Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association


President’s Column: Leadership Thoughts

May 31, 2018

Jack KnoxWhen I started penning this issue’s column on leadership, I took a bit of time to think about the “big picture.” Many of you business owners know what that includes—four generations of ownership, expectations of employees, staff morale, company trajectory, and leadership development—these are the topics that keep many of us up at night, but for me, they get me excited about the future prospects of my company.

As I started to reflect more on these thoughts, I kept coming back to my employees being the key differentiator for my company. I expect a lot from the people who work for me. R.F. Knox is, after all, a leading sheet metal contractor in Georgia and our work has literally changed the skyline of Atlanta.

I tell our customers, “If you dream it, we can build it.” That’s a pretty bold statement, but it is one I am comfortable making, due largely to the quality, expertise, and attitude of my employees. I know they are “all in” and live by our four traits including quality, integrity, reliability, and service. These traits are not just a sales message, but they are core tenants penned by my grandfather in the 1920’s and have become an important aspect of working at R.F. Knox today. As an organization, we especially focus on integrity and quality which we require in everything our employees do each and every day. It’s our employees that make me most proud of the work we produce at R.F. Knox.

How do you instill a leadership culture in your organization? Here are a few things I try to focus on to help make a difference at my company:

  • Never ask someone to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself.

  • Keep the history relevant and important. As a fourth-generation owner, I now carry the torch and have the responsibility to guide my company forward. And even though I have expanded services and modernized our production facilities, I still continue to recognize the early successes of my family. I think it is critical to provide perspective and make a palpable connection between their hard work and success and the hard work and success of my employees today.

  • Being a leader requires a humble confidence. Leadership takes humility to temper authority and acknowledge the work of others. It also takes confidence to keep pressing forward and pursuing opportunities to grow. And out of that confidence, comes skill, wisdom and fortitude. The balance between the two is a humble confidence and I strive to walk that line every day.

  • As a leader of a company, I am constantly evaluating my organization from the perspectives of key stakeholders including my employees, my customers and my communities. Accurately understanding their impressions helps me remain proactive in addressing their needs. Some of the questions I make sure I know the answers to include: why does a customer select my company over the competition? Why do they want to work with us? What do we do differently from our competitors? What are we doing to foster a family atmosphere internally? Why do people enjoy working for our company—what keeps them coming to work every day?

Battelli 140x139By sharing my thoughts on leadership, I am hopeful many of you will pause and reflect on your own leadership experiences and the type of leadership culture you are fostering right now. 

Recently, one of my employees. Frank Battelli, said, “I have been cutting metal for 28 years. I like what I do, I like the people I work with, and I like the company I work for.” As I stated in the beginning, it always comes back to my employees and I am proud of their work and excited about our future.


Jack Knox
SMACNA President