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.
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.