RADIANCE BLOG

Category: 20th Anniversary


Celebrating our community: Colorado Fourteeners Initiative

In honor of Corona’s 20th anniversary, we are celebrating the outstanding people and organizations making a positive contribution to our community.

Each month, Corona is making a $500 donation in honor of a member of our team. For February, David Kennedy selected the Colorado Fourteeners* Initiative (CFI). We chatted with David to learn more about this organization and his relationship with them.

Why did you choose the Colorado Fourteeners Initiatve?

As mentioned in our interview with David, he began volunteering with this organization more than a decade ago. In his early days at Corona, he volunteered on 1–2 projects a year for them. This included his first real volunteer trail work experience, and while he went on to volunteer for other state and national groups, he always stayed in touch with CFI and made them one of his monthly charitable donations.

Hiking in on Mt Elbert. Photo by David Kennedy.

Especially after being involved with some other trail work organizations, David began to see the uniqueness of CFI and the quality of work they do. Trails built by CFI, for instance, are commonly built to a 100+ year standard, meaning that the trail, with minimum maintenance, should hold up for generations to come. This may not seem that special to the average person, or even hiker, but considering the popularity of the fourteeners and resulting wear and tear, the challenges of constructing trails at those altitudes (in often remote settings), and other challenges with trail design in general (e.g., erosion), it becomes clear just how tough CFI’s work is.

David was, and remains, impressed with the standard of trail work provided by CFI, describing them as the Green Berets of trail builders. When an injury a couple of years ago prevented him from doing volunteer trail work, David continued to look for ways to be involved with CFI and other organizations, lending a hand with other skills such as photography and marketing assistance. Most recently, he had the chance to join CFI’s board, an opportunity he quickly accepted.

What is special about CFI?

Beyond the quality of work noted above, one of the main things that David really appreciates about CFI is their single focus on high peaks. While other similar organizations do a variety of trail work, CFI specializes in high alpine trail work. As a result, the level of expertise that CFI brings to their work is both extremely high and unique. Compared to the ecosystems below the tree line, the high peaks of Colorado face unique issues, such as greater exposure and a shorter growing season. Add to the challenge of remote worksites and the altitude, and trail work is much more labor intensive.

* For non-Coloradans, a fourteener is a peak above 14,000 feet. There are 53 such peaks in Colorado (depending on how exactly you count them)—the most of any state, including Alaska. They are a popular destination for climbers and hikers alike.


Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Corona is also donating $500 on behalf of each staff person to a charitable organization of their choice. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights into the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.




Staff Interview: David Kennedy

February 2019 marks David Kennedy’s 13th year with Corona. During those 13 years, he has climbed up from quantitative analyst to principal. He also has gone from a local employee to a remote employee to a local employee to a remote employee to (currently) a local employee. But, thanks to his great attention to detail, all of these transitions have been seamless.

David Kennedy, Principal

While pursuing his business degree as an undergrad, David became very interested in market research and ended up focusing on market research and statistics courses. While completing some graduate courses at CSU, he saw an ad for the job at Corona and applied. Like many of us at Corona, David enjoys not just the research aspect of the work but also the variety of our projects. The variety of projects makes the work challenging and engaging, which he enjoys.

At Corona

Although David started as a quantitative analyst, these days his main specialties at Corona are the management of large and complex projects, brand-related research projects (e.g., customer satisfaction, prospective customer research, brand perception research), and membership association projects. In addition to client work, he also manages Corona’s brand and marketing. If you like the look of our website or our reports, then you like his work! Not only do we at Corona benefit from his interest in the company brand, but David also says that his work with the brand has increased his commitment to the company. In 2009, he helped oversee the rebranding of Corona, which won two awards (the 2010 Colorado American Marketing Association Silver Peak Award and the 2010 Business Marketing Association Silver Award).

David also feels very proud of Corona for the work that the company has done to support our employees. In 2008–2009, the company did an organizational design challenge that changed how we think about our benefits and employees’ work–life balance. Since then, Corona has continued to focus on supporting employees by adding additional company holidays, allowing employees to work remotely, and encouraging professional development. David is proud of all these changes.

