Navigating the Waters to Remain a Leader in IT and AV
JKL Technologies is an information technology solutions firm with offices across the United States, poised for a glowing future as opportunities open up once again.
The company opened its doors in the late 1990s, focusing on IT solutions for companies looking to improve technical specifications and more. It became officially incorporated in 2004, evolving since to include audio visual (AV) integration services as part of its catalog mid-way through the 2010s.
Mike Ireland, the company’s owner and founder, firmly asserts the company’s abilities in these two areas, saying that not many tech companies in JKL’s sector are able to provide both types of services as his company does, and certainly not so effectively. “We are somewhat unique in combining those two services [IT and AV] and providing that benefit for the client,” he says.
Ireland has no doubt that the quality and level of service are what separates JKL from the rest of the pack, especially since client feedback consistently ranks its level of service above that of any others. This is a continual motivator for Ireland and his team, encouraging a greater focus on delivering the quality that JKL’s customer base has come to expect.
JKL has continued making great strides in its technology and amassing new partnerships since its previous Business in Focus article in 2018. Ireland says that companies like Crestron Electronics remain among the company’s biggest suppliers, but JKL has also begun forming new relationships with large companies like Microsoft as well, a relationship established to promote the company’s platform.
Part of JKL’s own platform is based on whatever products and services clients want to use, technology-wise, so this information is continually used to establish and expand business relationships with major vendors.
Ireland notes this approach as a critical one because it provides JKL with the power to implement competitive pricing models. “If our client is significant enough,” he continues, “pricing power is key, not only in the financial pricing model but in profitability as well.” More recently, the company has been asked by some of its clientele to dive further into computer hardware, including scanners and printers, allowing it to gain additional suppliers like Hewlett-Packard (HP) in an all-new sector.
The company still has a good number of projects on the go, with Ireland adding that it’s an exciting time for development. He mentions the organic development of the JKL Latin American office in Mexico City as a significant one, as it will be used as a launching pad to cover JKL’s services throughout South America and develop new relationships there.
Many of JKL’s major clients in the USA are multi-national companies which often have physical locations in South America and, specifically, Mexico City. This new office will enable JKL to provide more services to its multinational clients and find new clients as well.
Historically, JKL began its life as an IT company because that focus meant low volumes of stock to move and high profit margins; later, with the addition of the more specialized wing of AV, this format changed to the opposite – high volume and lower margins.
This change puts a lot of pressure on cash flow because of the immense amount of hardware required to keep this approach going. This model has adjusted slightly for the company since its AV business has grown but Ireland notes that IT remains the more challenging side with much greater competition, and with margins dropping from previous markers and the focus of the company becoming the management of the gulf between both sides.
This problem, however, gave way to a new set of challenges starting just last year. COVID-19 had a huge impact on how the technology industry conducted its affairs in 2020.
Seeing it through
Ireland says that the company was fortunate enough to have had a great deal of momentum on its side before March of last year with projects in line and business overall in a good place. He adds that 2020 was set to have been the best year ever for the company.
But after the onset of cutback measures for businesses in the face of increasing coronavirus infection numbers, the JKL team found the implementing of projects growing more difficult day by day as offices, plants, and businesses generally began to shut down.
Ireland notes that JKL was in the process of an acquisition last year that would have supported the volume necessary to help the company expand its coverage in the USA more efficiently, but this too was a victim of the pandemic slowdown. He remains especially grateful toward the company’s customer base for stepping up and funding projects, a move that helped JKL tremendously in the uncertain first few months of the pandemic.
Ireland notes that there was a lot of consolidating activity between major AV integrators in the U.S. prior to the pandemic, which in turn reduced the number of participants in the space.
Taking on talent
The industry has since seen a tremendous number of layoffs and furloughs among other companies, with JKL focusing on the opportunity of picking up those newly available talents in the sector.
In the face of any sort of crisis or major challenge to the company, Ireland says, the focus is on employee and client retention with the idea that “there is always another side to a challenge.”
Keeping in mind that the pandemic and its cutbacks will indeed end one day, the JKL team has been determined to avoid laying off or furloughing any of its employees. Apart from embodying its loyalty to its staff, that could put the company in a position of strength once the pandemic has ebbed.
Ireland notes that his employees are an especially talented bunch and that, when it came to toughing out the lows of the pandemic together, “We knew we would get through this.”
Ireland is unsure if things will ever go “back to normal” as many industries hope, but he does believe that more brisk industry activity will be seen later this year.
The difficulties endured by JKL for the past year are not without a silver lining. Ireland says that, traditionally, multinational companies tend to plan their major projects years ahead. Major transformational tech projects in play before the pandemic and slowdown have begun to pick up again and JKL has found itself back on its clients’ agendas. These projects will continue to benefit the company as it wins and cements new contracts.
The few and the best
Ireland is open about the company’s operational template which is to create strong relationships with fewer clients rather than pursue potentially hundreds of relationships across the industry.
The latter approach, Ireland explains, is “contrarian to our model of providing the best quality of service. We will provide the level of service we are known for and we will maximize profitability as a company.”
JKL continues to start conversations with major companies thanks to constant referrals by its base of existing clients with huge opportunities continually arising because of these. In particular, Ireland is pleased with the opportunities that have arisen in the past year, from new contracts won to new offices opened, so the company looks to keep the momentum going as 2021 begins in earnest.