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Archive for September, 2016

First look at the 2017 SMITH Line-up

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Here’s a first look at one of the new SMITH prep machines and cutter tools to be unveiled at the NPE, ATSSA, WOC and ARA exhibitions in 2017.

The full reveal coming soon at your authorized SMITH Distributor locations. 

Fall Forward, Take Risks to get Markings Through Winter, You Through Life

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Fall Forward, Take Risks to get Markings Through Winter, You Through Life


Fall Forward

Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. For roadway stripers, risk taking is what they do every day, working in the world’s most dangerous environment, the work zone. Of course, if stripers didn’t take these risks, their markings wouldn’t be saving the lives of millions that drive safely to their destination each day.

Striping is not a conventional profession, and I’m sure in the striper’s experience, like mine, they probably never started out in life determining that they wanted to be a striper. I am sure it was something else. Maybe you are still trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. And perhaps while you are figuring it out, people you know may have told you to make sure you have something else to “fall back on.” Knowing what I know today, being a striper is a very noble profession; you’re saving lives, and making good money doing it. But, when I was young, and before I figured this out, I heard people close to me say, “make certain you have something to fall back on.”

You know something? I took the words “fall back” quite literally.

You see, I always believed if I am going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything, I want to fall forward. That way, I’ll know where I am going to land. So I say, let’s all fall forward!

Now when I hear fall, I sometimes associate the word fall with fail. Therefore fall forward – like fail forward – is something that I believe leads to success. I am not alone in this belief. There are hundreds of books dedicated to this subject, and many famous names we can recount in the arts, sports, and business worlds that have failed forward before they succeeded. While we struggle day in and day out towards the fulfillment of our hopes and our dreams, we know this, “if there is no struggle there is no progress;” a statement by Fredrick Douglas more than 150 years ago. Failing forward before succeeding is a theme that has been evident since the dawn of time. All organisms, small and large, have always fought for survival in their evolutionary shift to succeed as a species, and that ‘falling forward’ struggle for success can be found across all spectrums of life.

Here are some examples of people I admire who you may know for their successes. But, you may not have known that before they were successful, it was in their failures and their desire never to give up in the face of their struggles that they achieved their fall forward breakthroughs. These are people who persevered and pushed through their present-day limitations and failed forward.

Let me highlight their struggles towards success:

This famous inventor conducted over 10,000 failing experiments. On the 10,001 time, he invented a commercially viable electric lightbulb. When asked why he didn’t give up, Thomas Edison said, “I now know definitely over 9,000 ways an electric lightbulb will not work, and success is in my grasp.”

The man who invented a vacuum that doesn’t suck (using cyclonic separation to create the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner ) had over 5,000 failures before he finally get it right. He was faced with even more resistance when no distributor would take on the revolutionary product, because no one wanted to buck the trend of using the Hoover-type bags. So, he went to Japan with a hot-pink version and won an industrial award. Then he received a US patent for it. However, manufacturers still didn’t want to take it on, so he formed his own company. James Dyson struggled through times of failure, sorrow, and regret, but he persevered. His refusal to give up allowed him to amass a net worth of $5 billion.

Howard Schultz started life in extreme poverty, and cut his sales chops by working at Xerox.He then worked for a small, Swedish coffeemaker. It wasn’t until he met his company’s client, Starbucks, that led him to his unbelievable success. He joined Starbucks after being so impressed with the company, and convinced the owners to roll out the concept of coffee bars across the company’s stores that only sold coffee beans. The owners resisted, but he was persistent, and was allowed to open a single coffee shop in one of the new stores in Seattle in 1984. It was an instant success. But the owners didn’t want to continue with the concept and get too big. In 1985, Schultz left Starbucks to open his own coffee bar, but he was thinking even bigger. He proposed buying the Starbucks company, which carried a hefty price tag, so he needed help with the transaction. Attempting to raise the capital to purchase the company, Schultz famously stated that he “was turned down by 217 investors until he found the angels that funded his purchase of Starbucks, where today you can’t walk anywhere in the world without seeing its coffee. He said “you have to have a tremendous belief in what you’re doing, and then you must just persevere.”

Born in 1963, this former basketball player is credited with saying,”I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” At the age of 15, while a sophomore in high school, this all-time great was passed up for the varsity basketball team. He cried after he saw the varsity list without his name on it. But instead of giving up, his mom convinced him to push forward. Every time he thought about stopping his training, he would picture that list without his name on it. He allowed it to push him rather than to entirely defeat him. At the age of 21, he entered the NBA, where he would win six titles and become known as the greatest basketball player ever. In addition, he helped to build a fledgling shoe company called Nike into the world’s greatest brand. You may even be wearing his Jordans.

