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President’s Column: Meet SMACNA President: Jack Knox

Jan 25, 2018

Jack Knox 225x293pxWe’re taking a break from the typical President’s Column and giving you an in-depth look at 2017-2018 SMACNA President Jack Knox

A fourth generation SMACNA contractor, Jack is president of R.F. Knox Company Inc. in Smyrna, Ga., near Atlanta. His firm has performed on many high-profile projects in Atlanta, from the Georgia Dome to the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.

We asked Jack some questions about his business and his business philosophy. And, we had some fun questions, too.

  • The comments I continually hear about my shop are: That people are amazed at our capacity—over 100,000 square feet under roof between four buildings, located on eight acres of well-groomed grounds. The other thing I continually hear is how diverse the work we do is. We have the capability to fabricate and install anything from ductwork to tanks to handrails. 

  • What is your favorite project? I take pride in all the projects we do. Large pharmaceutical plants, hospitals, technology/data centers, and higher education are our typical mix of work, but I probably am moved more by doing work at our local hospitals. Knowing that life begins and unfortunately ends there is a humbling and sobering thought. Knowing that we are responsible for the indoor air quality makes us raise our game. 

  • What was your toughest project? I would say fabricating and installing spiral ductwork (from 68 inches up to 96 inches) lined with spiracoustic for the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fabrication was tough due to the size and the multiple steps we had to go through just to fabricate and deliver a 10-foot piece. From an installation standpoint, our guys were working from a platform over 150 feet in the air—now that’s a challenge. I am pleased to say that we completed the project on time and with zero injuries! 

  • The business tool I can't live without: My phone, and then next is my laptop. With as much travel as I’m doing, I can log into my work system from the road at any given time, and complete just about any task as if I am at my desk. I would be lost without them.

  • The new technology I'm most excited about: We continue to look at ways to eliminate paperwork in the shop and field. Providing our folks with apps that report time, daily tasks, and jobsite safety requirements is one small example. 

  • My outside interests: I enjoy the outdoors—golfing, bird hunting, fishing, exercising, and traveling with my family. 

  • My secret weapon for making jobs run smoother is: Communication and taking 100 percent responsibility for everything you do.

  • My favorite quote: John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

  • My favorite motto: Never think of yourself better than others, always be willing to get in the ditch.

  • My biggest business hurdle: Finding the right talent. 

  • The best business advice I ever received: You’ve got to be willing to say no. The easiest way for a company to go under is not because they didn’t have enough work, it’s because they had too much.

  • What makes me mad at work: People that don’t take responsibility and communicate.

  • My secret to running a successful business: Treat others as you want to be treated. Be a good steward of what you have been blessed with. Give people a reason to stick around.

  • The sports teams I cheer: Auburn University and the Atlanta Falcons.

Jack grew up working in his father’s (Fred Knox) sheet metal shop. He officially entered the industry as an estimator two days after graduating from Auburn University. When his father retired in 2007, Knox became president of the 103-year-old firm.