Kinney Group Core Values: What It Means to Be Customer Centric

Part of the reason I was excited to join Kinney Group was the company culture. In particular, I most related to our Customer Centric core value.

For over half of my life, and starting at age 14, I’ve worked in restaurants. So for me, providing great guest service is in my blood. That’s not to say that it’s “easy” by any means, but that the gratification of having a direct impact on a guest’s experience and seeing their delight is a huge motivator.

As I grew and evolved into different roles within the industry, I began to interview candidates to add to my team. No matter what role I was interviewing for, I always started by asking the same question: What does great customer service mean to you?

The answer to that question can really tell you a lot about a candidate—and for as many quality answers as there are, there’s an equal number of crazy, off-the-wall answers. (Trust me!)

Over time, I’ve crafted my own answer to “What does great customer service mean to me?” Simply put, it’s getting customers what they want, when they want it, in a polite manner.

Being Customer Centric is about providing quality customer service at every point of the sales and service process. This is in our blood as Choppers at Kinney Group.

Getting customers what they want…

I can recall times in my career when guests know exactly what they want, and it’s up to me and my team to execute and provide. But it’s also a really exciting opportunity for me when I can help a guest figure out what they want. Maybe they’re open to trying something new? Maybe another product or service would better meet their needs? It’s an opportunity to showcase knowledge and expertise, and when you do that—you build trust.

We’re all customers at one point or another. And I know that for myself, it’s way easier to do business with someone that I trust. Trust means that I feel that a service provider has my best interest in mind.

…when they want it…

In business, timing is everything. Great customer service providers will understand when a customer wants a product or service delivered. Most of the time in my career, the timing is simply “now” or “as fast as you can,” but it’s important for the service provider to understand that. Have you ever dined out and received your entrée, and then your appetizer, and then your drink? Simply delivering the product or service is really only half of the experience. Building a great experience with a customer by understanding their timing—that builds trust.

…in a polite manner.

I can think of a number of people who are really good at what they do, but I will sometimes settle for less only because I don’t want to deal with them. Or maybe I reserve dealing with that person for certain issues. Being approachable and kind, combined with a can-do attitude, is the cherry on top of a great experience. One of my favorite quotes ever is from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In essence, don’t be a Richard!

Here at Kinney Group, we’re laser-focused on customer-centricity. Our team spends a great deal of time understanding the three returns on investment (mission, human and financial) for our customers. We want to understand what their end goal looks like for using our services, on a timetable that works for them. And finally, we have great people that do great work! It is very satisfying to see feedback come in from a customer explaining how much they enjoyed working with our engineers.

Join Our Team!

It’s very rewarding for me to work for a company that recognizes the true importance of building trust with customers by providing a quality experience. If you excel at delivering what customers want, when they want it, in a polite manner—consider joining our team! A position at Kinney Group is an investment in your career. See a list of our current openings and apply online.

How to Deliver the Unexpected Experience Every Time –– KGI’s Delivery Framework

The What

In over ten years of professional services engagements, we at Kinney Group have learned a lesson or two about how to really deliver the unexpected experience for our customers. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of elements that factor into delivering a “good” engagement.

Let’s focus on one engagement. You gather your NPS score and feedback in areas like the quality of your technical expertise, project management team communication, and the end solution that your team provided. Then, you place a bet on what made the project a win.

Now take hundreds of engagements, like the 500+ engagements Kinney Group has delivered on behalf of Splunk. This is where you start to identify trends and consistencies that truly made your engagement a win.

Historically, the secret to setting a team up for success on every engagement has been a mystery. But with years of data and customer feedback, we’ve created a new approach that ensures customer and company success… every time.


The How

There are four foundational elements essential to our business operations, each of which ensures a successful delivery framework:

  1. The Three Returns on Investment (3 ROIs)

As a company, we focus not only on the financial savings that our services provide customers, but also on the human and mission returns on investment that a successful delivery brings. Saving an organization the financial dollars, minimizing time spent on human intervention, and ensuring impacts that align with business objectives are the cornerstones of our delivery approach. Heck, we don’t even “close-win” our sales deals without nailing down the 3 ROIs to ensure we’re molding our offerings and services to best fit the customer’s needs.

  1. Culture

At Kinney Group, our CEO Jim Kinney (known to colleagues as JK) likes to say, “culture is our number #1 advantage.” A positive culture lays the foundation for direct communication, strong team structure, and colleague empowerment that ensures our people do good work. And in today’s age of remote work, the work from home stipend doesn’t hurt, either!