Having completed more than 110 projects as a project manager, David’s favorite projects are those where he feels like the client really benefitted from the work. These tend to be projects with some of his repeat clients. Additionally, he really enjoys projects that expose him to a wide variety of topics, like the State of Cities and Towns project for CML, projects that he has a personal connection to, like those for Donor Alliance, and projects that touch on a personal interest, like projects with Denver International Airport.

Outside of Work

Outside of work, David has a wide variety of hobbies. From hiking to backpacking to climbing to skiing, he really loves escaping to the outdoors. A love of the outdoors is also what led to his interest in photography. His photography has expanded from a little hobby to a significant one with an Instagram account, a website, a University of Denver course that he is teaching, and even some exhibits. He also loves to travel and has completed 12 trips in 2018 alone, from weekend getaways to three international trips.


David and one of his trusty cameras.

His love of research and spreadsheets is not limited to his work life either. He has impressed many of us with the extensive spreadsheets that he uses to track travel award points or skiing costs to split with his fellow skiers. And several of us have made a decision or purchase informed by David’s research, whether it was an espresso machine, a travel destination, or an outdoor gear purchase.

Charitable Organization

David selected Colorado Fourteeners Initiative as his recipient of Corona’s $500 donation.

David started volunteering with them back in 2006, close to when he started working at Corona. At the time, he didn’t have much money to donate, but he really wanted to give back to an organization that focused on the outdoors. Since finding Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, he has volunteered on trail work projects for them and has just recently joined their board.


Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Corona is also donating $500 on behalf of each staff person to a charitable organization of their choice. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights into the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.


Celebrating our community: Wild Plum Center of Longmont, Colorado

In honor of Corona’s 20th anniversary, we are celebrating the outstanding people and organizations making a positive contribution to our community.

Each month, Corona is making a $500 donation in honor of a member of our team. To kick us off in January, Matt Bruce selected Wild Plum Center. We sat down with Matt to learn more about the organization and his giving experience.

What is it about Wild Plum Center that made them stand out for you?

I believe that all families should be allowed to achieve their potential, and Wild Plum Center helps families do just that. We know from research that kids begin developing cognitively and socially at a very early age. I’ve seen it in my own kids. When they are in a nurturing, safe, and stimulating environment, like at Wild Plum Center, they have positive experiences that dramatically impact their growing brains. In addition to serving youth, Wild Plum Center serves parents by allowing them to work or go to school so they can make a better life for their families. Although there are many great community organizations here in Northern Colorado, Wild Plum stood out to me because they meet a critical need of hard-working families—when a helping hand can make a world of difference.

When a helping hand can make a world of difference.

What would you like others to know about their mission and impact?

Whereas we typically think of early childhood education in the zero to five age range, Wild Plum acknowledges that their impact goes far beyond preschool. Their mission is to prepare children for a lifetime of learning and self-sufficiency by providing a comprehensive, individualized approach to early learning and family wellness. Wild Plum is doing more than preparing kids for Kindergarten; they are preparing them (and their families) for a lifetime of learning and wellness.

You’ve noted that this was a really wonderful experience for you. We’d love to hear more.

First, I had a lot of fun thinking about which community organization I’d like Corona to support. I considered a handful of organizations, and I enjoyed learning about each one. When I decided on Wild Plum, it was a great experience chatting with Keri Davis, their community partnership director, about the financial gift Corona could offer. Keri said Corona’s donation would go directly to serving youth and families. She sent me some photos of kids in their classroom, and I loved looking at all those smiling faces.


Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Corona is also donating $500 on behalf of each staff person to a charitable organization of their choice. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights into the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.




Staff Interview: Matt Bruce

This month Matt Bruce celebrates six years at Corona, during which time he has juggled many roles inside and outside the firm: director, associate, data nerd, skier, and father, to name just a few. His “career” has spanned from ski bum and hitchhiker, to natural resource technician, to his current role as a Director here at Corona.

