ITA Spotlight: Kastle Systems
Monday, August 24, 2020
Posted by: Abbey Kwiat
By Andrea Kuhn, General Manager – Midwest Region, Kastle Systems
What problem do you solve and how do you solve it better than the competition?
Our approach.Not only does Kastle differentiate with our SLA for response times, but we offer we most comprehensive, advanced technology to keep security current for our clients.Our clients are not experts in physical security.The alternative to Kastle, leveraging an “off-the-shelf” security & video system, means that the responsibility of running, advancing, maintaining, altering, and protecting the equipment falls to the end user. That results in data vulnerabilities, slower resolutions, and equipment that becomes obsolete and requires repeated capital investments.
Kastle pioneered the concept of “managed security” over 45 years ago. We operate and manage advanced, sophisticated security systems for our clients, around-the-clock. We do not merely sell security products, but rather provide our clients a partner in security. From
the design to installation, then monitoring and maintaining, onto continuously advancing the technology, the integrity and the service model, our clients go through a vetting exercise one time as opposed to every 3-5 years. Our average
length of customer relationship? It’s over a DECADE. We’re doing something different to make that happen.
Most recently, we have faced a new problem: COVID-19 has flipped the world on its ear. In addition to the obvious health concerns, COVID is preventing us from living
a public life. That includes our ability to go back to the office safely. Our customers are seeking ways to safely get back to the workplace. Enter KastleSafeSpaces
. We took our ‘partnership’ position, and knew we had to answer the need. From all things touchless, automated screening solutions, to contact tracing, to social distancing, our tech is comprehensive and groundbreaking.
How did you get started?
Gene Samburg founded Kastle Systems in 1972 with the mission of providing a more effective, efficient, and convenient approach to securing commercial spaces. In 1972, the technology to manage security simply did not exist.Kastle answered the need with removing it from our clients’ plates.In 2020, the opposite is true.There is so much technology, where do clients start?Recognizing this need, particularly in commercial real estate and its tenants, allows Kastle to provide an outsourced, managed solution for security issues with real security expertise so our clients can focus on running their core business safely.
Are you headquartered in Chicago? What made you choose Chicago? If you are not headquartered in Chicago, what made you open an office here?
In 1992, Kastle opened our Chicago location, and expansion from our HQ in Washington D.C. One advantage to a managed approach is giving the ability for clients to maintain consistency from market to market. Chicago is a hub for business and technology and was a natural extension for our solutions.When we opened this market, we were crystal clear on Chicago’s stature in America’s business community. It was an obvious location, richly populated with some of the greatest companies in the world. Why shouldn’t they have a world-class security solution?
How are you supporting the Chicago tech community philanthropically?
We focus are philanthropic efforts on the broader community, partnering with organizations like Move for Hunger to collect food from members of real estate industry in Chicago, and other cities across the country to provide food to the local foodbanks of each city we serve.
What’s the coolest perk Kastle’s Chicago office has?
In addition to our hands-free technology, the Chicago team benefits from a culture that differentiates us both within our market as well our company. With the growth that our Chicago team has experienced in the last 5 years, our team is (thankfully!) like a family- we have one another’s backs and like to have fun!
What are the growth and scaling opportunities within Kastle’s industry?
Generally speaking, cloud computing, big data, and IoT are creating significantly more intersection points between a company’s network security and its facility security. The ability to bridge virtual security and physical security is, and will continue to be, a very powerful tool. Second, with an endless thirst for data in 2020, an access control provider has the potential to add a ton of value: we know who’s allowed in the space, potentially who is in the space, and specific traffic patterns.But there’s such a thing as data overload (I swear!); the information we provide must be actionable.Additionally, like everyone in technology, integration with outside companies is critical.Providing data is great.Automatically feeding that access control data to a 3rd party for response and system changes is priceless. Finally, it’s all about video.Make video smarter.Make video easier. Make video faster, sharper, and give it the AI it needs to reduce unnecessary (and often ineffective) overhead.
Which companies across the globe inspire you either through brand, innovation, scale, campaigns, organization etc.?
Our goal is to provide Ritz-Carlton like service levels, plain and simple.If there’s someone higher, then we want to be them.For innovation, we want to be like Apple. Constantly pushing updates/ bug fixes to our clients and remaining highly secure.
How has your company culture evolved as Kastle has grown?
Our culture starts with leadership.Kastle is a privately held company run, in many ways, like a family business. Although we are a $120MM operation, with offices in 13 cities, we retain the feel of a family business. While the culture has evolved with new technology, and the pace of change, many things have remained true that defines us as an organization.
Commitment to Service – Our business strategy starts by establishing long-term business partnerships: we offer peace of mind by ‘owning and delivering’ a wholistic approach to our client’s security. Therefore,
Kastle seeks and attract people who believe in going above and beyond to ensure satisfaction.
Embracing Technology – In order to provide a managed security solution, it was clear that in order to scale quickly and retain clients, we would need to provide advanced technology. That has defined us from day 1. It
is even more true of our culture today than was true in 1972.
What are your primary goals for Kastle?
