Visiting Entrepreneur, Mr. Robert Keimer, Shares Family Business Insights
By Jarin Eisenberg
Bob Kiemer, Nathan M. Bisk College of Business Instructor and co-founder of Airgonomix, spoke to business leaders, students, and Florida Tech faculty and staff as part of the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business Visiting Entrepreneur Program on November 15, 2011. Bob gave a personal, insightful, and informative presentation entitled, “A Shoe Shine Kit and a Piggy Bank: Guideposts for Success”. Accompanying Bob on his talk were two items from his childhood, a piggy bank and a shoe shining kit.
The piggy bank represented a time when his father asked to borrow funds for a new business startup he was working on. This became the norm for Bob as his father worked on different startups throughout his childhood. Bob quickly learned a family business was an all encompassing task that required dedication, perseverance, and a lot of risk taking.
The shoe shining hit represented what Bob’s father called, “the snap”. The snap is the competitive advantage one holds over competition in the market. For Bob and his family, the snap came from their ability to recognize an entry in the market place even with the little resources they had.
Partnering with an established pool supply store in the area, Bob’s family was able to start a pool construction business at low cost. This eventually grew into large scale operation. This experience help shaped Bob’s mindset and gave him valuable skills that he would use in the future as he pursued his own endeavors.
Some of those included:
- Play to your strengths.
- Conserve cash.
- Recognize and act quickly to an ever changing marketing place.
Bob Keimer’s general thoughts on family businesses included: it is key to separate the roles of family members, always look for news way to improve, and have open and honest communication.
As Bob moved on from his role in the family business, he became a manager for a SPC Distributors, a pool supply company, where he oversaw multiple branches. When Bob first started working with SPC, it was a small company with a strong entrepreneurial culture. This decentralized structure allowed for risk-taking. However, as the business grew from a 400 million dollar company to a 2 billion dollar company, “corporate” became more evolved in the day-to-day operations. This caused a more centralized approach, tighter restrictions on budgets, and at times an unmet demand for skilled managers.
Recently, Bob has revisited his entrepreneurial roots and partnered with friends from the Space Coast area to create a personal air system allowing temperature to be controlled by the individual user in each room. He co-founded Airgonomix, LLC, which developed a mico-zone approach to air conditioning. Bob noticed that the options available to consumers were expensive and hard to install. His “snap” was in designing a product that can be produced at a low-cost and is easy to install.
The patented product is currently being tested on a floor in Health First, which already has seen the direct and indirect benefits to using the Airgonomix product. The average temperature on the floor increased by two degrees; saving the company money and using less energy by not having to cool unused rooms.
Bob is involved with Florida Tech in several ways including program coordinator for the Women’s Business Center Entrepreneurial Training Services program; teaching business courses in entrepreneurship, sales, and marketing; and advising high school students in preparation for participation in the College of Business and Junior Achievement High School Business Plan Competition held on December 8th at Florida Tech.
He has a passion for mentoring entrepreneurs in exploring business opportunities. Many are displaced aerospace workers exploring new career paths in entrepreneurship and business ownership.
Bob left his audience with an optimistic outlook of the Space Coast area saying that it is “a great environment for startups” and that “the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well”. In the end, he said to always remember “to take a risk.”