Culture is an important facet for any work environment, no matter the business. And few know that better than speaker and author Jim Knight. He’s the author of the book Culture that Rocks.
Knight said his speaking focus areas tend to play in the sweet spot of culture and service.
“Those tend to be my two main focuses. I get hired predominantly to help people amp up their organizational culture, their internal environment,” he said.
He probably has eight or nine things in his quiver, but Knight said his number one hit is Culture that Rocks.
As for how he got started being a professional speaker, Knight said it bred out of all the stuff he did in his career. Knight’s background is a “long and winding road.”
But the combination of hospitality, music, and education were all big pieces. Knight actually went to college to be a professional musician. And he learned to make a living in music, one had to be great.
“I was mediocre. I wasn’t a rock star like I probably thought in my head,” he said.
So Knight changed course and was a middle school teacher for six years. When school ended one summer, he took a job at Hard Rock and fell madly in love with the brand. That started Knight down the road of focussing on organizational culture.
Having been a teacher, performer, and trainer, Knight said he started looking at speaking as something that would be a strength for him. After spending 21 years with Hard Rock, Knight discovered he had one true great strength.
“I can hold an audience’s attention,” he said.
And he’s been speaking professionally for about 15-16 years.
When Knight retired from corporate life, he was able to jump right out. Today he’s a keynote speaker, an author, and a podcaster.
“It sort of happened because of my performance background, my teaching background, and being a trainer for two decades,” he said.
Company culture really came to be Knight’s main focus. After all, he was immersed in it for two decades with Hard Rock. Knight said he had a front row seat to one of the greatest working environments on the planet, and he got to see why other rockstar companies succeeded and some of why they failed.
“I’ve now discovered it’s because of the culture,” Knight said.
Knight saw this with external hires at Hard Rock. They needed a little more structure on organizational culture.
Clearly defining culture is one of his main objectives when Knight speaks or writes. The author said he wants to give a crystal clear definition of it.
Roughly 10-15 years ago, culture was an afterthought, Knight said. The podcaster said he’s lucky he worked for a brand that made it front and center.
Wrapping his information when he speaks in rock and roll information and culture helps the audience to better focus and retain information. The rock theme also makes his engagements so much more fun.
Knight has taken part in thousands of speaking engagements since 2003. He said it’s about 70-80 engagements a year. The author said he’s exclusive with a speaker’s bureau and gets an email about once a week telling him where he needs to be.
Through all the thousands of events, Knight said his largest group was around 9,000 for the National Apartment Association in Las Vegas.
“It was pretty good. It was fun,” he said.
But the most remarkable just happened in July, according to Knight. He spoke at Joint Base Andrews for the U.S. Air Force. There were 165 newly-promoted brigadier generals at the event as part of their new orientation.
“I’m just honored to have been a part of that. I was introduced by the chief of staff,” Knight said. “That was pretty fantastic for me personally.”
Knight’s podcast is called “Thoughts That Rock.” It’s a weekly show that includes some pretty influential guests. Business owners and company CEOs come on. Knight and his co-host have a broad network that includes professional athletes, politicians, astronauts, anchors, and more.
The basic format is Knight and his co-host share two pieces of life-changing advice per episode. One comes from the guest, and one comes from the hosts. It’s all done in 30 minutes with the right balance of edutainment, the author said.
“I’m doing what I’ll probably be doing for the rest of my life,” Knight said. “For me, it’s absolutely fun.”