Co-Founder & Director
Bob Ackerley has been a devotee of the unconventional and grassroots ever since he and his brother Lee founded Smith in 1984.
Smith began at a dining room table with two phone lines (and barely any other furniture in the house), as the Ackerley brothers and their wives braved reaching out to some of the biggest names in the young electronics industry. This startup took root fast due to the Ackerleys’ deep tech knowledge and market intuition (and a few bold and crazy decisions). Now Smith is a global company with 500 employees, 16 offices, and a consistent top ranking among distributors.
Before founding Smith, Bob earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from MIT and worked as an engineer with Texas Eastern Corporation from 1980-84. But he knew he was made for something more than a conventional career path – and he chased that vision.
“The world’s full of too much possibility to follow the expected path,” he said. “No matter how small you start, if you plant something innovative and help it grow, the results will be worth the hard work.”
He applies that philosophy to supporting future generations as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Graceland University and a supporter of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Bob is also the owner of Rio Grande Organics, the largest organic pecan farm in the United States.
His passion for sustainability, technology, and developing homegrown IT solutions keeps Smith and his other enterprises always fresh. Always growing.
Co-Founder & Director
It’s all about keeping people happy.
In 1984, Lee was working in sales for a New York electronics distributor after attending Princeton University. His skill at sales fit right in there, but he soon realized he could make better use of his knowledge of the fledgling distribution industry. So he and his brother made a leap, quitting their jobs to start making calls out of Bob’s small Houston home. They connected with the biggest manufacturers in tech, buying and selling parts and building relationships that would last decades.
Smith is now a global family of 500, with 16 offices working closely together, even separated by time zones and oceans. And Lee hasn’t stopped reaching out to new partners, markets, and locales; there are plans for further expansion into South America and the Middle East.
“Relationships are what make the difference in an industry like this one,” said Lee. “Everything is constantly changing – except for our business relationships and our integrity.”
“We have three constituencies in business: our customers, our vendors, and our employees,” Lee continued. “If we are keeping all of them happy with Smith, then we are probably going to do pretty well.”
Chief Trading Officer
It’s no surprise that Marc, who leads the company’s sales, business development, and marketing efforts worldwide, has been dubbed the “guidance counselor” of Smith.
“I think of my function here as a resource allocator – to give the maximum support and tools to every sales or purchasing manager, and, in turn, to every trader so they can achieve their highest potential here,” Marc said.
Marc joined Smith as a buyer in 1990 and has since held a number of management roles, including establishing the distributor sales division in 1992 and managing the company’s top sales team. He was promoted to Vice President of Trading in 1996 and to his current role in 2007. Prior to joining Smith, Marc was a manager at Grace Equipment Company.
He received his BA from Francis Marion University in South Carolina.
“After being here more than half of my life, and looking back on all that we have accomplished, I am still so enthusiastic about Smith’s future,” Marc said. “The next 10 years are going to be the best 10 years.”
Chief Operating Officer
“I’m inspired by results; I like to see things get done,” Kirk said of his role leading Smith’s global operations, quality, logistics, security, and facilities.
“We support our customers with excellent quality and reliability,” Kirk said.
“That has been our focus and continues to be our focus, be it by obtaining the highest certifications or by improving processes.”
Prior to his role as Smith’s COO, Kirk served as CEO of solar-tech provider and consultant ONTILITY since 2012, and, previously, as Vice President of Global Operations for Smith (2008-2012) and Director of Operations and Supply Chain for Cardone Industries (1997-2008), where he managed startup and integration of manufacturing operations in Belgium and Mexico.
Kirk received a BS from Oral Roberts University and his MBA from Westchester University of Pennsylvania.
When he’s not leading Smith’s operations, Kirk says he’s “usually in some sort of, or at some sort of, sporting event with one of my kids. I enjoy it.”
Chief Administrative Officer
Matt Hartzell heads up the company’s administrative functions worldwide, overseeing Smith’s legal, accounting, human resources, and IT departments.
Currently, he’s spearheading Smith’s expansion into franchise distribution and military sales.
It’s with two tried-and-true strengths that he gets the job done. “I think the skills of listening and patience are underrated, and I try to bring those because that’s how problems get solved,” Matt said.
Matt joined Smith as General Counsel in 1998 and served as COO from 2008 to 2014. Before joining Smith, Matt was a shareholder with Hirsch and Westheimer, P.C. He received his BA from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and his JD from the University of Houston Law Center. Matt is also on the board of directors of Allegiance Bancshares, Inc. in Houston.
