Entrepreneurship is a journey that does not move in straight lines. An idea is formed or an opportunity unfolds and from there a business can evolve in any number of ways depending on its leaders decisions. Internal forces like innovation, strategy and culture become interdependent on external market forces like the economy, the industry and the global environment. Success in business, especially in hospitality, is determined by how the universe of leadership decisions — some large, some small — keep the general trajectory of the journey pointing upward. Many of those decisions are founded on timing and trust.
“Timing was so important for us,” says Jeff Rubin, Managing Partner at KniTec. “Our founder, Eric Christiansen, was in the IT business in Hawaii when a customer partner sought his help with sourcing hospitality televisions for a major hotel. Eric doubled down on the sector just as flat screen technology was being mandated by the franchise flags, and that became the genesis of KniTec.”
Now some fifteen years later, KniTec is a leading supplier of guestroom technology in the United States. The company is a highly respected provider of turnkey procurement, removal, installation, financing and support services designed specifically for property owners, REITs and management companies from luxury to full-stay to extended stay.
Soon after that pivotal moment when Christiansen made the transition from IT to hospitality, he teamed up with Rubin, a veteran of hotel real-estate and finance, who then became a managing partner. The business moved from Hawaii to Southern California and expanded its offerings and operations. According to Rubin, timing was exceptional.
“Eric got into the hospitality television business at exactly the right time, and we met at exactly the right time, so it had a multiplier effect. We quickly established trust within our executive, and between KniTec and our customers so we could help them navigate the transition to flat screen displays and server or set-back boxes. Hotels with modern flat displays were immediately and positively differentiated from properties with legacy CRT systems, and we were helping them to do that — at scale! — It was an exciting time.”
The team was joined by Brendan Gephart as a managing partner and the brain trust expanded. Rubin explains that whereas once the leadership team used to manage accounting themselves, they now have an accounting department of six people. “When you’re in the service business you need to provide clients with thoughtful consideration and attention to every detail. If you take on too much without building a supporting infrastructure, mistakes occur and service will slip. We were determined to not let this happen.”
The trust that KniTec established within its expanded organization manifested in trust that clients could comfortably place in the KniTec brand. As time passed and more hospitality projects were initiated and successfully completed around the United States, relationships developed and the KniTec reputation grew.
“We have grown the business every year,” Rubin adds. “That’s in large part down to our turnkey approach to client care but also because we established long-standing relationships with our clients and vendor partners.”
LG Electronics is a key partner for KniTec. The relationship began early in KniTec’s business and is founded on a shared commitment to innovation, client care and the guest experience. In addition, the team at LG has been in place for a considerable time so there is shared experience between the KniTec and LG teams.
“KniTec is a remarkably principled, well-run organization populated by excellent people at every level,” explains Mike Napoliello, LG Electronics, Account Manager. “I think LG and KniTec are culturally aligned and that we share the same worldview on how customers — and for that matter, people in general — should be treated. I am glad to have an extended personal history with Eric, Jeff and Brendan and I look forward to their continued success.”
Rubin concurs. “The mutual trust that we have in Mike Kosla and Mike Napoliello and the LG team has been earned over the years and I think our association makes us both better businesses. We know we’re working with a partner who understands hospitality and is not just looking to make a sale. That means getting access to excellent services and technologies, ensuring that products ship on time, and that warranties and replacement processes are in place and there is genuine appreciation of the business practices and pressures of hospitality.”
Looking ahead, Rubin has strong confidence in the future of KniTec and the firm’s role in supporting hospitality clients around the United States. “We’re looking forward to robust growth. Over the past two years we’ve helped a lot of hotels apply reserve funds to renovations when occupancy was low, but now we’re speaking to clients about new builds within each sector of the hospitality market.”
Rubin, Gephart and Christiansen are believers and beneficiaries of timing and trust as they have developed the reseller powerhouse that is now KniTec. LG’s team is proud to be part of their success story!