Work It! Gay CEO Jack Kinley is breaking the mold

Most people are content with playing by the rules while working to execute someone else’s vision, and then there’s Jack Kinley—Lab Monkey Communications CEO and newly appointed president of the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (AGLCC).

Kinley followed the blueprint for success. He earned a bachelors degree in graphic design from Winthrop University, landed an internship that turned into a permanent position with investment and financial management firm Northern Trust, established Atlanta residency and was well on his way into fitting neatly into the corporate box. But there was just one problem—he needed to break free.

Freedom came in 2007 with the launch of Lab Monkey Communications, Kinley’s business solution for global employers in search of creating a more profitable workplace and engaged employee culture.

Georgia Voice caught up with Kinley on the heels of receiving the LGBT Business Advocate of the Year award from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Georgia District Office—to find out more about the hard work he does and how he makes it look so easy.

Georgia Voice: What were you doing prior to launching Lab Monkey Communications?

Jack Kinley: Right before I started Lab Monkey, I’d reached a creative director position with a small entrepreneurial company here in Atlanta, and through that experience realized I had everything I needed to know to be able to run my own business.

What motivated you to create your own business, and was fear a factor?

I was absolutely afraid. I think some people are meant to own their own businesses. I never really fit the form of a corporate employee. I never really fit the mold of the “follow the template” approach to work. I like to solve problems and not just repeat processes. I really like to dig in whenever I see a problem and I didn’t always have that opportunity within the structure of corporate settings or even at other small businesses that I worked for.

Tell us about the services Lab Monkey Communications provides.

We work with businesses that have about three thousand employees or more. We help these companies create the employee experience. Anything an employee would need to know at any stage along their career, whether that’s pre-employment for a new employee to an employee that’s been there for years.

Are you involved in day-to day operations as CEO?

I’m very involved. My role is focused on developing my team, setting the standards, identifying new challenges and opportunities; to understand what our clients are going through and create products and opportunities for us to resolve those problems and situations for our clients.

What would you say sets you apart from your competitors?

The big difference for us is that we bring a deeper creative perspective. This company started from me as a graphic designer and storyteller taking the lead versus a benefits consultant who is a little more data driven. The other difference is price point. As a small business we hire senior level executives from the top three consulting firms and we’re able to deliver that level of convenience at a third of the cost. We’re able to do a lot more for a lot less.

As the president of the AGLCC, what benefits does membership provide to LGBT entrepreneurs?

One of my own personal favorite aspects of AGLCC is our online member business directory. As a gay man, it’s important for me to know where my money is going. I don’t want to support anti-gay causes by accident. And I think that money is a form of power and energy. Our online directory is sort of a litmus test. If I’m looking for a housekeeper, I’m not gonna have to explain this is mine and my husband’s house and worry about any adverse reaction to that. They’ve been vetted already as LGBT-friendly companies that I can do business with.

What did it mean to you to be recognized by the U.S Small Business Administration?

The recognition from the SBA is a nice validation of the roles that diversity at large, and our LGBT small businesses in particular, play in making Georgia a vibrant place to work and live. Whenever the disenfranchised—and that still includes our LGBT community—has equal access to economic opportunities and long-term stability, then our whole community is stronger.