Welcome to another captivating episode, Built For The Trades, a podcast that explores the essence of leadership development in the trades industry. In this episode, we sit down with Chris Gutkes, the fourth-generation elevator tradesman and esteemed president of Island Elevator in Long Island, New York. Chris takes us on a profound journey from growing up in an elevator family to serving in the Army and discovering his true passion for elevators. Join us as we delve into the importance of self-awareness, empathy, continuous learning, and the significance of putting people first in leadership.
A Fortuitous Passion:
Chris Gutkes story is one of destiny and discovery. Born into a family entrenched in the elevator trade, Chris sought to forge his path by serving in the Army. Little did he know that life had other plans. Following his service, Chris was drawn back to elevators, realizing it was his true passion. This realization highlights the power of self-awareness and its role in understanding one’s genuine calling in life.
Apprenticeship and the Pursuit of Knowledge:
As Chris embarked on his journey in the elevator industry, he recognized the invaluable impact of apprenticeship and mentorship. He emphasizes the need for young tradespeople to seize every opportunity to learn and grow beyond their current level of knowledge. A commitment to continuous learning has been instrumental in Chris’s success and has played a pivotal role in Island Elevator’s prominence.
The Impact of 9/11:
The tragic events of 9/11 profoundly affected Chris and his family, personally and professionally. He vividly recounts witnessing the chaos and devastation from a rooftop in Queens, with a heart full of concern for his brother, who worked at the Trade Center that day. Fortunately, his brother, alongside other brave elevator tradespeople, made it out safely. This experience underscores the importance of resilience, solidarity, and leadership during moments of crisis.
From Soldier to Entrepreneur:
Following the aftermath 9/11, Chris returned from his National Guard service to face the challenges of building Island Elevator from the ground up. With unwavering determination, he surrounded himself with friends and experienced individuals who shared his vision. Together, they nurtured the company, transforming it into a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
Leadership and Struggles:
The sudden passing of Chris’s father thrust him into the role of president of Island Elevator, leading to an overwhelming sense of responsibility and leadership struggles. He candidly discusses his battles with alcohol, which he overcame to become a better leader. The experience taught him the value of self-awareness, mindfulness, and empathy in guiding not only his actions but also the trajectory of the entire company.
Diversity and People First:
Chris admits to making mistakes along the way, particularly in hiring decisions. He emphasizes the significance of building a diverse leadership team with varied perspectives. Island Elevator’s guiding mantra, “A People First Company,” exemplifies the company’s commitment to prioritizing the well-being and safety of employees and customers.
Chris Gutkes’ journey as a leader in the elevator trade is a compelling testament to the transformative power of self-awareness, empathy, and continuous learning. From the chaos of 9/11 to building a thriving company that puts people first, his story offers invaluable insights into what it truly means to lead with heart and purpose.
As we conclude, this episode of Built For The Trades reminds us of the importance of elevating the structures we build and the people who create them. May Chris’s journey inspire us all to embrace empathy, embrace growth, and put people first in our leadership endeavors. Until next time, keep elevating leadership and building a better future for all.