LOCAL Houston | The City Guide May 2016 - Page 47

FOOD | ARTS | COMMUNITY | STYLE+LEISURE THE SPECTRUM PLAN By Carla Valencia de Martinez | Photography by Cody Bess What do large public events like the Shell Houston Open, a music festival or, say, Cirque de Soleil all have in common? One, they all offer entertainment, and two, they all offer concessions. Chances are the company behind the concessions is Houstonian and UH graduate Dave Smalley’s Spectrum Concessions. It’s the city’s largest catering, concession and event production business. And it’s right here in your backyard in The Woodlands. Originally from Blacklick, Ohio, a city of 300 people, Smalley was raised on a farm and in his words “came to UH to swim, with no plan.” It’s obvious Smalley had an innate work ethic that he credits to growing up on the farm paired with what he laughingly calls dumb luck. “I’m the luckiest person on the planet,” he shares in our interview. And that may just be the case, but there are few CEOs as humble and hardworking as this man. In a 2013 lecture at UH, he shared the story of a 25-year-old Dave and how adversity was an important part of his success. In the early ’80s, Smalley opened up a restaurant with two developers. He had secured a 100% loan, but when things started to go down, those two “partners” sold out to a restaurateur, not before filing Chapter 11 and Chapter 7, leaving young Dave in a bad place. The new owner came in and fired Dave, but some fast talking (and the clarity of realizing his name was on the note) helped him keep his job with a salary cut to $2,000 per month. But he did it, and worked hard and eventually settled with the FDIC, paying out the note. Dave points out that he was never a partner in that business and although he is left with bad memories, he learned he never wanted to treat people like he was treated. He started out his company with 12 years in the hospitality industry, with the purpose of changing his associates’ and clients’ lives for the better – and the Golden Rule. Yes, that good ol’ do unto others as you would have them do unto you we all learned in the third grade. The magic sauce worked and today Spectrum Concessions employs well over 900 people in the US and Canada. “We are totally self-contained. We do our own trucking, we do our own tents, our own tables, all of our own flooring, our own gear. We are just different from most companies because most companies sub all of that out and we do it all internal.” Smalley’s company is now 25 years old with employees that have been with him for 20 years, and 100 of them for ten years. He credits the success to that Golden Rule and the team of people he employees and treats like family. Although his role has changed from the beginning, today he’s “still real hands-on because that’s what I like to do. But the one thing that is different is running a company of this size takes a lot of time and a lot of attention to the business aspect of it, which is quite frankly not as much fun as the doing aspect of it.” Some of the latest events they have done: McDonald’s Houston Children’s Festival, Shell Houston Open, Final Four Fan Fest, Champions Tour in Mississippi and Cirque de Soleil and the upcoming Free Press Summer Fest. Biggest lesson learned: To be kind. Dream event: Wherever I am at that time, that’s where I’m happiest. www.spectrumconcessions.com may 16 | L O C A L 47