Born in 1906, this Japanese inventor and industrialist created an automotive empire by his namesake. Yet, it was his perseverance and tenacity to never give up that kept him going, and it helped him to ultimately succeed. At the age of 15, without any formal education, he left home to search for work. He found it at an auto repair shop, where he apprenticed and worked for the next 6 years before returning home to open up his own shop. During the Great Depression in 1937, at the age of 31, he toiled and labored night and day to create pistons for Toyota, but they didn’t want to buy them. With little cash and bleak chances for survival, he pawned his wife’s ring just to make ends meet. He failed ultimately, and was told that the piston rings didn’t meet Toyota’s specs. However, he refused to give up. He went back to school and continued to search for ways to improve his prior designs, and after two more years of designing and trying he succeeded, and successfully secured a contract with Toyota to create the piston rings. But shortly thereafter, the factory he built was hit by a bomb during WWII. After he rebuilt it a second time, an earthquake leveled it. But he refused to give up. Instead, Soichiro Honda created a motorized bicycle that would become the start of his automotive empire by his namesake — Honda Motor Company.

Born in 1955, this late iconic billionaire, inventor and entrepreneur built the world’s most successful company, where today their product is desired to be in everyone’s hand. Yet, the inventor’s life was filled with failure. Before fame ever graced him and his name become synonymous with success, he suffered through an enormous number of setbacks. In his earliest days, he felt unwanted. He was put up for adoption by his mother, and raised by a blue-collar couple. He dropped out of college and started taking courses that were more interesting to him. Rather than trying to complete his degree, he opted instead to travel the world and study Zen Buddhism. In 1976, he co-founded a company that was highly successful, but he made a wrong move when he hired a CEO that ousted him from the company he started. That disheartening period helped to embolden him. So, he started a new computer company NEXT, and a movie company called Pixar. While his original company was fledgling, he was brought back to the company in 1997, where Steve Jobs helped to create the iPhone, which revolutionized the way we interact with the world we live in.

Those are just a few examples that bring me inspiration. There are many more people that I admire that are not famous, but share a steadfast drive and determination to succeed. Of course, most people don’t remember the failures. They only remember the successes, which is exactly why I get joy from thinking fail forward when I embark outside of my comfort zone.

I would like to share with you three reasons why risk taking and embracing failure is so important, and how it shaped who I am today; an over-55 proud father, loving husband, and leader of  a very successful surface-prep manufacturing business that employs the best people, and serves the best customers anyone could hope for.

First, simply accept that you will fail at some point in your life. You will lose at something. You will certainly embarrass yourself. There is no doubt that you will truly suck at something. But, just embrace it. Because being embarrassed, sucking, and losing are inevitable. And I should know – I am failing all the time. Let me share some of my failures with you.

Early in my career, I created a new style of cutter used to remove pavement markings that I thought would be the very last cutter anyone what ever need (because I designed it with a super-hard tungsten carbide that would never wear out).  I thought it was a perfect tool for stripers that never liked to change parts. That’s what I thought, except for the fact that the other components my cutters would work with would not stand up. So, I later designed the drum and wear components that lasted as long as the cutter, but the costs were so high that no one wanted to take a chance on my “incredible, never-failing ultra-premium-grade wear components.” Suffice to say, I didn’t sell the part. But, here’s the thing I got from it – I didn’t quit. I didn’t look or fall back, I continued to fall forward.

I know the job of stripers is really hard work, and the preparation it takes to get their working surface just right is impossible without the right tools and skill set. So, years ago I hired really smart engineers and tasked them to design equipment that was not only fast and easy for stripers, but left a surface profile that would actually improve the surface conditions of the materials they were applying (which we even modestly named the process “SMITHing“).  With our vision in place, we continued to try and fail, and we tried and failed again. We then figured out a simple rotary- and drum-style surface-preparation machine that doesn’t require water or shot, and can contain all the dust and debris while achieving all the textures in the surface profile scale (SP – SP10). The equipment performed well, but it wasn’t until we created a four-step prep process as a pathway to the perfect prep. So, we introduced it to the industry, but the agencies that regulate striping work weren’t open to adding a profile standard to their prep-before-stripe specifications. But did that stop me? Of course not! I’m going to continue to fail forward. I know it’s an uphill battle to convince DOTs to start paying contractors for their prep-before-striping work. Because the work I am doing will create good jobs and safer sustainable surfaces – and if I can just hang on it a little longer, like Edison – I will soon get others to be successfully SMITHing.

Several years ago, we created an airport stripe removal machine that’s a tenth the cost of the most-popular competitive stripe-removal machine for erasing pavement markings on airfields. Our customers love it. And here’s the kicker – it was purchased by a customer who refused to buy our first machine because that machine cost too much 20 years prior.

Our company stated internally using a People Analyzer Report Card to grade all employees before they are hired or tasked with a new job. We GWC each of their accountabilities, meaning that for each responsibility, do the get it, want it, and have the capacity to succeed at the job? The only problem is that we are not grading their courage to fail forward on the job.

Here’s my second point about failing forward: if you don’t fail, you’re not even trying.

My dad often said, “to get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.”

He gave me an analogy about this. Imagine you’re on your deathbed, and hovering around are the ghosts of your unfilled potential. The ghosts of ideas you never acted upon. The ghosts of talents you didn’t use. The ghosts of love you never said. And these ghosts are named Angry, Displeased, and Heartbroken. These ghosts say in unison, “we’ve arrived on your last day on earth so we can all go to the grave together.”

