People should come before profit margins.
Barry Smith, a successful, 51-year-old Scottsdale entrepreneur, said he learned this important lesson in life from his late mother, Ardis Smith who single-handedly raised her son and his four brothers after the death of her husband at a relatively young age.
"My mom taught us that helping others was the most important thing in our lives," said Smith, founder of VistaCare, one of the largest hospice care providers in the nation and an officer of RG Capital, a Scottsdale-based financial management company.
"It’s not about money," said Smith, who is an officer in several companies, including Bon Travay Development, Inc., a luxury residential development company headquartered in Telluride, Colorado. Bon Travay means "Good Works" in Creole, the language of Haiti, but more about that later.
"It’s about making a difference with people. As my mother told us, ‘Those who have been blessed need to look outside of themselves,’" Smith said.
Smith vividly remembers, however, living on the financial edge.
"My dad died of complications from alcoholism, and we moved around a lot." Smith said. "We lived in a crowded, basement apartment in Escondido, California. I had no lunch money for school, but we — my brothers and I — had a happy childhood, thanks to my mother who was always working hard to raise us — and, at the same time, volunteering for charities."
One community event, a street carnival to raise money for the Parent Teachers Association at the Smiths’ local school, was too expensive for her boys to attend.
Their mother figured out a way to hold the fund-raiser —and let her sons enjoy the rides without paying a penny.
"She held the carnival in front of our house," Smith said. "Everybody was happy."
Smith and his late older brother, Craig, when they were teenagers started a lawnmowing business and worked at a variety of jobs to make up for the family’s financial shortages.
Despite the early financial stress, Smith attended and rece ived a bachelor of finances degree from the University of Utah.
He and his wife, Julia, have six children and seven grandchildren.
And when he’s not flying his company’s jet, skiing and snowboarding with his family in Telluride, Colo., conducting meetings at his companies, attending sessions of various non-profits and charities he’s spending one week each month in Haiti.
No, not a luxury getaway place, but a desperate and sometimes dangerous country that is hanging on to life’s calamitous edge.
"Haiti is a country of compete destruction," said Smith, who is chairman of Healing Hands for Haiti, a charitable organization that offers education and clinical services to Haitians.
He and his wife are spearheading a plan to build a fullservice hospital in Haiti.
"Talk about money," Smith said. "Seventy-six percent of the one-million people in Haiti live on less than two-dollars a day. There are one-million orphans in Haiti. And one out of every three deaths is a child."
Smith traces his confrontation with death to the creation of one of the country’s biggest hospice companies, VistaCare, a firm he started in 1995.
"My brother, Craig, the boy who I shared my life with, died and I was unprepared for it," Smith said. "We faced a lot of issues, like when and how to tell his children? And all those other questions that death brings, like what about funeral arrangements? Financial issues?
"It was the most difficult time in my life," Smith said.
It also prompted him to use his previous experience in the health care field to start VistaCare, a firm that has hospice programs in 40 communities in 14 states.
He served as CEO and, in 2001 moved to chairman-ofthe-board of directors. In August, 2003, he retired from the board and now serves as a board member of VistaCare Foundation, a non-profit arm of the company that gives nonmedical support to survivors and funds research and educational programs.
One of his latest ventures?
EatzaPizza to be exact, a relatively new restaurant chain based in Scottsdale that serves buffet-style pizza and other food, including "dessert pizzas," as well as game rooms for youngsters and free food for children under 3.
The first EatzaPizza opened in 1997 in Phoenix. Smith was asked by the current president, Ron Stilwell, formerly with Peter Piper’s Pizza, to financially join the sprouting young company.
"I don’t know how to make pizza, but I know business and I know people," Smith said. "I knew Ron Stilwell was a strong manager. We developed a new logo, a new menu and new interior design. It’s very successful."
There are 25 EatzaPizzas operating in Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Ohio, Michigan and Washington. The company has seven franchisees.
By 2005, the company expects to open 20 new units, including four to six in the Valley.
"Pizza is the most profitable of the fast-food franchises," Smith said. "I see myself as a stagehand, helping Ron Stilwell direct and expand the pizza business."
People. Profit margins. Pizzas, in that order.
Businesses: Chairman of RG Capital, a financial services company based in Scottsdale; founder of VistaCare, a Scottsdale-based operator of hospice services; chairman of Eatza Pizza and chairman of Bon Travay Development, a luxury development in Telluride, Colo.
Resides in: Paradise Valley
Family: Wife, Julia; six children: Andra, Julia, Nicholas, Adam, Morgan and Garnet and seven grandchildren.
Key achievement: Founder and visionary of multiple companies in the medical care and services, quick service restaurant and financial services fields. Philanthropist.
Success philosophy: Put people before profits.