Makai HR Hawaii Business Owner Spotlight: Premier Restoration Hawaii

November 4, 2019 Written by Oralie Chapman

One of the best things about providing outsourced human resources services on Oahu is getting to know the local business owners and managers who run these companies. Hawaii's diverse business community is close knit and teeming with talent. We hope you find their insights as interesting as we do!

For this Hawaii business owner spotlight, we interviewed Wayne Smith, president of Premier Restoration Hawaii. Here is the Q & A:

Q. What is Premier Restoration Hawaii?

A. "Premier Restoration Hawaii's mission is to help people and businesses of Hawaii get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible after a disaster. With over 150 employees, we are one of Hawaii's largest property damage restoration and reconstruction companies. We work as a team to serve our community with compassion, respect and honor, and treat every emergency as if it were our own. Over the last 15 years, Premier - originally named Maui Fire & Flood - has been restoring homes and businesses that have been damaged from water, mold, wind, sewage, asbestos, fire and smoke. Click here for a full list of services. We provide 24/7 emergency service, 24-hour water removal and full-service home and residential restoration services. Premier Restoration Hawaii is also a proud member of the Disaster Kleenup International (DKI) Network, which gives us access to the resources of the largest restoration contractor in North America."

Q. What islands do you serve?

A. "We have operation locations on Oahu, Maui and in Kona on Hawai'i island with the capacity to mobilize statewide to any island given the correct job profile."

Q. Describe your story and how it brought you to Premier Restoration Hawaii.

A. "I was raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with blue collar parents. In fact, I was the first person to attend college in my family. I earned a Bachelor of Business from Queens University in North Carolina and always had a real desire to work globally. I was an intern at a London investment bank over the summer between Junior and Senior year. I learned two things about myself: 1. I did not want to be an investment banker and 2. I loved being abroad. After graduation, I was hired as a consultant for Anderson Consulting in the transportation and travel management field. This job taught me how to be a professional and it gave me a taste of regular work travel, crisscrossing the country every month. I then joined an industrial supply company in New Jersey for two years as a part of their leadership program. Here I learned management of people of all experience levels, including recruiting and performance management tasks. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had that experience. I loved it. When the owner encouraged me to pursue my potential, I applied to Harvard Business School to earn my MBA. After graduating, I joined a French multi-national cement and concrete company on the promise that after four years I would be assigned to an international role. My first assignment was in Detroit and I Ioved it there. Being in charge of cement distribution terminals across the Great Lakes - including Ontario, Canada - I learned to work in the framework of a fortune 500 company. I then held executive level roles in Supply Chain and Marketing. In 2008, I was asked to relocate to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to lead the internal audit function for emerging markets, despite having no accounting background. I spent three years in Malaysia; which turned out to be a pivotal point in my life. It was there that I met my wife. We've now been married over eight years and have a daughter. The most exciting part of that assignment was building a team of nearly 20 high potential leaders from 11 countries. Our office in Kuala Lumpur felt like the United Nations. It was incredible. I more than got my wish for an international career, working in over 30 countries. After Malaysia, we moved to Beijing, China. It was during this time that my wife and I started spending more time in Hawaii in search of warmer weather and we fell in love with Hawaii's culture and people. From China, we moved to Paris where I led strategy and development from the corporate headquarters for all of Asia. After more than nine years in the building materials industry, I took on a new global challenge with a temporary power and generator rental company based in London. I was tasked with growing our business in Africa and Asia and expanding the business into a global market. While I had a great role and enjoyed building businesses in new markets, the heavy travel kept me away from my family. After three years with the power and generator rental company, I joined a small, publicly listed aerial platform rental company where I led the UK business unit for two years. After a hostile takeover of the business, I decided to take a one-year sabbatical with my family. We traveled the world (including a couple of months in Hawaii) then settled in Malaysia to chill out for a year and give our daughter exposure to Malaysian culture. Near the end of that year, I began searching for executive opportunities in Hawaii and was introduced to Dustin Sellers and Chris Eldridge, managing partners at KOA Capital Partners, LLC. We explored the opportunity to lead Premier Restoration Hawaii, and I joined as president on August 1, 2019. I am tasked with upgrading the overall customer experience while expanding the company's geographic presence."

Q. Why did you choose Premier Restoration Hawaii? 

A. "I was looking for a Hawaii business that made a difference in the community and that fit with my industrial background. I was also looking for a small to medium size company that I could help take to the next level while building and nurturing a team. I love the Premier mission and that every day we work to restore lives, businesses and communities. I am happy to be working with an amazing team who have taken the company through extraordinary growth. We now have a stable foundation ready for the next phase of growth."

Q. What are the benefits and challenges of running a business in Hawaii?

A. Benefits: "Hawaii is a small community, which makes it easier to make an immediate impact and to see the results of your efforts. I find the focus on local companies really exciting (source from local companies, hire locally). Building solid, lasting relationships with your clients is an important and special part of the Hawaii business community.

Challenges: "It's a small community so your performance is spotlighted. You always need to be at your best."

Q. Do you have a personal or professional motto?

A. "Walk into the fire; take action. The longer you wait to address a problem, the worse it's going to get."

Q. What is your greatest success and what is the biggest lesson you've learned in your business experiences?

A. Greatest success: "Being able to build a multi-disciplinary, multi-national team in Malaysia. I brought people in from all different backgrounds and cultures and turned them into a team that gelled really well. It taught me to be humble and to appreciate the diversity of opinions found within teams. These team-building skills have really helped in my career."

Greatest lesson: "You can have the best process or product or marketing but without the best people, it's not going to work. One of the challenges for businesses is how to hire the right people in a labor-constrained job market like Hawaii's."

From Makai HR President, Valerie Wang: "Wayne has an incredible story that we are very excited to share! With his MBA from Harvard and operational work experience spanning Europe, South East Asia, and the U.S., Mr. Smith brings a global, yet highly pragmatic work style to Premier. We are excited to see the impact that Premier Restoration HI will continue to make with Wayne at the helm. Premier Restoration Hawaii was one of Makai HR's first clients and we are proud to provide them with outsourced HR services."