News & Insights

President’s Corner: Kickoff for Success

Steve Lefton, PLA, AICP Kimley-Horn President

Imagine you’re at a large event with hundreds of your coworkers in a hotel ballroom. The décor is themed—perhaps on music legends like Sonny and Cher, or on a Pixar classic like Toy Story—and there’s a palpable energy in the room. You see teammates from other offices, and you relish the opportunity to catch up face-to-face. Over a shared breakfast, music starts to play. A company leader takes the stage and welcomes you to “Kickoff”—your annual regional meeting to start the year, and the reason you’re all here. You smile and prepare for an exciting day of celebration, camaraderie, goal setting, and fun.

Well, at Kimley-Horn, we don’t just imagine this—we are in the thick of our 2019 Kickoff Meetings, a tradition that goes back over 20 years. I had the pleasure of speaking last Friday at our Atlantic region’s event, and I’m preparing to speak again this Friday at our Midwest region’s event. Each time I attend one of these meetings, I’m reminded why we do them and why, as we continue to grow in numbers and geography, we’ll continue this investment in our people (to the tune of seven figures every year).

  1. It’s a Celebration. We pride ourselves on being a business-based firm that delivers exceptional client service. With that reputation comes high expectations and lofty goals. We know we set the bar high, so we celebrate when our employees reach it (and often, they high jump over it). Kickoff Meetings allow us to recognize employees in front of their peers. We look back on the previous year and applaud those who met their individual goals, those who graduated from our internal training programs, those who selflessly partnered to serve other regions, and those who went above and beyond to meet client commitments.

  2. Long-Distance Relationships Take Work. Really, all relationships take work, but especially those separated by distance. As our regions expand across states, it becomes increasingly important for our employees to stay connected—and not just through Skype and Outlook. There is something irreplaceable about spending time with partners in person; sharing a laugh or a meal can strengthen even a years-old relationship. Our Kickoff Meetings provide the opportunity for employees to leave their computers behind and connect with teammates on a deeper level, and our clients benefit every day from the bonds our teams forge.

  3. Shared Commitment Means Shared Success. We spend half our time at Kickoff celebrating the previous year, and the other half laying out the plan for the one to come. We review goals, explain objectives, and challenge ourselves to be bolder while remaining true to our core values and core purpose. Aligning expectations together means we leave these meetings with a shared sense of purpose. This alignment is critical during times of rapid growth and is especially important for us in 2019 as we live the company-wide Growth Strategy developed last summer.

These are only a few of the reasons why I love our Kickoff Meetings. They’re a rally cry to start the year with renewed commitment and energy. Plus, we have a lot of fun! At the risk of creating a “spoiler alert,” how many times do you see a Chief Financial Officer doing Carpool Karaoke? It turns out that Bohemian Rhapsody, much like acknowledging achievements, connecting in person, and sharing goals, has the power to unite us all.

Are you investing in the internal relationships in your firm? I hope you are. It takes time and money, but your staff, your company, and your clients will be thankful you made the investment.