Company: Knightworks LLC
Year Founded: 2013
Founded by: Travis Knight
Location: 4900 N Sewell Ave. Oklahoma City, OK 73118
Employees: 2 full-time 2 part-time
What type of service does Knightworks provide to its customers?
Knightworks is a Building Automation/Energy Management (“BAS”) service provider. Our services range from consulting to full retrofit and deployment.
What inspired you to found your start-up?
Time and Energy…or the lack there of. I was a BAS field technician for many years prior to starting Knightworks. It was commonplace to drive 2 ½ to 3 hours one way to a jobsite and make a two minute adjustment to programming or set point. That completely negated the purpose of going, we burnt more in fuel that we saved in energy, and the cost to the customer was outrageous. The major manufactures focus their efforts on industrial manufacturing and the large commercial markets; so the cost of service coincides. This puts a vast number of light commercial facilities such as, small office buildings, strip malls, churches, etc., stuck in the middle.
As a result, these light commercial facilities are forced to choose between a service company that strains their budget or a residential, under qualified, service provider. We are here to disrupt that cycle. We give away our knowledge freely. Our price point is set so that those facilities have access to a highly skilled and seasoned service group. Everything we do is for the betterment of the environment, our community and to equip everyone that will listen with the knowledge and tools to take an educated approach to managing their energy usage.
How did you fund your business?
When I started Knightworks, I wanted to make sure I could turn the key in the lock and walk away without being completely buried in debt, if things didn’t work out. Instead of taking out a loan, I cashed in my 401k and pension from my previous employer.
Now that I have established the business and developed a cash flow stream, I am looking into outside funding to provide operating capital and to develop the Knightworks Web, which is a 2x2x2 inch cube that will provide remote access and control as an add-on to any existing energy management system or as a stand-alone solution.
When founding the business, what obstacles did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?
Our first year was turbulent. Knightworks was founded in March 2013, as a single truck, home based, service provider. Based on the business plan I had put together, I was expecting to remain with this set-up for the first two years. That was far from accurate. By May I was in a commercial facility in the heart of Oklahoma City’s Midtown District with three employees and running two trucks because of the overwhelming response we had.
The one key miscalculation I made was in A/R aging. Coming from the commercial market it was expected (if not required) for us to offer terms, some of our customers stipulated their own. On average an invoice was being paid in the 50 to 60 day range.
Tell us how you got your first customers, and how has that changed now?
As crazy as it sounds, we don’t have a sales force. We have conversations and offer consultations to potential new customers. We don’t have anyone on any type of commission based income. We have is a highly engaged social media presence, which includes an energy management blog, a Facebook Page and Twitter feed that are always active. When I looked at how to go to market I saw no one else in the energy management market on social media. So, my choice was to forego the traditional sales route and hired an inside marketing and public relations person. We strive to stay engaged with our community and our clients.
Tell us about your future expectations for Knightworks.
I expect we will be an increasingly disruptive force in our marketplace. It has taken me every bit of a year, to really gain traction in the market. It doesn’t matter of you are the only company providing a particular service; if your new, people have a tendency to think there is something wrong with your product or service. We have had to make two significant pivots in our first year, but we have not changed our core offering. We pivot like we have one foot nailed to the floor. Consistency reigns supreme.
We are planning the release of Knightworks branded web-enabled hardware. Knightworks Web is a 2x2x2 inch cube that will allow remote access to any energy management system and provide remote notification of system trouble. The product was engineered in-house and is being built here in the USA!
Tell us what you have learned, that had you known at the beginning, you would now do differently.
As I mentioned earlier, I would not have made the decision to re-locate the office as quickly as I did. The increased overhead, the added employees and everything that went along with increase in space, almost overwhelmed me.
Tell us what advice you would give to new start-up entrepreneur thinking about a start-up.
Be prepared to struggle! Prior to starting Knightworks, I had heard that and I didn’t understand the magnitude of the statement. Be prepared to be hungry, not know what tomorrow holds, and stress beyond comprehension. But if you are passionate about what you do and love the thrill of forging your own path, then an unpredictable wonderful world is on the horizon. Reflect your core values in every transaction. I was once told it doesn’t matter what you do in the spotlight, it’s what you do when you think no one is watching. You’re a business owner….someone is always watching. Be able to sleep at night.