|In an ever-changing world, where competitors arise from every corner of the world, we all love to look for inspiration in successful people and businesses. What goes through the mind of these people and what are the keys for building a successful business? SACC-SFL had the opportunity to sit down with Kristoffer Nino, of JL Closets, whose story and company most definitely inspire us. In this interview he gives us his version of how to grow and develop a business in today’s competitive business environment, as well as his experience with SACC’s J-1 Visa Program.
Kristoffer Nino is the CEO of JL Closets, a company located in Boca Raton, Florida. Providing custom closets and contemporary home storage solutions, they offer customizable closet design options for everything from reach-in closet systems to wine cellars. With the help of JL Closets’ licensed interior designers, customers can create a storage space completely unique to their own needs.
Originally from Sweden, Kristoffer started his journey by studying business at Linköping University, followed by MBA studies at Boston University. In 2005 he made the decision to move to the US.
– ‘I have more or less lived abroad half of my life. My parents worked for the UN, leading to many years of living in India, Guatemala, Venezuela as well as Sweden.’
Making companies more efficient by implementing business processes and systems within these companies, has been a huge part of Kristoffer’s business career.
– ‘When I finished school, I chose between working within investment banking or consulting. But the consulting work was more attractive, so I started as a strategy consultant followed by work as an operations consultant. With the work came the opportunity to improve operations within factories all over the world using Lean, Six Sigma and Toyota Production Systems.’
After nearly a decade in Consulting, Kristoffer moved into the world of Private Equity. He worked at three different Private Equity firms based in New York and Boston with a specialty in turnarounds and restructuring distressed businesses. After his final position with a Private Equity firm, turning around a business in Pompano Beach, he decided to buy his own business. The aim was to find a company that he could grow and develop into a successful business.
– ‘I looked at roughly 300 companies before I really found what I was looking for. JL Closets had at that time been operating for 25 years and was already a renowned and successful company. However, it was small with outdated business processes. The company barely had any computers or written procedures.’
Kristoffer liked what he found, and saw its potential. He discovered that it was a good company with a great reputation, long tradition and expertise within the home storage solutions industry. The company also proved to have a large loyal clientele. However, the antiquated processes prevented the company from further growth. It was critical for changes to take place.
– JL Closets didn’t have the right tools. The company lacked the processes to take the next step. To grow, the company had to solve operational and organizational issues. When that was done, emphasis and attention could be put on other tasks, such as marketing and sales.’
Since the acquisition in 2015, the focus has been on implementing the needed business processes in order for the company to grow. It is critical that a company gets the right people in the right positions, establishes a well-functioning CRM system and that the production gets automated. Kristoffer further explains that whenever possible, he implements the lean philosophy by minimizing waste and errors within a process.
Regarding the future goals of the company, Kristoffer has a clear view:
– ‘Within one year, we want to cover the South-West and the South-East market in Florida. Within two years we aim to cover Central and West Florida and within five years we will be operating in at least two other states.’
Nonetheless, that doesn’t come without a challenge:
-‘There is a lot of competition in our market. South Florida has the largest number of competitors relative to market size in the country. We differentiate ourselves by offering contemporary European designs, with extremely high quality but at a lower price than our European competitors. We also offer a complete custom solution that allows us to build anything our clients want, and we offer quick turnaround times.’
JL Closets has been a corporate member of SACC-SFL since 2015, and has since then benefitted from the J-1 Visa Program. Kristoffer speaks warmly about his experience of the J-1 Visa program:
– ‘Before we joined the J-1 Visa Program, we were unable to find a suitable candidate that could provide the knowledge and ambition that was needed. Therefore, we started to look at what SACC and the Swedish universities could offer. We found that the J-1 Visa Program was a great opportunity to hire motivated, ambitious, and highly qualified individuals that want to work in South Florida. The Swedish intern that we hired, was of a very high caliber and a great help as we started our transformation of the company.’
– ‘The intern we hired was phenomenal, extremely knowledgeable and assisted in the operational work for 18 months. The experience we had was really pleasant, and we will continue to use the J-1 Visa program to hire a new intern.’
With the future in sight, the journey continues for Kristoffer and JL Closets, with the goal of continuous development and growth.