June 10, 2015

Southern Hospitality, Kin Style

My first solo Kin trip. Destination: North Carolina, with stops in Durham and Charlotte. Purpose: to visit with customers, some of whom I’ve been working and speaking with for nearly two years! The trip was a great success – I learned first hand how Kin helps keep operations running smoothly, where we can improve the app, and I squeezed in some time to explore the cities where these folks have built their awesome companies.  A huge bonus was how seeing how much loyalty and confidence our customers have in Kin; I was blown away by them asking how they can help Kin succeed even more!

Day One – Smashing Boxes

I landed in Durham, got my car, stopped by my hotel, then was off to pick up some pies from Scratch Bakery. I could never show up empty handed 🙂 Then, off to my first stop at a digital agency in the heart of Durham, Smashing Boxes. I sat down with Founder, Brian Fischer, and Team Coordinator, Lauren Hogge.

Paid time-off was the hot topic for Brian and Lauren. This is the primary feature they’re using in Kin and had recently implemented updates to Smashing Boxes’ time-off policies. They shared how Kin has helped them tremendously with managing and most importantly, communicating time off with the team.

Brian was particularly interested in the dynamics of Kin’s very distributed team and how that affects not only our culture, but how we handle everyday processes virtually. I shared the tools we use to keep everyone connected, how we’d just completed our first design sprint, and some of the experiences we’ve had transitioning to a remote culture. They’re planning to open an office in Montreal, which would be their first taste of having a remote team.

We also had great conversations on the pains of creating a company handbook. I shared a couple of great resources from Inc. that I used to help Kin create our own handbook.

What to Include in an Employee Handbook

Tools for Creating a Company Handbook

To round out the visit, I checked on the status of the pies – demolished! – and Lauren gave me a great recommendation for dinner at The Backyard BBQ Pit, featured on Man v Food.


Day Two – Chordoma Foundation

My second day in Durham started with an early morning stop at the Mad Hatter Bakeshop for the goodies I’d bring to my next customer stop, Chordoma Foundation. They’re a nonprofit organization improving the lives of chordoma patients by accelerating research to develop effective treatments for chordoma, and by helping patients get the best care possible.

I met with Tammy Silverthorne, the Director of Operations, and we got right down to it! We reviewed her time-off policies and some questions she had on employees’ time-off balances. We’re currently working on a new layout for how time-off data is displayed, so I gave her a sneak peek of our updates to get her feedback.

The Chordoma Foundation is also a widely distributed team, with employees in Durham, Pennsylvania, and New York City. Tammy shared a great idea with me with how she uses Kin’s files feature, which I gotta say is awesome! Ok, the idea – so you know all of those wonderful labor law posters that employers need to have posted for all employees to see? Well, she scans them into Kin and shares them with everyone…brilliant!

On my way out, I got to meet a new hire that was just onboarded using Kin, Larry. I was happy to hear that he had a great onboarding experience using Kin with two thumbs up! Not to mention how impressed he was with his new employer’s onboarding process 🙂

From there, I was on the road to Charlotte!


Day Three: iTek Graphics & MODE

I awoke in Charlotte with one thing in mind: cupcakes. First task of the day was to find some, and find some I did! I made my way over to Jewell Treats to gather up some goodies for my two final customer visits.

iTek Graphics

First up, iTek Graphics, a graphics communications firm with services ranging from printing to web hosting. I met with Owners John Rawlins and Julli Goodwin along with Tina Cox from Accounting.

As a new customer (only about 2 months at the time), they had a fresh perspective with a lot of great questions and feedback on using Kin, as they’d just recently rolled it out to their team. They shared some great ideas that will definitely be of value to the entire Kin community.

John did mention he had a bit of confusion on using files and the onboarding feature in Kin. Setting up and beginning to use the onboarding feature can be a tad intimidating, I know! We reconnected when I got back to Chicago and I helped get him up and running with Kin’s onboarding tool. So far he’s onboarded one new hire using Kin and it was a success!


Now off to MODE, a seasoned branding & interactive agency with a brand new office in Charlotte. I sat down with one of the Founders, Tyler Hawes, who was an early adopter and friend of Kin. We chatted about how they’re using the tool, mainly to manage paid time-off, but also to onboard new hires. When I asked how using the onboarding feature was going, his response was something like “I have no idea because now the Office Manager can handle it all in Kin.” Perfect.

Tyler and I also talked about the many similarities MODE, Kin, and We Are Mammoth (Kin’s mothership) have as a workplace and culture. We started off similarly and grew quickly, sharing the same growing pains. It was reassuring to hear how Kin has benefited MODE’s workplace administratively and culturally, and how it helps people like Tyler focus on other parts of the business.


Day Four – UNION

On my last day in Charlotte, I stopped by UNION, a digital marketing agency, before heading to the airport. I had met the partners of UNION, Banks Wilson and Christy Holland, a couple of weeks prior at a happy hour event for Owner Camp hosted by We Are Mammoth. We got to talking and realized they were located in Charlotte and that’s where I was headed!

Christy and I went to get some lunch at RuRu’s Tacos & Tequila where we talked benefits, managing time-off, and a whole bunch of other operations chatter over some amazing tacos. We quickly learned we have quite a bit in common personally and professionally. After lunch, we headed back to the office so I could give her and Banks a demo of Kin. They’re getting to that point where having HR software like Kin is a necessity. They’ve quickly grown to 32 employees!

While at UNION I also was introduced to Katie Fogarty, the Partnerships Director. We had a great conversation on both of the companies we work at, the roles we play, and the satisfaction we get from our jobs. It’s refreshing to meet someone else who truly loves what they do and who they work for 🙂 And I can’t leave out Pixel, the Director of Distraction. I was able to sneak in a couple of snuggles with him while I was there too!


Other fun things I did…

In the evening, I strolled around downtown Charlotte and picked up a bite to eat. It just so happened to be the Speed Street 600 Festival leading up to NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 race. I checked out the festival, posed with a race car, and did lots of people watching.

I  already had my BBQ splurge, so I went on the hunt for a burger. I found my fix at Cowbell Burger & Whiskey. I mean, come on, their motto is ‘eat more cowbell’. I also played some trivia and sang (rapped) a tune at the best dive bar in America, The Local. My favorite lunch spot? Pure Pizza located in the 7th Street Market.



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#BeingAnAdultIn4Words: Ending spreadsheet PTO requests. (You deserve better than that.) #HR #PTO #Culture #Engagement


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