Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans. Sonitrol of Louisville provides integrated security solutions for business and residential customers. Our products include security, access control systems, HD recorded camera systems, fire system installation and testing. We provide monitoring or our services in an Underwriters Laboratory Central Station. We have done business locally in Louisville Kentucky for over 50 years
Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans. I have been in security industry for 30 years owning and managing several different companies in 5 states. Have been listed in the SDM Top 100 Independent Dealers and served on many Boards of related companies and supporting organizations. Have two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Accounting and Finance and multiple security industry certifications. Have successfully organically grown several acquired and start-up companies into multi-million dollar organizations.
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans. I became associated with a Sonitrol dealer in 1989 that was a successful Dentist and needed an operational partner and GM. We worked together several years and I loved the work and was given the opportunity to become a minority owner. Over time I was able buy into the business and establish sole ownership.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ans. Work hard, believe in yourself, never give up
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans. Be a fast learner, become an excellent communicator, have a financial background
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans. 50-60 hours per week
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans. Hard work, luck, perseverance
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans. Marketing has changed tremendously over the past 3 decades. The internet was not a factor then. Now you must have a strong internet presence, participate in social media and SEO, keep growing and adapting to the way people buy
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans. Originally, we used bank financing which was not enough, we worked with venture capitalists and did some creative financial management. We have millions of dollars of long term debt for almost 20 years.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans. Hard work and surround yourself with excellent people
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans. Continuing to grow and passing much of the business on to my key managers and my sons
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans. Companies that innovate and change with our society I admire because we continue to be in a climate of fast changing technology and economic times. Adapting is key to not getting passed by
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans. Good people is the most important asset you can have
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans. Depends on the idea, a few months generally
Q. What motivates you?
Ans. Making other people successful
Q. What are your ideals?
Ans. Give more than you take and do the right thing. Love as much as you can
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans. Working with other creative minds is the best way, sometimes it just comes to you
Q. How do you define success?
Ans. Making enough money to be successful originally, then it was to be happy and help others succeed
Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans. Keep them happy and provide value
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans. Paying off all that debt
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans. Drive and the ability to handle responsibility and pressure
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans. Take care of your people and pay them well, especially if they are good. Keep the lines open and casual. Hard work is what you should expect from your people and the ability to learn
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans. No the journey has been great
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Ans. It was hard on my family for several years as I was away from my family a lot having to travel a lot and work very long days and weekends
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans. Going bankrupt was a real fear for many years when we had a lot of debt, both personally and corporately there were several times I almost lost everything
Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
Ans. We had franchise opportunities and we chose the best, growing cities
Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Ans. Not really, you must have an excellent product that can succeed over time and work endlessly to become successful, always believe in your ability
Q. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Ans. Steve Jobs would have been great to talk to, he was one of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs of the last couple decades
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Ans. My mentor at one of my first jobs, he taught me how to treat people, make good decisions, and believe in myself in the business world
Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
Ans. The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama
Q. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Ans. Being too impatient with people that had the potential to become great and not giving them time to develop and not collaborating enough with my staff of key ideas
Q. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Ans. You can’t prevent mistakes. Making good decisions requires risk and making sure you take time to investigate your choices in advance is the best way to mitigate bad mistakes
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Ans. I enjoy working out and staying in shape, it is a good stress reducer. I enjoy Bonsai, my family, and cooking/eating and spending time with friends and family. Love to travel and experience diverse cultures and laying on the beach.
Q. What makes you happy?
Ans. Being with my family and helping others to succeed
Q. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans. Time away from my family and hurting good people along the way that could have been avoided.
Q. If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
Ans. Your questions are great and very insightful. More questions about people is important as they are the key to being successful. Being a good manager is very important and asking about how to manage, select, and coach is the key to success. Thank you
Ken Krapf, President and Owner
Sonitrol of Louisville