Jonathan Kniss was born and raised in a small town in northwest Illinois. Despite the joys that came with being a member of a tight-knit community, he had his sights set on something more. While his local high school lacked many of the essential resources needed to further his academic success, he was able to enroll in an Electronics Technology program. This led him to pursue a post-secondary degree in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois.
After earning his degree in electrical engineering, Jonathan had no shortage of job opportunities to choose from, and he moved to Seattle to pursue a position with Boeing. He remained at Boeing for sixteen years and through several promotions. As the company expanded its revenue streams beyond airplane sales and into services, Jonathan helped Boeing launch a new joint venture called FlightSafety Boeing International.
After his work at Boeing and FlightSafety Boeing, Jonathan Kniss tried taking his career in a new direction, and to that end, he ran an upscale takeout food company in Seattle for a few years. He then pivoted again and ran a commercial casework manufacturing company, producing cabinetry for hospitals, medical clinics, schools, churches, and other such applications. Finally, he returned to his engineering roots and joined a technology incubator that, among other things, manufactures laser-based inspection equipment for the oil, gas, and automotive industries.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
Our company has multiple laser-based inspection systems, and each system had its genesis based on customer requests and inputs.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I try to plan in advance what I want to get done. I wake up thinking through the things I want to accomplish for the day. It involves setting goals, that way you are more likely to get some of them done if not at all.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When ideas pop into my head, I give them a chance to incubate by talking with others about it to refine it further. And when you take actions towards making it a reality, it just keeps going forward.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I would say it’s the split between working from home and at the office. Not all five days a week at one place or the other. Why? Because I learned that I can be way more efficient with some things at the office and likewise at home.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Planning through the day at its beginning. Making a list to keep yourself accountable and being satisfied with what you have accomplished without the need to complete everything.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t waste time focusing on frivolous things. Going after more money for its own sake is a path to unhappiness. Also, doing what you love, because if you do that, you’re never going to feel like you’re working at all.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I consider myself a person of faith. And exercising your faith does make a difference when you believe in something bigger than one’s self. It’s not just about me.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Goal setting. You can’t have a dream come true if you don’t have a dream. Therefore, you can’t achieve a goal if you don’t have a goal. If you want to succeed at a goal, you need a plan. So, that’s what I do over and over.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Understanding and nourishing relationships with your customers and your coworkers. And I do that through communication between myself and those I work with to make sure everyone knows what we need to do. We work better that way. The difference between emailing someone and discussing it with someone face to face is like night and day. It helps develop ideas in a better way.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Well, I’ve had more than one, and I try to value all of them. After all, failures (mistakes) are really just another way of doing something. And you don’t really learn anything from successes, but you do (should) learn from your failures, and I think people that learn from their failures are far more valuable contributors as a result.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Our educational system doesn’t really teach kids how to live their lives – how to succeed in a relationship, how to eat, how to budget, and the list goes on and on. I think parents would jump at the chance to buy an affordable, online course for their kids that could cover these types of necessary life skills, and do it in a very teachable and fun way. Someone, please pursue this idea!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I hired a company to write my LinkedIn profile. And it was more than 100!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I think Microsoft Teams is a great software tool. It does a very good job connecting people for meetings, both inside the company, and externally. It also has a great function for organizing content for multiple projects, available to everyone in one place, and for them to provide input.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry and Gene Greaves. We know how the world judges people on their IQ, but their emotional intelligence quotient is a much better predictor of success. It’s about how you relate to other people. I think it’s a fascinating read. People that read this book will better understand themselves and other people. We usually hire for aptitude and fire for attitude. But I believe if we had a greater focus on attitude, we would have a lot more hiring successes.
What is your favorite quote?
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” by JFK. In all aspects of life, do you want to be a taker or contributor?
- Always make a plan.
- Communication is vital.
- Many hands make light labor.
- Refined ideas are the best kinds.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.