It’s officially Tech Week in Grand Rapids! The non-conference conference is designed to showcase the region’s vibrant tech community, and we’re excited to share insights from a few of our family business members in this fast-paced industry.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Ben Kuncaitis from K Group Companies, a second-generation family business that has been in the technology space for over 40 years. Ben shared his insider insights on how the industry has evolved, their company’s history, artificial intelligence, and how businesses can prepare for the constantly changing industry.
About K Group Companies
K Group Companies has a rich family history, dating back to 1979 when Ben’s father, Mike Kuncaitis Sr., founded the first of the K Group Companies. Mike Sr. had already been serving in the tech industry and saw a path forward to launching his own firm.
At the time, the main business consisted of supporting large mainframe computers, programming, and maintenance. They were “machines the size of a room,” explained Ben. “We had a division of our business that even fixed typewriters at one point.” Evidently, the industry has evolved significantly since their founding days.
When asked why his parents chose to work in the tech industry, Ben responded, “I think they saw it as the future. I think he was wise enough to know that.”
Ben, alongside two of his brothers – Chris and Mike, Jr.- have since taken ownership and operation of the companies. As Ben recalls, he and his siblings were integrated into the business early on. “I would say it’s in us. Tech brings a lot of challenges, and you have to like change. If you don’t like change, you’re in the wrong industry. He’s always taught us to run at challenges, not run from them.”
According to Ben, his father “had a high business acumen.” As Mike Sr. continued to build the company’s foundation, he prided himself on creating a true partner relationship with his clients by being their trusted tech advisor and consultant. To this day, this valuable legacy rings true with K Group Companies and how business is done. “We’re able to meet a client at their level and scale with them as they grow, by leveraging technology,” explained Ben.
In their more than forty years in business, a lot has changed in the industry. “As far as going from where the supercomputer was the size of a room, to where it can basically fit in the palm of your hand. That’s quite a swing.” Naturally, the landscape shifted alongside the structures themselves.
One industry shift is the focus on and importance of cybersecurity. This is an ever-changing topic and is one of the fastest moving areas of technology. “It’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”, there will be a breach,” said Ben. “A breach is going to happen, so it’s important to put yourself in a position of strength, in the healthiest way possible.”
K Group Companies prides themselves on their ability to partner in this area with their clients, by embracing change and delivering sustainability. As Ben explained, “Bringing solutions that provide enablement for people and their businesses to achieve their goals” is what drives them as a business and as a family.
K Group’s Evolution
To support this, the company recently rebranded as K Group Companies, effectively combining their four primary divisions under one umbrella.
These divisions include Standard Computer Systems Inc., Riverview Service, K Data Systems, and Data Consultants. This approach allows them to provide clients with finely tuned solutions, provided by their team of highly skilled, experienced, and specialized professionals.
The unification of their brands brings better alignment to their new divisions in the previous individual companies, as well as making their services more accessible to customers that traditionally work with one or more of the teams.
Through internal growth with new ventures and acquisitions over the years, K Group Companies can provide services for about anything pertaining to technology.
With all the buzz around artificial intelligence, we’d be remiss not to touch on the potential impact for the industry. From Ben’s perspective, “There is good AI and there is bad AI. All of it as far as I’m concerned is here to stay.” Whether we realize it or not, most of us take advantage of A.I. daily.
For the family business, “it’s all about balance.” While they employ artificial intelligence to help with things like job postings and basic marketing tasks, accountability and balance in its use is key, Ben says. “Don’t be hands off. You want to pay attention and make sure it represents what you want.”
There are still some growing pains and certainly limitations of the controversial innovation. For instance, simple things we understand as humans may not be possible for robots to grasp. Overall, given the constantly evolving nature of the technology, “At this point at least, there has to be a great amount of accountability,” Ben expressed.
West Michigan & Growing Tech Hub
Tech Week GR is all about showcasing the vibrant tech community in the region. While the benefits of this are ample, Ben acknowledged that being a tech leader “attracts the next generation to build here.” Their investment in the area helps contribute to a healthy workforce and economy.
Ben speaks to the growth of tech companies in West Michigan by comparing it to the growth in the region overall especially through the diversity of robust industries in West Michigan. From manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, finance and logistics, these industries have a significant presence here and they create opportunities for unique
technological needs and support, Ben shared. As these sectors continue to grow in West Michigan, so will their need for specific technologies.
The access to education from local universities has helped manage the talent needs as the industry grows. “There is a lot of tech talent,” Ben explained. Even the various tech centers, ISD’s, and non-profits focused on technology help support the growing industry.
Security and AI, Ben predicts, is the area in the industry that will likely continue to grow most quickly. Given the rapid evolution of technology, it’s no surprise that the need for security is expanding and changing swiftly alongside it.
How to Keep up with Tech as a Business
Planning for technology can take time, Ben explained. At K Group companies, they work with their clients to “grow their technical maturity.” By breaking the company’s needs down into a “1-year, 3-year, and 5-year plan” they can help companies accomplish their tech goals. Because it is a capital investment, planning for it and having conversations about what technological tools are needed in the future helps. “Otherwise, this can be more of an emotional decision vs. a logical one,” Ben shared.
There are assumptions that family businesses can be slow to adopt new technologies and innovate. When asked how family businesses or any business can prepare, Ben provided a few steps:
- Meet often with leadership
- Plan your technological needs
- Be intentional with your budget and forecast your technology budget as a whole
- Enlist a trusted advisor
Much like technology itself, the family business K-Group Companies has consistently expanded and evolved along with the industry.
For additional cybersecurity tips for your business, K Group Companies has provided a checklist below to show some of the important solutions and security measures that can help protect your business.
All images are courtesy of K Group Companies. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Written by Aislinn Teachout
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