Innovate, 100%. We want our clients and potential clients to see us as leading the charge in access control, video and visitor technology.Beyond that, we want to keep growing! Client satisfaction and retention are the foundation of growth, so we live and breathe that every day.
Where do you see Kastle in two years? Five? Ten?
While we can’t predict the future (see pandemic), we do know that in two, five and ten years, we will be innovating and using technology to keep our clients’ spaces safe. In two years, I see us providing solutions to every ITA member and partner! In
5 years, as a culture, AI will start to feel a bit more real. For us, AI means that video solutions will see huge advancements. In 10 years? Let’s talk about robots monitoring that video for you!
What’s the No. 1 thing on your to-do list?
Getting Americans back to the workplace safely!Let our tech spark your plan!We dove headfirst into creating a solution, KastleSafeSpaces, back in March to get this tech available as quickly as we could.
Best company/team outing in company’s history? Why?
It happens every year at our annual national sales and marketing conference because it is the most able to all be together at once as the “Kastle family”.
In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of being an Illinois business?
Chicago is such a great place. Our clients are direct, real, hardworking, funny, and smart. They want technology, but they are conservative on where they spend their money. That means we have to work harder here to prove our worth to our clients—and we’re ok with that! The recent downside is the crime. It means that we’re busier than ever, but It’s so frustrating to see our city at such a crossroads. And of course, the darn weather.
What risks or issues do you foresee in your industry’s near future?
2020 is defining players in our industry without question. COVID is defining who and which technology has staying power. But COVID is just the impetus. There is truly great, differentiated tech on the market. Clients now need to be educated that it exists and COVID is making that happen.There’s positive in everything!
What are the biggest challenges you face as you scale your business?
Oh, it’s always finding talent to match our client-first, fast-paced, and innovative approach to allow us to grow in the right ways. We are a team-centric, creative
organization run almost like a family business. The clients we serve stay with us for typically over a decade and we seek a workforce that is eager to stay with us and our clients for a long time. Our people are our biggest asset,
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as an organization, and how did you overcome it?
Over ~50 years history, we’ve got a few! But, like everyone else, we can’t see past this dang COVID!
We’re fortunate. We’re built for innovation. We hire innovative people, because if we don’t provide cutting-edge tech, someone else will! We rely on that culture
to provide our clients vital relief with a technology-first approach to solving problems.
Our pivot with COVID-19 has been next-level though. Kastle stopped reeling at the end of March and started driving for change. We recognized that it was absolutely in our wheelhouse to get people comfortable with being back at work! We creatively re-configured our existing touchless technology to integrate screening methods, leveraged the Kastle
Presence app to create our KastleSafeSpaces program, and made advancements to existing infrastructure to help with contact tracing and social distancing. Brilliant!
What motivates your employees to come to work every day?
Coffee!!! And our customers. We love our clients, we love client satisfaction, and we love being challenged.
What was the ‘aha’ moment when you realized Kastle made it?
Kastle Chicago started to define its current culture about 5 years ago. We began to fill our team with the right skillsets- smart, responsible, independent and hilarious people.We won (internal) region of the year in 2016.That was good.We had a repeat in 2017.It was at the time of our Bulls-like Threepeat in 2019 that the lightbulb went on- we’re doing something special here.Financial metrics were on point, our client cancellations were next to none, we had zero turnover.Most importantly, our client reviews knocked it out of the park. It was a special year.We’re ready to become a dynasty now- no last dance for this crew!!!
What do you do to encourage constant growth and change for your employees?
Continuous Discovery – Continuing innovation requires continuing discovery – to stay engaged, energized and informed from top management to the service team. Employees participate at Kastle both as students and teachers. Kastle keeps employees motivated, informed, and inspired to create new security solutions for clients – staff informs Kastle what skills they want to improve, and the company finds a way to provide learning.
How does Kastle interact with the Chicago community?
Through partnerships like ITA, ALA, IFMA, BOMA, IREM.Kastle Chicago seeks opportunities to socialize (and give back) by working with our clients on what they care about. We love our associations!
What are the top reasons employees would say they love working for Kastle?
Our culture is work hard, play hard. You will never be in search of personality at Kastle. We spend too much time at work to not enjoy what we do and the people that we do it with. We encourage our employees to enjoy their time at the office (or on Teams these days)! It’s this culture, along with providing a service that our employees believe in, and our relentless pursuit in client satisfaction that spurs our success.
What makes Kastle stand out?
Our technology, hands down.Our industry, and the accompanying expense, is typically seen as a commodity or a “burden” to the P&L.Our technology has a cool element; now your access control or video is actually an amenity!Our evergreen approach is the reason clients come on board, and why they stay for over 10 years!
What is the one thing Kastle cannot live without?
Our customers (partners) keep raising the bar for us. Whether it’s technology advancements, data integrity, response times, or an even more specific need, our advancements
are because our clients ask for them. We continue improving because our clients need us to. Period.
This one is all you… anything else you want to tell us?
Our Chicago team is amazing!We have experienced a ton of success in the last 5 years because of yes, very hard work.But we love to have fun!We have a family-type environment- honest, hilarious, and happy!Reach out!