Acme Brick’s Knautz Named Top CEO
For his leadership during what was one of the worst housing recessions in U.S. history, “Fort Worth Business” has named Dennis Knautz, Acme Brick Co. president and CEO, the publication’s Top CEO of a public company for 2015. Knautz has guided the company through a challenging decade.
“In summer 2006, everything dropped,” said Knautz. He watched brick orders fall by 20% in a single month. Instead of slashing payroll and closing offices, Knautz took a more measured approach, viewing the downturn as an opportunity to prepare for the following spring. He thought that orders would surely pick up by then.
“Spring came, and it just got worse,” said Knautz, who idled 16 plants, including six in Texas. The company’s workforce was cut as a result. “We had to get small,” he said. “It was tough.”
Despite idling operations at several plants, no sales offices were shut down. “If you close a sales office, you’re leaving that market,” he said. “It’s like pulling your hand out of a bucket of sand. It’s harder to get back in.” He credits parent company Berkshire Hathaway’s backing for his ability to downsize less than he otherwise might have.
A resurging housing industry is making business better for Knautz and Acme these days. “We’re starting 2016 budget planning now and are looking at next year’s demand,” he said. He foresees greater demand for Acme products as builders construct new homes.
Knautz makes a point of spending as much time in the field as possible. “I travel a lot,” said Knautz, who is scheduled to spend half his working days out of town for the rest of August and all of September and October, visiting Acme’s 70 sales offices spread around 17 states. “If I go to a market, it gives me a chance to understand what business conditions those markets are in. Keeping up is very important.”
For more information, visit www.brick.com.