KOA Takes a High-tech Approach to Outdoor Hospitality: Q&A with John Adams, AVP of Information Services, Kampgrounds of America, Billings
Company: Kampgrounds of America (KOA)
Location: Billings, MT
Industry: Outdoor hospitality
John Adams, AVP of Information Services, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Billings, MT
Pat Hittmeier, President & CEO
Toby O’Rourke, Chief Franchise Operations Officer
John Burke, Chief Financial Officer
“KOA is a very special place. As someone who has bounced around to different companies and across different industries, I can say that KOA is, hands down, the best company I’ve ever worked for. I like to describe it by saying “We’re serious about what we do, but, we never take ourselves too seriously.”
– John Adams, AVP of Information Services, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Billings, MT
How did KOA get started?
In 1962, local Billings’ businessman, Dave Drum, recognized that people needed a place to stay as they drove across Montana on their way to the Seattle World’s Fair. He carved out a few campsites, built some bathhouses and a small general store, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What does your company do?
KOA is the world’s largest system of independently owned and operated campgrounds.
Who are your customers?
KOA serves two primary customers, each of whom share equal importance; the Guest (camper), and our Franchisees.
Who do you hire?
KOA has numerous hiring needs. Like any business, we hire accountants, marketers, internal IT support, etc. In the “special skills” areas, we hire for expertise in many areas: camping operations, hospitality, facilities, business development, merchandising, Franchisee relations, customer and technical support.
From a technical perspective, we are always seeking software developers with experience in Microsoft and web technologies (AngularJS, CSS, C#, SQL Server, etc.). With plans to expand our technical offerings, we will be adding additional developers in the near future, as well as database and reporting roles as we grow our data warehouse and business intelligence initiatives.
What is special about your company?
KOA is a very special place. As someone who has bounced around to different companies and across different industries, I can say that KOA is, hands down, the best company I’ve ever worked for. I like to describe it by saying “We’re serious about what we do, but, we never take ourselves too seriously.”
Is there a story that best illustrates what you do and why you do it?
Why is a campground company in the Montana High Tech Business Alliance? A fair question. In our role as a Franchisor, we provide goods and services to our Franchisees for the efficient running of their operations. One of the key components, along with our world-class marketing, is our proprietary campground management system, KampSight.
The KampSight software began development in the mid 90’s, and took on its current form in the early 2000s. Our current software is a centralized AS/400 based system and is run by all of our nearly 500 Franchise locations. Starting in 2014 an initiative began for a ground-up re-write of KampSight to bring it into a more modern technology stack, and to position the architecture to both flexible and extensible to more rapidly meet changing Franchisee needs.
What are your plans for the future?
KOA initiated a “Brand-Positioning” program in 2013. Brand Positioning is a Guest facing initiative designed to help visitors better understand the amenities they are likely to receive at any KOA they choose. Whether Journey, Holiday, or Resort, Guests can count on the amenities that are available to meet their vacationing needs. By end of year 2016, we’re hoping to have nearly 300 KOA’s fully branded.
From a corporate perspective, our plans are to continue to grow KOA both as a Franchise system, as well as through our Corporately Owned Properties (COP) division. KOA prides itself on helping entrepreneurs recognize the dream of business ownership.
From a technical and services perspective, launching our new KampSight software (K2) is our top priority. Beyond K2, KOA plans to expand the breadth of offerings to our Franchisees in all areas of operation: Marketing, Technology, Business Services, Support, etc. In addition, KOA plans to develop a corporate data-warehouse and implement Business Intelligence (BI) tools to enhance the analytic capabilities of both individual Franchise operations and overall system performance.
Why are you in Montana?
KOA was founded in Billings in 1962. Montana is an outdoor-centric state filled with friendly, hospitable people. Those things are at the core of what KOA stands for, and Montana is the perfect place for us.
What do you like about Montana? Your community?
In a word… Everything!
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I am an avid musician, golfer and movie buff.
Is there anything else you want us to know?
You may notice that I always capitalize Guest and Franchisee – this isn’t bad grammar, it’s done to remind myself of the importance of those two constituencies to KOA.
John Adams’ Linked-In
About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.