New CEO says Northwest Arkansas key part of Edafio’s growth plan

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 2,520 views 

Kenny Kinley, president of Edafio Technology Partners the past two years, will also become CEO Jan. 2.

The incoming CEO of Edafio Technology Partners said what makes the company unique is its core values.

“When people say ‘core values,’ some people roll their eyes,” Kenny Kinley admits. “But it is our differentiator.”

Kinley’s predecessor in the role agrees. Keith Woodruff says core values are a company’s culture, not just framed words on a wall.

“Don Soderquist once said — at least I give him credit for saying it: ‘If you don’t have stories about your core values, then they aren’t core values,’” Woodruff said. “Each time we have a company meeting, we share stories that represent our core values. That’s one way we keep it at the forefront.”

Whatever the reason, Edafio’s success shouldn’t elicit many eye rolls. Twenty years after its launch in central Arkansas, Edafio is now a $20 million company with three Arkansas offices, more than 100 employees — it had just under 50 two years ago — and clients in multiple industries throughout the state.

The level of commitment to those clients, Kinley said, is where putting the company’s core values into action begins.

“Our engagement model is very client intimate,” Kinley said. “We want to be on-site with our clients and help them solve their business problems. We don’t want to be [known as] just an IT vendor. Being committed to clients’ success is a big draw for me.”

Kinley said Edafio did business with more than 200 clients last year and saw revenue growth of 20%. With the “most talented team of specialists in the industry,” he said, the business has never been better positioned to expand.

Tasked with leading that expansion as the company’s new chief executive will be Kinley. After two years as president, Kinley, 46, will officially assume the CEO role on Thursday (Jan. 2). It’s part of a planned succession announced more than a year ago.

Woodruff, CEO since 2010, will assume dual roles of chief technology officer and vice president of finance and administration.

“It gives me great pleasure to see careful leadership succession planning come to fruition,” Woodruff said. “I have worked closely with Kenny for over two decades and have complete confidence that our clients and staff are in good hands. His contributions and dedication to the company, our associates and clients have been immeasurable.

“We are fortunate to have someone with his leadership skills and experience at the helm as we enter our next stage of growth.”

ASSET PROTECTION
Kinley, who joined Edafio in 2011, said the privately-owned company has one primary goal: help businesses protect their assets through information technology, cloud services and cybersecurity. He said staying on top of those issues can be challenging, but as the company has grown, so has its expertise.

“One of the things we’ve done to mitigate those challenges is creating different teams to focus on different segments of the technology,” he said. “Five years ago, we had engineers who had to be masters of everything, from systems to PCs to network to cybersecurity. That’s hard to scale. Now we have dedicated teams for phone systems, servers, cybersecurity and the cloud. They train in those areas and focus on those technologies.”

After graduating with an accounting degree from the University of Central Arkansas, Kinley, a Conway native, spent the next 15 years in an upwardly mobile career for Acxiom Corp., the Arkansas-based data analytics firm. He left the company as a vice president, followed by a short stint in Little Rock at Vestcom International, a business that produces shelf-edge price labels for retailers like grocery stores.

Those two companies shared two things in common, Kinley said: They were great places to work but had a lot of travel. With a growing family, frequent traveling became less appealing, so he connected with Woodruff. The two men previously worked together at Acxiom. Once they began talking about working together at Edafio, Kinley saw an opportunity.

“It’s a local company dealing with local, Arkansas businesses,” he said. “It has been a blessing to be able to do the same things that I love to do, which is to serve clients, and do that on a local level.”

Woodruff, known as a detail-oriented leader who analyzes things carefully, said Kinley’s skill set is complementary to his.

“Kenny is a great communicator,” he said. “He can take something very complex and communicate it so that it sounds very clear and straightforward.”

Edafio was formed in 1999 by the partners of Little Rock-based accounting firm JPMS Cox. When local IT firms couldn’t meet their needs, the firm’s partners decided to create their own solution, and Edafio Technology Partners was born. The endeavor was so successful in producing results for JPMS that it developed into a full-service IT provider and began taking on clients of its own.

Edafio maintains its headquarters in North Little Rock. A second office opened in Rogers in 2014 and another in Conway opened in 2016.

Woodruff, who is based in central Arkansas, said he will be the “location leader” for the company’s office in Rogers. He’ll start spending a “fair amount” of time there, he said.

Kinley said the healthcare sector is responsible for two-thirds of the company’s business, and that’s been a catalyst for growth. But the expansion of the client base — both by industry and geographically — has helped bolster the business.

“Healthcare technology needs continue to accelerate, and we have some healthcare clients who are growing,” Kinley said. “We’ve been fortunate to grow with them. What we’ve also seen the past two years is a lot of our clients we’ve added are outside of healthcare. Cybersecurity concerns and compliance concerns are broader than healthcare. The technology challenges are pretty consistent across all industries and that’s helped us [grow.]”

BULLISH ABOUT NWA
Kinley’s ascension to the CEO position coincides with new leadership hires at Edafio in the last quarter of 2019. As part of the company’s growth strategy, the company has created three new positions.

Edafio hired Mark Hodges as vice president of sales and marketing, responsibilities previously handled by Kinley. Mike Trickett is vice president of delivery. Billable resources in the past were all reported to Woodruff.

Edafio also hired its first marketing director, Melissa Swann. She works in the company’s Rogers office on the 10th floor of Hunt Tower, underscoring the region’s importance to the business.

Kinley said roughly 90% of Edafio’s business is in central Arkansas, but having the company’s first full-time marketing director in Northwest Arkansas is a strategic decision.

“We want to spend a significant portion of our marketing dollars in the next few years in Northwest Arkansas,” he said. “We’re very bullish [about the region] for two reasons. One is the number of businesses that have IT needs. But also from a recruiting standpoint. We’re always looking for engineers and other technical talent.”

Edafio’s Rogers office has about a dozen employees. Kinley said that number should easily double and possibly triple over the next few years. Other parts of the company’s growth strategy include acquisition and evaluating locations for additional offices. The long-term goal is to branch out and become a regional company.

“We are looking at Oklahoma and/or Tennessee for our first office out of state, potentially,” Kinley said. “I’m not sure we will open an office in 2020, but our goal is to identify at least if we’re going east or west.”

Comments

comments