When he’s not at Smith, Matt pushes himself on the open road.
“There’s a point during any bike ride where you’ve expended yourself and you’re continuing on,” Matt said. “It’s an inner challenge to go past where you think you can go.”
Chief Globalization Officer
Dynamic. Engaging. Rewarding. That’s how Mark Bollinger describes his role of overseeing the administration of Smith’s international offices.
“I’m inspired by persistence – pushing through challenges, perfecting an approach, always making the next phone call,” said Mark, who is currently spearheading development of a global training platform that will benefit all departments at Smith.
Before taking on this role, Mark served as Smith’s Vice President of Marketing and, previously, helped build Smith’s business development team.
Prior to joining Smith, Mark was with the Federal Communications Commission (1993-2000), where he managed the wireless telecommunications spectrum auction program. He received his BA from William Jewell College and his JD from the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law.
Vice President of Business Development
Todd Burke’s business mantra boils down to one word: trust.
“I develop Smith’s relationships through trust,” he explained. “With the confidence our customers have in us, we can be problem solvers that help them achieve their goals.”
Currently, Todd is expanding Smith’s business development team and mapping out newly identified key target accounts.
Todd’s transition into the role of VP of Business Development in 2016 was yet another success in his fruitful 20-year career with Smith. Prior to joining the company in 1996, Todd was employed with Fairmont Supply Company, where he worked extensively with integrated supply chain systems.
Todd received his Bachelor of Science in industrial distribution from Texas A&M and his MBA in marketing from Christian Brothers University.
When he’s not in the office, Todd is all about being with his family – whether it’s on the beach, at church, or on the field.
“I coach my boys’ little league baseball teams and basketball teams, and it’s just a blast,” Todd said. “To me, that’s the richest stuff of life. It’s really cool spending that time with them and seeing how much they progress from one year to the next.”
President – APAC
Becoming the industry leader in Asia – that’s Choon’s top priority as the president of our Asia-Pacific offices.
His method? To both lead and support, and, at the crux of it, to motivate. “You have to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish and have unwavering focus to get there,” he said.
Choon Byun’s path to his current role is one that has taken him around the globe. Choon joined Smith in Houston as a purchasing agent in 1997, and then moved to sales before transferring to Hong Kong in 1998.
In 2000, he relocated to Seoul, Korea, where he opened a new office and served as Managing Director. Choon opened Smith’s Shanghai office in 2004 and was appointed Vice President, Northeast Asia in 2005. He was named President, Asia-Pacific in 2012.
Choon graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a BA in economics and psychology.
Vice President of Marketing
Margo lives by the Golden Rule in her role overseeing communication and branding efforts for Smith’s domestic and international offices: “I try to be professional, responsive, and empathetic, and I’m never afraid to jump in and help – no matter what the task at hand might be.”
And it is with this mindset that Margo is currently leading the redesign and expansion of our SmithWeb site.
Margo was appointed to this position, which she describes as “creative and interactive,” in 2016, eight years after first signing on with Smith as the Marketing Manager. She was promoted from that role to Marketing Director in 2013. Prior to joining Smith, Margo worked as Marketing Administrator at Dresser, Inc.
She holds a BA in advertising from The University of Texas at Austin and her master’s in business administration from Sam Houston State University. Margo is a member of the American Marketing Association and the Business Marketing Association.
Vice President Operations and Quality, NA & EU
Challenging. Methodical. Fulfilling. That’s how Art describes his role of managing Smith’s global distribution logistics, reverse logistics, anti-counterfeiting efforts, and corporate sustainability.
Currently, Art is spearheading two major projects: securing a larger warehouse for our Amsterdam hub and renovating Smith’s Houston headquarters.
But it’s all in a day’s work for Art.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, my goal is to walk out the door and be able to say ‘I gave it all I had, my team gave it all they had, and we gave it all for Smith,’” Art said.
Previously, he served as Director of Security and Facilities, overseeing the development of Smith’s quality management systems. Before joining Smith in 2004, Art was in management at Securitas, a security services provider, and at Questia. He received his BA in political science from the University of Houston in 1994, and is a member of TAPA AMERICAS.
Chief Financial Officer
Jason’s business philosophy is simple, yet effective: “Do everything possible so that, at the end of each day, the company is in a better position than when the day began.”
