Sheet metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

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New President Knox: Focusing on integrity and quality

Nov 20, 2017

SMACNA’s incoming President Jack Knox addressed contractor members at the president’s lunch on Oct. 25 during the association’s 74th Annual Convention in Maui. Mr. Knox, who is president of R.F. Knox, Smyrna, Ga., will serve from 2017-2018. Following is his acceptance speech. 

A39A6893First and foremost, I want you to know that I am humbled and honored to serve as the 2017-2018 SMACNA president.

In 1914, my great-grandfather, Robert Fletcher Knox, and his business partner J.J. Meier started a small sheet metal business called Knox and Meier Company. By 1924, Meier decided to opt out of the partnership, and the name changed to R. F. Knox Company, mainly focusing on metal roofs, gutters, stove pipe—basically anything that required metal they would do it.

Integrity, Quality, Reliability, Service

In the midst of this country’s turmoil—they had just survived World War I, the Great Depression was in full swing, and businesses were failing or extremely unethical—my great-grandfather took a stand. He decided to weather the storm and penned the four characteristic traits that would define him personally and his company. Those are: Integrity, Quality, Reliability, and Service. Each of these traits has survived four generations of family leadership and are an integral part of our company culture and are incorporated into our mission statement.

As I think about my upcoming year and these four traits, I cannot help but wonder what our industry, what our association, what our relationships with labor would look like if we focused on only two of those traits: Integrity and Quality. How would our businesses be different? Would they look the same? It would be great if the answer was, yes, but I doubt it. What are we doing as an association to make sure that all of our contractors are adhering to SMACNA standards?

Are we addressing labor nationally and locally with integrity? I can speak from the national standpoint that we are. I cannot speak for you and what is going on locally. What are you doing in your own businesses to uphold Integrity and Quality in all that you do?

Be a difference-maker

As my kids were growing up, many times I challenged them with the following question: What are you doing to be a difference-maker? And the question focused on two things: Are you being a difference-maker in your world—the things you are surrounded with daily—with your relationships, your school, your teachers?

And, the second focus is: Are you a difference-maker in the world? What are you doing to make positive change in the community? How are you giving back? Many times, I would get blank stares and that was fine. But the point was that my kids knew they could not sit stagnant, and that if positive change was going to happen, it had to start with them.

I try to apply the same principles in our company and I promise to do the same as your president. In fact, I urge everyone here today to think about how you, too, can be a difference-maker. What positive change can you make in your company, in your community? How can you give back?

New strategic plan: Initiatives to guide the future

In July of this year, your board approved a new strategic plan that encompasses four initiatives. First, we need to address human resource issues facing the industry—in both the craft and non-craft areas. We must help position the industry in such a way to attract more quality people into our companies and local unions.

Second, we want to establish a coordinated, proactive approach to labor. I am a straight-line sheet metal company. 60 to 65 percent of my costs on a project are labor—therefore, I have a huge interest in our labor relationships, both nationally and locally.

Third, we want to communicate more effectively with our stakeholders, both internal and external, so that our messages are clearly understood and SMACNA’s value is recognized. And fourth, we want to improve the relevance and effectiveness of SMACNA chapters so that we can form a stronger partnership.

While these initiatives are all encompassing, I have no doubt that SMACNA has the proper resources to get them accomplished.

In closing, I want to assure you that SMACNA is led by outstanding staff and leaders, who work tirelessly on your behalf. They are here to help you with all the issues you may face in your business. SMACNA is here for you!