Small Business Saturday: Smartt Interior Construction

About the Owner

Smartt’s founder, Paula Klein, is one of those people who manage to squeeze more into one day than some of us fit in to a week. Seemingly endless reserves of energy and drive help her survive and thrive in an industry with two important features: a reluctance to embrace change and a makeup that is almost entirely male. Her drive has led to success and recognition, including being the first recipient of the Center for Technology and Business’ Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award in October 2014.

But set aside the accolades for a moment and realize that her entry into the construction world almost never happened in the first place. Paula studied communications and marketing in school, never really expressing an interest in architecture or engineering. Only after bouncing around to a handful of jobs did she eventually find herself in the design industry, where she discovered her passion for laying out and constructing spaces.

Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say she rediscovered her passion. You see, after years in the business she found an old scrapbook from her childhood. It was filled with all things you might expect in a little girl’s scrapbook, except there were a handful of sketches that seemed oddly out of place. What was Paula doodling back then, at the age of four or five? Mostly floor plans, as it turns out.

About the Company

Smartt focuses on what Paula calls “lean and clean” pre-fabricated construction for commercial interior spaces in Fargo and the Tri-State area. As the business grows, Paula may expand and begin offering services to residential customers as well.What sets Smartt Interior Construction apart is its approach. Smartt’s methods fuse construction techniques with new technologies. In the process, Paula and her crew try to educate customers and the entire industry, showing them that just because building has been done a certain way for decades doesn’t mean it always has to be done that way. In Paula’s words, “there are smart phones and smart cars, why can’t there be smart construction, too?”

Smartt often works hand-in-hand with a company called Dirtt Environmental Solutions. Dirtt is a nationwide player in the commercial interiors arena, and its vision aligns well with Smartt’s. Both companies embrace new construction techniques, technological change, and sustainability. Smartt is one of Dirtt’s distribution partners and together the two companies have completed a number of projects in the Fargo area and around North Dakota, South Dakota and Western Minnesota.

Why should you consider working with Smartt on your project? There are many reasons, but the most important is that Smartt is driven by relationships. Paula and her team know that creating an interior space is a huge investment for a company, and everyone in the company needs to be able to trust in their builder of choice. That is why Paula gives her cell number to customers, and her team does the same. When questions or concerns come up, the team at Smartt is accessible and responsive, always seeking to build and maintain a strong relationship with the customer through every phase of the project.

About the Alerus Relationship

Paula has a unique relationship with Alerus, and it starts with her Relationship Manager, Blaine Anderson. “Blaine always makes me feel like I am his biggest client, even though I know I’m not,” she says. “He is genuinely interested in how Smartt is doing and how I am doing, and I never feel like he is just saying what I want to hear.”

Paula really enjoys the focus Alerus places on small businesses. “Small companies make a big impact on the economy, and I think Alerus realizes that,” Paula explains. She also values the responsiveness of Alerus employees and the team approach that is emphasized throughout the company. “Alerus wants you to succeed. They genuinely believe in your company and you are not just a customer to them.”

The relationship between Alerus and Smartt is unique because it goes beyond the usual banking relationship; Smartt is a customer of Alerus, but Alerus is also a customer of Smartt. When Alerus moved in to its location at 51 Broadway in Fargo, Paula and her team were hired to be an integral part of the project. Smartt created a beautiful space that achieves an “Alerus feel” and was built with Smartt’s forward-looking techniques.

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