Building a Great External Brand Starts From the Inside

Life @ Kinova
By Nathalie Tremblay

Ah, the holidays.


It’s that wonderful time of year when family and friends put real life on the backburner for a few moments to relax, take comfort in each other’s company, and celebrate every little blessing and triumph from yet another year gone by.

A couple of weekends ago, on a chilly Friday evening, around 400 or so members of our extended Kinova clan arrived at an auberge out in Quebec’s picturesque countryside for our own yearly holiday retreat. Friends, significant others and children in tow, we revelled in the weekend festivities, paying homage to family, friendship and our collective successes in 2017.


This year, we brought in an event company to ensure all Kinovians had a magical weekend they wouldn’t soon forget. There were all kinds of games, and amazing food and drink. There was downtime for those who needed a bit of rest and relaxation. And, of course, there were our yearly traditions, one of which results in a wee bit of high-jinks. (It involves Nerf guns. That’s as much as I’ll say.) It wasn’t so much a gift of the season as it was well-deserved.

Everyone got to spend time together and leave with some new holiday-related anecdotes. Team leaders got to know their teams on a more personal level. And it all happened in a setting where the recommended dress code was “wear your pyjamas if you want to!”


I can safely say that, in all the companies that I’ve ever worked, I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before. But it just doesn’t start and end here. The same very much rings true of the internal culture that we’ve built as a group at Kinova — and it’s for that reason that our external brand is as strong as it is.


To build an amazing company outside your office’s walls starts entirely by building an amazing company inside of them.


Internally, Kinova walks the talk. For us, it’s not just about the way we design or make products, or our thinking process — those things are important, yes — but the way we treat each other.


From the top down, our founder Charles Deguire has fostered a foundation of empowerment and passion, for everyone to be a leader. Of openness, to debate and to be able to say “I don’t know what I don’t know,” but to learn together and hold each other up as we test the waters. Of generosity, to not keep things under lock and key, and to not just pour out information, but to guide those around us on what they should do with that information.


These are the qualities that quickly become instilled in each and every one of us the minute we step through these doors. When I became a Kinovian back in January 2017, the very first presentation I got was a PowerPoint containing our mission, vision and values (click the “Mission/Vision” tab for the Cole’s Notes version). Not to sound redundant, but again, no company for which I’d ever worked before had done that. None had ever been so sure of what they stood for to make it part of the onboarding stage, let alone everyday life at work.

Being with each other and there for each other is part of our culture, and it makes sense, then, that it’s part of Charles’s culture. His original motivation for building robotic arms was to support members of his family, so the concept of familial love and being surrounded by people is not lost on him.


He likes when people are happy, he likes to make people happy and he makes a point to talk to everybody and thank everybody during that holiday weekend — but it’s always reciprocal. All of us always have the opportunity to knock on Charles’ door every other day of the year and say, “You know this thing? It’s not working so well, what do you think?” Every level.


For us, celebrating the holidays together isn’t just a nice way to blow off some steam. It’s a true representation of the fact that, the rest of the year, the Kinova brand functions so well out in the world because we function so well inside of it.


That, perhaps, is the greatest gift of all.