Nothing about Nicole Smartt’s past would indicate she’d end up as a businesswoman and author. Same goes for the fact that she writes columns that regularly appear online in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and soon the New York Daily News.
And, really, that’s by her own admission.
After graduating from Casa Grande High School in 2003, Smartt signed up to take a few classes at Santa Rosa Junior College. She holds no degrees.
“You know how you’re supposed to take the English placement test?” the 30-year-old Petaluma native said. “I didn’t qualify at all. I got into the entry-level beginner English class where I was with people learning how to speak English.”
Now, she is the author of a new book, “From Receptionist to Boss,” out Thursday from Advantage Media Group. Part autobiography, part self-help book, it is filled with insights Smartt learned during a career that has taken her to co-owner of a Petaluma staffing firm.
The daughter of Cindy Collins and Kirk Smartt, Nicole began working at an early age, arranging her high school schedule so she could accommodate two jobs in retail as well as basketball practice.
“I never wanted to be an entrepreneur when I graduated from high school,” she said. “With each opportunity I just seized the moment and it led me to something else, and I just put all that I could into each decision and it led me to where I am now.”
When Smartt graduated from high school, she got a job as a receptionist at a staffing agency in San Rafael. By the time she was 21, the agency owners decided they wanted to sell, and she had worked up such a high reputation that they offered her the business. Smartt declined.
“Being an entrepreneur was more of a risk than a reward, and it was scary, and so I said no,” she said. “They sold to a huge corporation called Select Staffing.”
She worked for Select Staffing for two years as a sales representative before deciding to branch out on her own. Smartt left to start her own staffing firm, but shortly thereafter, a friend connected her with Star Staffing. The Petaluma company was looking for a sales person, but that’s not what Smartt had in mind. By the second meeting, she was told the company had an opening for vice president. She’s been there for seven years, and is now co-owner of the firm, which boasts clients in Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Solano counties.
“I think it’s a lot of how you’re raised, and I was raised that you work hard for what you get,” she said, recalling how her dad would work six days a week at his sales job. “I grew up thinking that’s how life was.”
Her new book deals with life lessons for anyone wanting to advance their business career, and is aimed at millennials.
“I turned 30 last August, and I said, ‘What’s next for me?’ And I thought we’re having such an issue with skill gaps and millennials are getting a bad rap, so I thought I’d write a book,” she said.
And she did. Smartt began writing the next month.
“If I can do this, anyone can,” she said. “That’s really how I feel. I’m not the smartest person. I’m not the most educated, clearly. But I work my heart out, and I give everything to my position, and look where it got me.”