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Posted: December 01, 2008

Executive Edge: Craig Smith

ServiceMagic sees growth for referral network amid the downturn

Lynn Bronikowski
A couple of years ago, Craig Smith’s father-in-law gave him a signed copy of Jack Welch’s book, "Winning." "He stood in line for two hours to get it signed because he knew I admired him," said Smith, the 33-year-old CEO of Golden-based ServiceMagic Inc. "And two years later I found myself in a board room in New York sitting next to Jack Welch and Barry Diller. This is the kind of stuff that is humbling — they could provide so much insight — and I sometimes pinch myself when I think I’m heading a company that employs 850." Diller is CEO of IAC, which operates ServiceMagic among its dozens of online and offline Internet businesses. Welch is on IAC’s advisory board. Smith was in New York during last month’s Wall Street meltdown, reporting positive results for ServiceMagic amid the downturn. ServiceMagic — a finalist in the 2008 ColoradoBiz Top Company competition — uses the Internet to connect homeowners with 50,000 pre-screened and customer-rated home service professionals. Last year, the company had 4.5 million customer transactions totaling $13.5 billion in home improvements. It’s expected to grow 30 percent this year and hire another 100 people. Last month, it launched ServiceMagic Europe through an acquisition and is scouting other expansion opportunities around the world. "There’s more consumer demand for services than there are professionals so I’m confident we’re going to continue to grow," said Smith, who has used ServiceMagic when he needed work done on his LoDo loft. Professionals in solar panels, geothermal technology and other green industries are among the company’s hottest categories for service professionals. "One of the more unusual requests we’ve gotten was from someone who wanted to build a yurt," he said. "We were able to help them through our partnerships with service professionals." Smith, a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs graduate, joined ServiceMagic in 2000 as vice president of business development - coming to the company from the El Pomar Foundation in Colorado Springs, where he was a member of a three-person management team that controlled more than $475 million in assets. "I wanted to work in money management and always wanted to get involved in the community so that job — my first job out of college — was a perfect combination," Smith said. He credits his father, Ralph Smith, a professional bowler, with giving him his competitive spirit. "I grew up in a bowling alley and got really good at video games in the ’80s," Smith said with a laugh. "My dad has bowled 62 perfect games and is the most competitive person I ever knew. I learned a lot from watching him." Smith also was inspired by his grandfather, who worked for 44 years in the steel mills of Pueblo - pulling double shifts three days of his seven-day work week. "He put all three of his kids through college, and when I look at the sacrifices he made, that’s a big motivator for me to be a good CEO," he said. "If you really care about the people in your operation, you can have an impact on people’s lives. My CEO style is to be very open, accessible to the frontline employee."

Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.

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