Rich Smalling

Richard J. Smalling joins CPO Executives in Residence, says business can be a ‘force for good’

September 2, 2020

The Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) welcomes Richard J. Smalling, a consultant and former CEO of American Innovations (AI), to its Executives in Residence program.

Smalling led AI for more than 25 years, helping the company emerge from near bankruptcy to become an industry innovator. The Austin, Texas-based technology firm uses remote monitoring systems and data analysis to help oil and gas companies prevent pipeline corrosion and protect the environment.

“In my time at AI, I encountered what seemed to be a lot of intractable problems in business,” Smalling says. “How do you engage people? How do you identify talent? How do you tackle compensation and performance reviews. How do you get people on the same side of the table working on problems, instead of across the table negotiating a zero-sum game? I was curious about solving all of those and had a vested interest in doing it.”

Smalling transitioned into an advisory role with AI earlier this year and launched Rolling8, LLC, a consulting practice and philanthropic fund. He is an advisor to the Dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech and serves on the board of Origin Materials. Along with a small group of community leaders, he recently helped launch the Austin Together Fund to encourage collaboration among Central Texas nonprofits. Before earning his MBA at the University of Michigan in 1993, Smalling received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He worked for six years as a development engineer with Borg Warner and General Electric in West Virginia, France, The Netherlands, and Kentucky.

Smalling joins Laurita Thomas, Ron May, Richard Haller, David Drews, and Roger Newton as an Executive in Residence at the Center for Positive Organizations.

CPO strives to build a better world through the science and practice of thriving organizations. Its Executives in Residence program is a two-year commitment where leaders unify their successful business backgrounds with CPO’s research, teaching, and organizational partnerships.

Smalling hopes to help emerging business leaders avoid the mistakes he made and start further ahead in their careers. He says students today are smarter and more altruistic than when he was in school. But, they face difficult, new challenges. In particular, they’ll need to think beyond profit and find ways to simultaneously advocate for shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, and communities.

“Business has got to be more of a force for good,” Smalling says. “Today’s students are smart enough and they care enough. They will help business make a difference. That’s what Positive Organizational Scholarship is all about. The Center has the data and the research to show you the many practices you can adopt that take care of all of your stakeholders and deliver better performance at the same time.”

Smalling is based in Austin, Texas. He enjoys spending time with his family, travel, exercise, eating and drinking, solving problems, and being of service.