So, what keeps me awake at night and drives my decisions are the number of ghosts that are going to be around my bed when my time comes.

Of course, I don’t want any! I have invested a lot of time, money, and energy into my profession just like many of you have in yours. To assure those ghosts will not be around, I am continuing to try to get others to take notice that spending just a little more money and taking just a little more time getting the surface conditions just right prior to the pavement marking installation is the right thing to do.

After practicing the SMITHing perfect prep steps hundreds of times, we knew when the steps are followed, the surface profile can be created without substrate micro-cracking so the stripes will mechanically bond fast to the surface to which it was applied. Stripes that are installed late in the fall (that normally fail without prep) will last until spring, and for many seasons beyond. To get others to start adopting paid prep-before-stripe work will require a change of culture, attitude, procedure adoption, and of course, money. Now, who is willing to take the risks from changing the status quo to get this done? If I can just find that one engineer who will take the calculated (low) risk by specifying SMITHing as a paid line item on their next pavement marking maintenance contract, and in doing so, they will get their markings to last longer on their roads. Fall forward!

I have always believed that striping is a very cost-effective way to make roadways safer. I wrote about the striping evolution that you can read here. The last evolutionary phase, Deeper Markings, will happen in 2020, so stripes on our walkways, bikeways, and roadways will stay in place – even under the toughest traffic environments.

For the past several years, when introducing prep-before-striping work to governments, I heard “no, it costs too much,” or “we don’t have enough time to keep the work zone open for prep” hundreds of times. I know that fall-forward professional will come forward and start specifying prep as a paid item. And when stripers get paid for the prep work, a little more time will be taken to get the surface right, using the right equipment that improves surface conditions so any markings that will be installed in late fall will last over the winter, and late into next year, and the next, and the next ,and even longer. Fall forward.

So here’s my message – simply give it everything you’ve got. If you don’t have the money, give your time, your talent, your prayers, or your mentorship. And continue giving it all, and take nothing with you to the grave except a life worth living. So what are you going to do with what you now have? Money, time, patience, kindness, love, sorrow? Whatever it is, are you going to give it or take it with you?

Now here’s my last point about failing forward:
Sometimes failing is the best way to figure out where you’re going in life. Let me share with you how I began my career.

I worked in my youth as a striper for my dad. Because of a turn of events, I decided to go to college as a pre-med student at the University of Florida. That lasted for one pre-med course that I couldn’t pass. Then I decided pre-law, which lasted two courses, and then finally graduated business, finishing with a finance major. But I failed at getting a job on Wall Street even before I was ever hired, because of a call of duty by my father who asked that I join his fledgling striping contractor business.

My dad wanted me in his business again, and his first assignment was for me to analyze if they should transition from a striper to solely a manufacturer of striping equipment and materials. I eventually determined that it was wise to focus on one business rather than two.   I knew the difficulties of the striping business, and failed as a striper right out of the gate. I originally started working for Pave-Mark Contractors as a paint striper, then as a thermoplastic striper during my summers as a teen. It was the summer of ’75, after a promotion from painting parking lots to striping roads, where I lost my courage to continue as a striper. On that fateful day, our truck broke down and I walked away from my co-workers to replace a failed part. When I returned, I lost my co-workers to a driver that took them out in the moments I was away. That watershed moment of loss and failure was the motivation I use each day to fail forward.

Let me conclude with one final point on risk taking. Taking a risk is not just about working at a job. It’s also about knowing what you know and what you don’t know. It’s about being open to people and ideas. After the accident, I slowly overcame my fears for failing, and ultimately my heart became flooded with love and a call of duty for a purpose greater than myself to celebrate the striper, and to tell the world to treasure their contributions by slowing down when approaching a work zone. After all, their work makes our commute and roadways safer for us all.

We should not only take risks, but be open to life. To accept new views and to be open to new opinions. To be willing to speak our mind, even though we may be ridiculed. While it may be frightening, it may also be rewarding. Because the chances you will take, the people you meet, the ones you will love, and the faith in your heart, that’s what’s going to define your life.

Here’s my risk-taking point. When you walk through life, never be discouraged, never hold back, and always give everything you’ve got, so when you fall through life, always fall forward.

Steven Smith

RFN Special Bulletin: Steel SPS10 throttle lever now available

Monday, September 26th, 2016


All-steel SPS10 twist-lock throttle lever now available

You asked for an all-steel throttle twist-lock cable assembly upgrade for our model SPS10. Well, here it is!

steel sps10 throttle lever

This steel throttle lever will replace the current plastic handle counterpart in the next 60 days. It will be a simple replacement for existing levers for all SMITH SPS models.

We will also be offering special introductory pricing for newly purchased SPS10 machines with the plastic throttle handle, should you choose to replace it.

Ask your SMITH representative for more information on the new steel SPS10 throttle lever today. Refer to part number SPSTH-022.0

For instructions on using the old plastic throttle cable, please see the video here.


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Toll Free: 1-800-653-9311 | Ph: 954-941-9744 | Fax: 954-545-0348
Specifications and data are subject to change without notice.