Jim Francis, who recently joined EN as vice president of SMS consulting, may be an engineer, but what he does is build relationships first, and then he focuses on the challenges. Because of that, getting to know who people are, and not just what they do, is a key part of the way he works, and it doesn’t take long for others to respond with a smile and shift away from getting right down to business…at least for a few minutes.
The path that led Jim to EN began 30 years ago with his graduation from the University of Dayton with a mechanical engineering degree, followed by an MBA from Ohio State University. He views his career, which has taken him on a wide and varied path, as growing up alongside the industry and pipeline safety. He also has experience on the electric side that allowed him to build new programs that had an impact on safety, systems, people, and the public.
Jim has spent the last several years building programs around safety management systems (SMS), a holistic approach to measuring and managing risk from a continuous improvement perspective. He said, “It’s really about changing culture, and this is the first time in my career that I have had the opportunity to do that on a very broad scale. It has the potential to impact the entire industry, which is exciting.”
Jim’s enthusiasm for working in leadership roles comes through loud and clear when talking about his career. He is driven to lead teams, help people develop their career, inspire others to become the best they can be, and encourage people to work collectively as a team.
He motivates others through storytelling, helping people understand how they connect to the success of whatever they’re doing, whether it’s business success, client success, or departmental success. Jim’s goal is to show them that what they do is important.
Jim offered some advice to those who are just starting their career, saying, “Don’t limit yourself to what you think your career should be. When you are an engineer, you can go do anything.”
“Over the years, I have seen engineers be the CEO of companies and run HR departments. It changes based on the experiences that are presented to you,” he said, adding, “When I was a young engineer, people kept leaving the business and every time my boss turned around and gave me new responsibilities. I thought, why am I doing this? But it helped me, and years later, I thought, thank God I had all that experience because it built upon itself, and it prepared me well for my first significant leadership role.”
Jim grew up in Michigan, one of nine children, and has 40 nieces and nephews. He met his wife, Mollie, while in college and they have three children who range from high school senior to post-college and in the workforce. He plays the drums and loves sports, woodworking, painting, cooking, and anything that gives him a creative outlet.
Painting has become a special activity for Jim to enjoy time with his youngest son, who has some disabilities. Art therapy worked wonders for his son, but the art teacher moved, and Jim took her place, only to discover that he loved painting for himself as well.
He says his most significant achievement was when he was recognized as the Midwest Energy Association and Energetic Women’s Maverick award winner in 2019. The award recognizes “Outstanding individuals for their service to the industry and thanks them for working to strengthen women leadership in energy.”
Jim reflected on it, saying, “I had some amazing women that I worked with who have become great leaders of their own, and they nominated me for it. It was one of those moments where your peers nominated you, and you don’t get that opportunity every day. I was blown away by it.”