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On the Job with Chuck Knight

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?

A. I would put on a clean, pressed shirt, tie, polished shoes and comb my hair. I would have a readable resume. I would know what kind of position I want and would have developed a thought process in my mind to be able to explain to my interviewer how I can benefit the company with my skills. I would also have a list of my own questions for the interviewer about the company to make sure it is a place I want to work.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. Probably taking my girlfriend (high school sweetheart) on a date. It was money well spent because we have been married 27 years this year.

Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?.

A. Keeping myself motivated and communicating to my employees what our plan is and the direction we want to go. Breakdowns always occur when my employees feel "out of the loop" and are not sure what the plan is.

Q. What was your first job?

A. Sweeping the warehouse here. First job out of the family business was in college cutting keys and engraving gifts.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Without a doubt it was my father. He was an astute business man - tough but fair. Had an uncanny sense about money and finances which led to much of his success. On top of all that he was my best friend growing up and was an all around great guy.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. That more can be done with less if the need arises. Our Depression era parents and grandparents understood this but I'm afraid this lesson is lost on the Boomers forward. I wish our government could learn this lesson. I also learned a lot about the character of some of my employees and have more respect for them because of that.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?

A. Texting. Countless people would be alive today absent texting while driving. Boys would actually have to feel their hearts beating out of their chests when they ask that girl out for the first time instead of sending a text. I think it diminishes relational skills amongst people.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. I probably use my computer more than any other "gadget" but only out of necessity. My favorite gadget is a good set of hand trucks. They are an essential tool in my business; a simple device but an extremely useful labor saving device and one that actually takes some skill to use properly.

Q. Every day I read?

A. My bible and daily devotion book. I like to get to work early to have time to read my devotion and pray. It gives me a good, calm start to the day.

Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I wake my wife up at 6 a.m. on days she has to work and I'm up by 6:30. Out of the house by 7:30 to take my youngest son to school and get to work in time to do my daily devotion.

Q. Favorite hobby or activity outside work?

A. I'm a runner. I like doing marathons and anything longer (Ultra-marathons). I am starting to train for a Half Iron Man this fall. My wife says the running is my Prozac. It certainly relieves the stress.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. Hard to say. I have made mistakes but they have been learning tools which makes me a better businessman. If I had to pick one it would be a hire I made years ago when I owned my independent insurance agency. I was young and did not have enough confidence in my own abilities so I hired this person to have someone with experience. They were capable and experienced but a horrible fit for my situation. Big mistake that cost me money, but was a learning experience.

Q. Best thing about your job.

A. My job allows me to schedule the time to do things with the youth in my church, be active in the community and donate platelets on a regular basis among other things. I also love selling and helping my customers identify their need and help fill it.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. More and more we seem to be becoming an entitlement society. People want what they want now and have no tolerance for product malfunctions or errors and seem to more and more take advantage of a situation because they can, not because it is right. Our service business experiences this particularly during the holiday season.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Management Theory at Georgia Tech. One of the most difficult classes I took, but I still remember many of the things I learned.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. Youth ministry. I really dig working with young people. I am a firm believer that there are no bad kids, just good kids that make bad decisions. Our jobs as parents and adults is to give direction and living examples of how to do it.

Q. Have you ever used an algebra formula or had to reference an important date from history in the course of your career?

A. Math has always been my favorite subject and particularly Algebra. I use Algebra all the time; it is a study of logic and process to me. Specific example - hard to say, but I use the lessons of Algebra frequently.

Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...

A. Spending the day with my wife. My dream for retirement is being able to have more quality time with her.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Character. That is the thing you do when nobody is watching or will ever know. Honesty is a huge component of that.

Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. I'm afraid our area will lag some behind the nation and we won't see full recovery until late 2011 or early 2012. Our political leaders (local and state) seem more interested in personal agendas instead of jobs and recovery. Our educational system is not turning out a consistent, across-the-board quality student and this is evident in the pool of applicants out there. The hiring process debacle of our school system administrator recently is an example where our elected officials are letting us down.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. Classic rock, classical (especially Tchaikovsky), and some contemporary jazz

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. It better be in our educational system. Otherwise we will continue to see a rise in poverty and crime. Large employers that create large numbers of jobs will only locate here if they can benefit from this area.

Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?

A. My mom took my family and my sister's family to Alaska a few years ago. It was the fulfillment of a dream my dad wanted and our families don't seem get to spend quality time together often. Plus Alaska just plain rocks.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. A changing of the guard in the large appliance and TV retailers. Sears is no longer the dominant force in the appliance business. Large independent retail associations (like the $12 billion group we are in) and the home improvement sector have taken market share.

Q. Your company obviously has been successful. Why do you think that is the case when many businesses do not survive?

A. My dad turned over to me a well established business that was grounded in solid core principles. One of those principles is glorifying God through our actions, and I believe God has honored that. We also have several loyal, long term employees (a couple here over 40 years) that give us a consistency of values and message.

Interviewed by Danny Carter, managing editor.