He puts that mantra into practice every day in his work finalizing Smith’s financing structure, overseeing our worldwide financial operations, and managing Smith’s accounting and credit departments worldwide.
Before joining Smith, Jason spent most of his career at Guaranty Bank, where he began his commercial banking career in 2001. In 2015, Jason took on the role of Senior Vice President in Texas Capital’s Energy Banking Group. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from Texas Tech University.
Though Jason is a finance guru, his heart belongs in the great outdoors. “One of my favorite things is going back home to the Texas Panhandle and spending time on the farm where I grew up,” he said.
Trader Development Manager
Enthusiasm for the task at hand – that’s what Jennifer says inspires her. “It is always okay to look like you are trying hard and putting in effort,” she said.
As Trader Development Manager, Jennifer puts that inspiration into action. She is currently supporting the trading staff – in addition to other big goals she has for 2017:
“My top priority is to get to $1B revenue in 2017,” Jennifer said. “To do that involves getting the long-dedicated, experienced traders to all bring their best extended effort, as well as get the new talent up to speed in record time.”
Jennifer has been with Smith since 1994, immediately after her graduation from Texas A&M University. She started as an international sales rep before being promoted first to Training Manager and then to Trading Floor Manager a few years later. She was named the Director of Trading Operations in 2004 before stepping into her current role in 2007.
Director of Sales Development
Driving Smith’s ecommerce presence forward and building franchise relationships are currently Ken’s biggest projects as Director of Sales Development.
And those are just the latest undertakings in a decades-long proven track record with Smith.
Ken has worn many hats since he joined the company in 1994, directly after graduating with his BBA in management from Texas A&M University.
“Even though we’ve grown to be a very large company, the entrepreneurial spirit is still as strong today at Smith as it was when we first opened our doors.” Ken said. “Your hard work directly affects your success here.”
He says his role at Smith boils down to three words: work, attitude, and results – a philosophy he also takes with him to his Texas ranch when he’s not in the office.
An asset to Smith’s legal department since 2000, Thuy Tran serves as the company’s General Counsel, ensuring that all departments are fully efficient and compliant.
“I help to move Smith forward, and give insight into potential risks and opportunities,” Thuy said. “No one day is the same as the others.”
She started at Smith as Associate General Counsel before being promoted to her current role in 2008. Prior to joining Smith, she was an associate at McLeod, Alexander, Powel & Apffel, P.C. in Galveston, Texas.
Thuy received her BA from the University of Houston and her JD from South Texas College of Law.
In a challenging position that requires constantly mastering new areas of law, Thuy says she derives inspiration from her Smith coworkers: “Their constant drive to be better pushes me to be better.”
Vice President of Finance / Treasurer
As a fixture at Smith for more than 25 years, Sean Trinh helps Smith’s global expansion reach new countries and manages special projects for the executive team.
“There are always new opportunities and fresh ideas to work with,” Sean said.
He joined Smith in 1989 as Controller and served as Vice President of Information Technology from 2000 to 2007. Sean received his BS in accounting from McGill University, with a minor in management information systems, and earned an MBA in finance from Concordia University.
When he’s not facilitating Smith’s global reach, Sean likes to travel, enjoy French and Japanese cuisine, and spend time with family.
Chief Information Officer
“The new technologies coming out every day really inspire me,” Phyllis said. “The team here at Smith never stops learning and evolving.”
It’s with that mindset that Phyllis is currently working with her team on a solution to further leverage new technologies to improve Smith’s digital sales strength. She is also working to improve our sourcing capability and sales opportunities through our trading platform and other backend systems.
“The only way to keep competitive is to learn and change,” Phyllis said.
Phyllis also oversees Smith’s proprietary trading system, ERP and related applications, IT network, and customized IT solutions.
She joined Smith in 1999 and was appointed CIO in 2010. Prior to joining Smith, Phyllis gained extensive system management and development experience across multiple industries with both U.S.- and China-based companies. She earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications in Nanjing, China.
When she’s not streamlining Smith’s technological systems, Phyllis tackles a different challenge: yoga and Pilates.
Vice President Operations and Quality, Asia & EU
Teamwork isn’t just something Cleat advocates. It’s an action he practices every day.
“When boxes arrive, I’m out there,” Cleat said. “I lead by example. I preach teamwork, so it would be unfair if I wasn’t out there with them.”
