How does positive change happen? It starts with human kindness. You already know the faces of these organizations — the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Khan Academy, to name a few — and Kindful is their secret weapon.
The company provides a client relationship management (CRM) system to help nonprofits manage and organize their donor base. While helping nonprofits pursue their missions, Kindful is also on a mission to make sure their employees feel just as empowered.
What a team mindset can do
Now that Kindful has over 30 employees, CEO and founder Jeremy Bolls’ small group of contractors has grown to a team of highly-skilled professionals he describes as, more than anything, mission-minded. They’re also, he adds gratefully, considerably self-sacrificing. He explains, “The majority of our senior team members were willing to take significant cuts in terms of take-home pay to join Kindful’s mission, simply because they believe in our long-term vision and want the opportunity to help the causes they’re passionate about.”
Life isn’t just what we’re doing behind a desk every day.
And since office hierarchy and politics would only distract from their mission, Kindful works to foster a team mindset in everyday work. “There is no sense of competition internally — it’s a very supportive environment. If a client ever praises the work that one person has done, we’re quick to clarify that it really is the whole team. All of us being here each day is what makes the difference.”
Relying on these values has solved any difficulty with recruiting. While it’s easy to see what would initially attract candidates, it’s the team’s dedication to staying service-minded, their shared victories, and a commitment to personal growth that turns excited new hires into long-term employees. Jeremy says that in the six years Kindful has been in business, there’s been very little turnover — and talent begets talent.
“When those senior team members leave prestigious positions and executive roles to join us, and other people who know them notice that, you have a consistent source of people who quickly realize that they want to be a part of it too.”
Making the office feel good
It’s feel-good work, but Jeremy won’t stop there — he’s constantly sprinkling in new ways to make the team feel appreciated. At its foundation, Kindful’s benefits package covers 100% of employee health, dental, and vision, along with life insurance, and long-term disability, and about 80% of dependents’ health coverage. Employees also receive a four-week paid vacation package, right at their start date.
“Life isn’t just what we’re doing behind a desk every day. We try to give everyone plenty of flexibility,” says Jeremy. “I want my team to feel comfortable leaving during the day to go to their kids’ events, to celebrate family moments — if we’re going to be true about what our mission is here, we need our people to be able to do that.”
It really is the whole team. All of us being here each day is what makes the difference.
The entire team regularly shares meals together and makes it a point to goof off during their social hour every Friday afternoon. “That can feel small in the big scheme of things, but the idea is to sit down around a meal, enjoy it, laugh, have fun. It keeps everybody connected. It makes it easier to come in when something else may be going on in your life. You have a support group around you regardless of what that is.” It doesn’t hurt that the team all gets along like long-time friends. “I’d honestly go have a beer with anyone here,” Daniel Bateman, Product Owner, says with a grin.
“I’d love to spend more time with any one of them.”
Building growth paths for the team
This sense of connection has only made it easier for employees to feel more fluid in developing their roles. “We want people to move around and grow. There’ve been a number of us who came in for one role because that’s where their background was, but as opportunities open up, and they show interest, we help them explore it,” Jeremy says.
Daniel started out as a Sales Rep with Kindful two and a half years ago, and has since become a Business Analyst and eventually Product Owner, thanks to the training and mentorship that Jeremy and the team has provided. Jeremy explains how it works:
“In those situations, we arrange a split work schedule where they can work under a mentor who’s leading that team. We go through various reviews and discussions to give them an opportunity to explore it before they commit full-time. While we’re still fairly young, we think it’s vital to develop various growth paths so people never have to feel stuck.” Daniel adds that a coach-like attitude has made Jeremy’s leadership style all the more effective; “Jeremy has always been an empowerer. He’ll say, ‘Go make mistakes, figure it out.’ If you get an idea, he wants you to run with it.”
We want people to move around and grow… as opportunities open up, and they show interest, we help them explore it.
At age 11, Jeremy lost his father to brain cancer — a loss that intimately ties to Kindful’s mission. Despite never yearning to start a business the way other owners do, Jeremy has been grateful for the opportunity to turn the hardship into a means of making a difference. The reason progress is often halted, Jeremy says, is because “Problems are typically things that only happened because you’re not in control of them, and ultimately, we never are. If you let those situations consume you, you can’t move on.”
Beyond using loss to push forward, it’s also why Kindful puts an emphasis on “the most important things in life,” including family, relationships, and personal growth over its bottom line. Jeremy’s mom has a saying that has guided him throughout it all. “You can get bitter,” he quotes, “or you can get better.”