Brian T. King is an entrepreneur, business professional and the founder, owner and president of A M King, a Charlotte-based firm that provides planning, design, construction and facility services of highly complex facilities in niche markets throughout the United States. If ever there was a CEO to be admired, Brian King is that person, and we’re not biased. The Charlotte Business Journal (CBJ) has named King one of Charlotte’s Most Admired CEOs.
CBJ added the Most Admired CEO program to its award docket this year as a way of recognizing established local business leaders who have driven the success of their companies, have shown commitment to having a positive workplace culture and made significant contributions to the community. Nominations were open to the public. CBJ ultimately selected 39 honorees to recognize among several industry categories. Brian King was one of only three CEOs chosen in the Construction/Engineering/Architects category.
Even though King is a man who likes to keep a low profile. everything he does screams just the opposite — from founding a marquee Design-Build firm with highly specialized expertise, to securing nearly 20 prestigious project recognition awards, to the time and money he invests in his employees and the greater community.
We caught up with Brian at the CBJ’s awards dinner on March 29 to find out how he made the cut for this year’s inaugural Most Admired CEOs list.
What inspired you to start A M King? To what do you attribute its success? How fast has the company grown?
I started A M King because I believed we could create a company that would be the best in the industry at providing the services we offer. I saw a need for a Design-Build firm focused on specific markets and clients, while not trying serve a variety of markets or purely existing for the purposes of growth. A M King was formed in 2004, and since that time our cumulative revenues have exceeded $1 billion, and last year (2017), we achieved $132 million in revenue. While it appears we have grown rapidly, in reality our growth has been in a very consistent manner, avoiding the spikes of up years or down years. We have found that this formula of consistent and controlled growth has allowed us to maintain the same principles and values we established since forming the company 14 years ago. It has also allowed us to develop teams of great individuals who work strategically to deliver the best service, quality and value to our clients and in concert with our subcontractors and vendors.
What does it take to stand out among competitors? What sets your firm apart from other Design-Build firms?
I don’t really compare A M King to our competitors, given we cannot control what they do or how they work. At A M King, our focus is on our clients, their projects, and running our business as best as possible. With that said, we do understand that we are market leaders in a number of areas. We are an integrated Design-Build firm, meaning we have design and engineering services in-house. This allows us to be an asset partner with our clients, working with them to develop and determine facility solutions as they grow and expand their businesses. We also provide a significant amount of property services and facility services for our clients. We define property services as working with our clients to best identify and analyze property for their expansion needs. This includes both greenfield sites and existing buildings, and our services include site selection, due diligence and constructability analysis. As for facility services, this constitutes embedding an A M King team at a client’s existing facility, and delivering design and construction for CapEx projects, full facility maintenance, and production equipment installation and commissioning. When you look at the range of services that we provide, and an organization size that allows us to remain flexible and nimble within our niche markets, I don’t know of another company in the country that compares to us.
Tell us about some of your current or recent projects.
A M King is a Design-Build firm with a focus primarily on two markets, food and manufacturing. We have also developed a significant expertise into a specific niche of medical treatment facilities. We are a national company, having worked in 22 states since the company was formed. In the food markets, we have completed some of the most complicated food processing facilities in the country, including fully automated facilities, ranging from baking to ready-to-eat meals to prepared meats. We have also designed and built millions of square feet of food distribution facilities, including some of the largest in the United States. Our manufacturing business works in some of the most highly automated and robotic manufacturing facilities in production today, and our services in these facilities include not only design and construction, but also a significant amount of equipment installation. On the medical side, we have developed an expertise in the medical office building market, and more specifically we have delivered a number of sports medical and training facilities owned by celebrity athletes. Over the history of the company, we have won over 20 project awards from organizations including ABC, DBIA and AIA. We have won the prestigious “Food Plant of the Year” award for a highly automated production baking facility, and A M King has been recognized as the Number 1 Best Places to Work in our home base of Charlotte, NC.
What does the CBJ’s Most Admired CEO Award mean to you?
It means I am surrounded by a team of very talented and hard-working individuals who make our company the best in the industry.
What are the 3-5 leadership principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?
Leaders will only be successful if they are supported by strong individuals. We take very seriously the decision to bring an individual on board to join our company, and it is always a collaborative decision among a team of folks before we extend an offer. In addition, if a team member is not willing to strive for the level of excellence that we demand of ourselves, we understand the need to make changes. Secondly, if you have a strong team of individuals, then those people must be empowered to do their jobs. It’s my job to make sure they have the necessary resources and authority to represent the company and our values, and to deliver the results we expect, and then get out the way so they can succeed. Third, talented and hard-working individuals seek growth and opportunity, so I need to make sure this is provided at our company. In our industry, growth is so often just measured in revenue or project size, and that’s a mistake. Growth and opportunity is very personal to each individual, so we need to ensure that we have a process to identify how a person wants to grow and what they want to achieve, both professionally and personally, and then help them to achieve those goals. Finally, a leader must set the tone from a perspective of integrity. It requires always doing the right thing, even when that may cost money or lead to other difficulties.
What is your secret to creating a great work culture?
First, genuinely care about people, and understand everyone is a unique individual with needs and aspirations, and work to help them succeed in achieving both. Second, be honest and trustworthy. Third, set an example in your work ethic and expectations for being the best at what you do.
How does the company give back to communities where you work? Give some examples?
As an organization, we support a number of causes with our resources, but two in particular are meaningful to A M King. The first is the Ronald McDonald House organization. The Charlotte House is directly across the street from our office, and we also have a relationship with the House in Baltimore. The second is the Salvation Army’s Christmas Angels program. Every year, each of our employees buy Christmas (clothing and toys) for a child in need using company funds, then the company buys Christmas items for an additional 100 children.
What’s one of your goals yet to be achieved?
This year, I hope to hike the Inca trail and visit Machu Pichu. It’s been on my list for years.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
My first paid construction job was working for a home builder during my second summer of college at the University of Florida where I received my Bachelor of Building Construction. On my first day, the builder handed me a shovel, and for the next few days I dug all the trenches for an irrigation system. I take a lot of pride in being able to say that although I became an executive in the construction industry, I can honestly say I began my career digging ditches.
About A M King — A M King is an integrated Design-Build firm based in Charlotte, N.C. that consistently and successfully delivers quality projects throughout the United States. With an experienced team committed to protecting clients’ assets, the company provides property consulting, design and engineering, construction and facility services in the sectors of commercial, healthcare and medical, food processing, food distribution and industrial manufacturing properties. A M King’s exemplary track record demonstrates that the company is focused on its mission to be the best in the industry. Learn more at www.amkinggroup.com.