  1. Talent & Expertise

It’s no surprise that our world-class talent at Kinney Group is the result of a kick-butt recruitment team and high-quality colleague referrals. We like to think smart people know smart people (and then recruit them to join other smart people at KGI). This technical talent provides the expert knowledge and skill to deliver unparalleled work for our customers. Every team of well-equipped KGI colleagues are experts in their own fields, ready to offer support to customers and colleagues. Our robust recruiting efforts, from sales and marketing to project management and finance, all lead our engineers to deliver the best work for our customers.

  1. Methodologies & Systems

We are a highly technical company, so an obsession with effective systems is built into our operations. With the power of our analytics and automation experience, we “eat our own dog food,” as JK says, when it comes to investing in our systems and automating process to scale. We encourage transparent and consistent practices between our teams through team playbooks. Every internal team has a playbook filled with our documented processes, so when it’s game time, we have the play-by-play ready to hit the field.


The Why

Now for the why. The Kinney Group’s Delivery Framework is inspired by Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle: the What, How, and now the Why. Each of those layers became thoughtful steps we worked through in order to deliver the best services for our customers.

  1. A formula for customer success

If we use the 3 ROIs to truly understand what our customers need, everything we do should be focused around creating business value. Showing up and just completing the items on the statement of work is boring, and it doesn’t always provide the outcomes that leaders are seeking. Getting to the bottom of why our customers engage industry experts is crucial for our team to live up to our potential and showcase what our technology can do.

  1. Enable scale and consistency

Over the last year or two, we’ve really been able to focus on our delivery process. In that time span, we restructured our delivery department, added a customer success team, and implemented post-engagement support. We’ve been able to boil down the process of delighting our customers to a fine science with a consistent rhythm.

  1. Remove risks

With so many different teams working to ensure a positive customer journey, inter-departmental communication is key. We do this by installing an agile champion in each and every department (even the HR and Marketing teams)! Believing in the agile mindset is no small feat. We all have regular team stand-ups and syncs with others across the company. This allows us all to be on the same page and have our eyes on any potential issues that may arise. Keeping these meetings short, sweet, and to the point is crucial to moving at a Silicon Valley speed–even here in the Midwest.

Kinney Group Core Values: What Is a Chopper?

As part of the team who defined Kinney Group’s five core values back in 2016, I can still remember much of the conversation. We had borrowed a conference room in the basement of IUPUI and locked ourselves away with a bunch of data, word clouds, post-it pads, and a mission to finalize our core values. We knew how critical it was to get it right—if not, we could easily steer our colleagues wrong for years to come. After hours of deliberation, surveys, healthy debate, and gridlock over wordsmithing, I looked at my teammates in a moment of desperation and asked, “WWJKD?” What Would JK Do?

A Founding Vision

As a founder-led organization, much of our culture over time has been grounded in our founder, Jim Kinney (also known as JK). JK is a visionary and leads our team with confidence and passion for our mission. We took each word that we were unsure of and asked again, WWJKD? The five core themes were easy—all of our surveys identified resonant concepts. Finding the right words to convey the spirit of the company was the tricky part.

We came to the fifth value with our core four now in place: Customer-centric, Innovative, Competitive, and Bias to Action. We had a handful of phrases and ideas for the fifth: perseverance, removing barriers, never give up, determination. None of it was right. The concept was there, but it simply didn’t feel like Kinney Group.

Just then, my coworker stared into the corner and muttered, “What if we just call it Chopper?” After a couple of chuckles, someone else muttered, “No one will know what we’re talking about.” All other ideas left my brain.

This was it. That was the point. No one outside would know what it meant, but inside, we would know exactly what it meant to live out the legend of Chopper Man. In interviews, we’d get to answer the question, “What is a Chopper?” Someday, I’d write this blog post to answer our most important cultural question: what is a Chopper?

The Legend of Chopper Man

The history of Chopper at Kinney Group is folklore; we still tell the story at every Quarterly Business Review. In 2011, when the company comprised fewer than ten people, our founder had to make the tough choice that every founder has faced: push through or shut it down. No one knows what JK was searching for when he happened upon the Google image of a man chopping a pile of wood. Now, that image is an emblem of his choice to push through. He opted to remove the obstacles that plagued our organization and pursue his vision and our mission: harness the power of IT to improve lives.

A sepia photograph of a man chopping wood.
The image of Chopper Man that inspired JK in 2011

When things look bleak and another roadblock presents itself, we choose to Chop through. Can’t see the end in sight and lost in the middle of the forest? Start chopping.

When we answer the question for potential new colleagues, there is a gleam in the eye of future Choppers. They get it right away and then want to hear more. The question changes from “what is a Chopper?” to “how do I become a Chopper?”

What Makes a Chopper?

At Kinney Group, we move at Silicon Valley speed. Just as problems drive innovation, ideas then become reality. The ability to persevere and find an innovative way through a process, project, or opportunity is imperative to our success as an organization.

