunate to have a couple of really good mentors, both formally and informally, over the past 15 or 20 years, and I’ve just always been really curious about what’s the best style and how do I know if the style is working for me? Ultimately, of course, it’s what comes naturally. What’s coming naturally to me is just treating people with kindness and compassion. That experience and reflecting on when that’s worked for me and when that hasn’t worked for me, that’s really shaped my current leadership style.
- What motivates and drives you?
The motivators for me, even as a kid, was really around making things better and doing things better. As I’ve grown in my leadership roles, that’s really been about helping people to grow. To either be the best person they can, or to make our business or our project, or whatever it is that we’re working on together, better.
That includes volunteer roles, so I’m really privileged to be the Chair of We’ve Got Your Back Sista, and I support our CEO and Founder Melissa Histon, in growing that grass roots charity and seeing that blossom and thrive. That’s what really motivates and drives me.
The same with my team at Rapid Solutions. I’ve been in that role for 12 months now, just over, and what I’ve really focused on is taking a group of people, bringing them together and really helping them play to their strengths to ensure they have the moral support that they need to be the very best that they can in their roles. I think that drive from a leader; to actually just really take seriously their responsibility to help people be the best they can and to send them home from work feeling like they’ve made a difference. Feeling like they matter. Feeling like what they do is ultimately helping to make them a better person, not just a better employee.
That is really the thing that gets me out of bed each day. Works for my kids, I hope it works for my friends, and I certainly hope that it’s adding value in my leadership roles.
- What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into your diary each week?
I’d have to say that it’s reflection on the week, particularly the successes of the week and what I’m going to do in the coming week. What I’ve found has really assisted me in doing that, is I have the NFP Connect Planner that Grace McLean has put out. I’ve been using that for a couple of years now. Being able to see my week at a glance, look back on last week and question what did I want to achieve and how close did I come to actually achieving that is so valuable. Because sometimes, like all of us, we set goals and then we don’t touch them because we get busy doing the doing.
Being able to capture in the planner my 90 quota and what I want to achieve, both personally, as well as professionally. Then each week what I’ve done, who I need to connect with to support that and how I can give myself the best shot of actually looking back on a week and saying, “yeah, you know what, I nailed one out three things, I’m pretty happy with that”.
- What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
Well, there’s no way I could pick one. I think in the Hunter we’re so lucky to have so many great business leaders, both our corporates and our local businesses. But, in thinking about that question, I started writing a list that I intended to cull and try to come up with one person and I honestly couldn’t. But, the similarity that I saw in these individuals is that most of them are small or medium business owners, and they really are people that I would call page rattlers, which I like to do a little of myself. But, they’re people that are taking a different approach in business; they’re finding a gap. They’re not trying to duplicate what’s already out there in the market and they’re doing things a little differently and really adding value.
Hunter Headline would be one of those, absolutely. Viv Allanson at Maroba Aged Care is making a phenomenal difference locally as well as nationally. Melissa Histon from Got Your Back Sista, who is working on programs and services that there are gaps for in supporting people who’ve experience domestic violence. Teddy Mac Boutique and The Naked Florist in the mall – two great young girls that are doing something really different. People talk about gen Y and all the stereotypes, but they’re two great girls just having a really red hot go.
Meg Purser, from Purser Corporate Communications, who is a great connector. I’ve taken so many crazy ides to her and she’ll tell me which ones are literally crazy, but also help connect and support me to do things that are different. Whether it’s at Rapid Solutions, Got Your Back Sista, or some of the other charities or organisations that I’ve been involved in. I feel really fortunate to have this network and access to these people who are really kind and compassionate, as well as really good businesspeople.
I’d also count in that mix Tony Rhodes, my previous CEO at Mullanes, which is, again, a great local business that really flies under the radar probably in terms of visibility in a broader business market. But, he’s one of the kindest, most compassionate business leaders that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
It would literally be a whole page of my NFP Connect Planner, I just feel really fortunate to be surrounded in the Hunter as many of us are, with so many great business leaders.
Rapid Solutions is based in Newcastle, NSW and is a leader in providing tailored insurance solutions for the pest management, building inspection, agricultural pest and weed control sectors. It also provides technical advice and industry recognised training solutions for this sector. The company employs nearly 40 people who support a client base of more than 2,000 customers across Australia and New Zealand.