As the VP of Operations and Quality for Smith’s Asian and European regions, there are a lot of boxes – figurative and literal – that Cleat gets his hands on. Currently, he is spearheading an effort to help Smith’s Hong Kong location reach its full capacity.
“We just moved into a new facility, so it’s an ongoing project getting it more efficient and organized,” Cleat said. “We’re also accommodating more of Smith’s PPV business.”
Cleat joined Smith as the Operations Manager in Houston immediately after graduating from Texas A&M in 1999. Six months later, he transferred to Hong Kong, where he started as Operations Manager for that location before being promoted to Director of Operations. He took on his current role in early 2015.
Senior Financial Analyst
Mike Weaber is the Senior Financial Analyst to Bob and Lee Ackerley, offering nearly forty years of fiscal expertise to advise the company’s co-founders.
“My top priority is to do all I can to help Smith reach $1 billion in annual revenue,” Mike said.
And, when it comes to helping Smith achieve that goal, Mike has a winning mindset that has served Smith well over the years: “I always focus solutions on what is best for the founders and the company.”
Prior to joining Smith in 2011, Mike had a distinguished career with the Bayer Group, where he held a variety of international and domestic finance positions, from Finance Manager in Germany in 1979 to Senior Vice President of Finance, Controlling and Administration in 2004. He holds his Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College and an Executive MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.
In his free time, you can find Mike on the golf course and helping his wife with her career as an artist, wiring and hanging her paintings.
Vice President of Global Purchasing
Layla finds inspiration in contributing to growth and development – be it of a person, a department, or an organization.
“I like cultivating an environment – in an organization and with people individually – where everyone is always on the lookout for change, but never afraid to adapt to it,” Layla said. “If you can develop to the point of being always prepared but never fearful, a lot of good comes from that.”
That quality of facilitating growth is never more apparent than here at Smith, where she leads our global procurement efforts, builds strategies to expand our world-class supply base to proactively offer customers more diverse options, and oversees both short- and long-term vendor management to develop more agile sourcing capabilities and responses.
Prior to joining Smith, the Texas A&M attendee worked in materials purchasing and inventory management in the oil and gas sector.
Outside of Smith, Layla enjoys reading and traveling – and anything to do with water.
“I love the Zen aspect of water, particularly the ocean,” said Layla. “You look out, and it’s seemingly endless; sensory overload and deprivation all at once.”
Vice President, Global Project Development
For over 20 years, Todd has found inspiration in the quote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
“I’m a big believer that you can create your own destiny by being ready for any challenges that are presented to you,” said Todd.
Currently, he is working closely with Smith’s European offices while continuing to focus on customer expansion, vendor development, and Smith’s global PPV program.
“Understanding our customers’ needs and how they relate to the strengths of our total value proposition will help with our preparation, and it’s an area where I can add value on a global basis,” Todd said.
Prior to joining Smith in 2016, Todd spent nearly 20 years in franchise distribution, where he held management roles in sales, sourcing, and product marketing.
Todd lives in Montreal, Quebec with his wife and their two sons, who are avid athletes and dedicated students.
Vice President of Asia
For Kent, working hard and working smart are just as important as working together.
“I always want to set good targets for my team,” Kent said. “I share all pertinent information with them, cooperate with different offices, and watch for all potential issues that could arise so we can stay ahead of the curve.”
His current goal is to increase the number of traders who rank among the best in the company globally.
“Helping others to grow their business inspires me the most,” Kent said.
Kent grew up in Hong Kong and graduated from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with a degree in marketing. His first job after graduation was with Smith.
In his free time, Kent plays soccer and goes fishing.
“Sailing out and enjoying the sea breeze is very calming,” Kent said.
Vice President of Asia
Minji is not afraid of a challenge. In fact, she welcomes it.
“I’m happy to work on solving any problem and making it better,” Minji said. “Any kind of difficulty can be the next challenge we overcome.”
Currently, she is spearheading an effort to increase sales with major accounts. It takes a lot of focus, attention to details, and persistence, she says, but she finds inspiration to think outside the box all around her.
“When I see a coworker achieve something I thought was impossible or hard to do, it encourages me to try a new way of doing things without fear,” she said.
Minji grew up in Kwangju, in the southern part of South Korea, and moved to Seoul for college. She joined Smith as a sales representative shortly after graduating with a degree in history. In her free time, Minji enjoys traveling with family.