Rather than float a deadline, Choppers will finalize a minimum viable product with the client. This is done to move the ball forward and accomplish the task as initially defined.

Through open book management, we can empower the full organization to chop through a financial target. This transparency ensures we are all moving in the same direction.

If the story of Chopper Man—or these examples of the Chopper mentality at work—inspire you, then consider joining our team! A position at Kinney Group is an investment in your career. See a list of our current openings and apply online here.

Colleague Spotlight: Chris Lee, Senior Automation Engineer

Billy goat: a notoriously determined and adaptable animal that will always find a way to overcome challenging obstacles, in the wild or around the farm. No fence will keep a goat from getting to a tasty treat it spies on the other side. This versatile creature isn’t afraid of the occasional headbutt when a challenge arises. For these reasons, the billy goat is the spirit animal of our colleague, Chris Lee.

Chris LeeChris Lee, resident billy goat and Senior Automation Engineer.

Serving as Kinney Group’s talented Senior Automation Engineer, he is known to be proactive, precise, and someone who works tirelessly to automate and improve the build process, internally and for our clients. Colleagues say not only is he fun to work with, but he’s a trustworthy team member who has great field experience, which has readied him to be such an exceptional engineer.

The Inspiration: a Childhood Board Game Called Mouse Trap

Holding a degree from Purdue in Computer and Information Technology (with a security focus), Chris began his career doing scripting work as a Junior Developer. However, his skills evolved and he gained engineering experience on both sides of the house, “back” to the “front”. This has given him unique, holistic understanding of the entire Software Development Lifecycle. This practical knowledge resulted in him being the go-to-guy for automating systems, servicing, and connecting development to production.

With that, Chris found his niche, and as opposed to other engineering roles involving development, operations, or administration, he came to love interconnecting systems through automated solutions by using complementary technologies. Believe it or not, Chris states that his interest in automation stems all the way back to his childhood roots.

Looking back, one of his favorite games as a kid was Mouse Trap. You know, the 1963, 4-person board game in which the team works together to build a working, interconnected contraption. This masterfully orchestrated system has a singular goal: to catch the mouse. Essentially, automation and Continuous Integration/ Continuous Development (CI/CD) work in a similar manner to the board game because the engineering team has to use a variety of tools to create a single continuous system that accomplishes a solution.

The Journey: How Chris Lee Became an Automation Wizard

Before Chris joined Kinney Group as a Senior Engineer three years ago, he had varied IT experience through two other companies. At Interactions Corporation in 2006, Chris started as a Junior Developer, and he supported the creation of a Quality Assurance department, and then helped launch the automation of production deployments. In 2008, he joined Angie’s List as a Build and Release engineer, which converted into a Senior DevOps role allowing him to work with each team in the engineering department. He was the sole DevOps engineer until the department grew to around sixty engineers, each holding specializations in QA, DBA, and Ops.

In 2013 he joined at Kinney Group. Today, his responsibilities are heavily focused on Automation and Virtualization, all centering around Secure Private Cloud and Converged Infrastructure capabilities. He also utilizes automation for DevOps and security work.

Chris thrives in the satisfaction of overcoming challenging tasks and projects because it affords him the opportunity to learn and stay stimulated. Furthermore, the complexity of his work conveniently requires him to leverage the most cutting-edge technology platforms and most forward-leaning techniques to excel. Kinney Group tends to offer compelling work across the board, including for our tech-hungry engineers.

Over his years as a colleague, our beloved “billy goat” genuinely feels the phrase “Family First” is engrained in Kinney Group culture. When it comes to our work-life balance, Chris believes it is adaptable to any given situation. When he is insanely focused on a project he will take his work home with him, but otherwise Chris feels it is easy to detach and just enjoy being with his family at the end of the day.

Our Resident Billy Goat is a Lifelong Learner

Like a fortune teller looking into his crystal ball, Chris sees Kinney Group’s future: top talent, larger than life market opportunities, a global presence, and… a kegerator just for engineering. Because engineers love beer. It’s brain fuel.

All of his knowledge and unique skills gained throughout his career have made him an incredible colleague to have on the team. Chris is a great guy with tough, focused perseverance like the billy goat. We know he will just keep munching away in order to find a new patch of “grass-like opportunities” in his hunger for lifelong learning and his love for technology.

Kinney Group Quick-fire:

    • Where is your favorite place to visit in Indianapolis? Mass Ave. Look no further because it has the nightlife and great food while still being close to downtown.
    • What are your top restaurants to go to in Indianapolis? I highly recommend Bru Burger, Bakersfield, and Union 50.
  • Describe Kinney Group’s culture in three words. Progressive. Family. Opportunity.

Want to work at Kinney Group? Check out our careers page to see job postings.