Matt Bruce, Associate

At first glance, there may not seem to be a common thread connecting his rather disparate roles—but Matt’s love for the outdoors combined with his formal education in natural resources has put him in a unique position to study how people interact with the environment and to solve broader issues facing communities.

He was, and remains, drawn to Corona to help clients make smart, informed decisions. Through pragmatism, and often creativity, Matt enthusiastically supports clients in their efforts to make an impact.

At Corona

Matt started at Corona in January of 2013, primarily specializing in the quantitative areas of our work (e.g., surveys, demographics), but has since broadened his skills to qualitative research and other areas. While in many ways a generalist, Matt is most at home calculating advanced stats, analyzing demographics, or doing spatial analysis in GIS.

While Matt loves the variety of work at Corona, he gravitates toward those projects involving the outdoors, youth, community needs, and other community topics, where his particular skills and interests really shine.

Not surprisingly, some of his favorite and most memorable projects have been needs assessments. One such project was conducted for the City of Longmont, Colorado, where Matt helped the city identify the most pressing needs of its most vulnerable residents.

Select clients Matt Bruce has worked with while at Corona Insights.

Outside of Work

On any given day, you may find Matt riding his bike around Fort Collins, constructing hot wheel tracks (with his kids), or, when time allows, hiking, river rafting, or backcountry skiing with his family.

The Bruce clan.

Charitable organization

Matt selected Wild Plum Center for Young Children and Families as his recipient of Corona’s $500 donation.

Matt first learned about Wild Plum when he worked for the City of Longmont, organizing fieldtrips to the Sandstone Ranch Visitor and Learning Center.  Years later at Corona, when he conducted a needs assessment for the City of Longmont, he saw the need for more comprehensive help to families as a whole, not just kids. Being a parent himself, he also has perspective into the challenges of childcare, and wanted to support an organization that helps families in need.


Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Corona is also donating $500 on behalf of each staff person to a charitable organization of their choice. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights into the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.


Client Interview: Sara Reynolds

As we complete our 20th year of business, we will visit with the two key elements of our work:  our clients and our staff.  We will start with someone who is both:  Sara Reynolds, the Vice President of Operations of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.

Sara, you’ve been both an employee of Corona Insights and a client.  How has that happened?

I was Corona’s first employee after Kevin, maybe even before Karla, because she was just finishing up her career with Mercy Housing when I started.  I worked at Corona for two years through graduate school, and then went on to other jobs.  I hired them for research work when I was with the Colorado Municipal League, and then strategy consulting when I was at Housing Colorado.

How did you first become aware of Corona?

I talked to a career program person at CU-Denver when I started at the MPA [Master of Public Administration] school.  They said that this company had called looking for help, and I asked if it was a paid internship.  Fortunately, it was.  Kevin had a lot of clients coming in and needed help, and I had SPSS experience, so it was a good match.  I ended up working for both Kevin and Karla on projects.  It was just the three of us.

We were certainly not an established company at the time, so we appreciated your open-mindedness about working for a little startup.

Yes, I remember getting hand-written paychecks.  But I was finishing my grad program while I worked with you, so it was a mutual leap of faith to work at Corona.  I was also working as a legislative aide and in school at the time, so we were all flexible.  I worked in one of the bedrooms at your house while you were fixing it up.  I also own an old house, so I understand the process, the renovations never end. 

How did your career progress after you worked with us?

I stayed with Corona until I finished the MPA program, and then went to work for the City of Westminster.  I wanted to be a city manager but later decided that it wasn’t what I wanted for that particular phase of my life.  I then became the legislative liaison on behalf of the City to the Colorado Municipal League (CML), which led to a job there.  I worked at CML for nine years, and then went to Housing Colorado as the executive director.  I recently left that position and joined the Colorado Oil & Gas Association as the Vice President of Operations.

Are there any particular lessons that you took from Corona to your later positions?

From a research perspective, it was understanding the skill set that was needed for quality analysis.  You can’t take for granted that what you’re receiving is actually good data.  If you don’t start with good data, any analysis is worthless.  We take for granted that all data is good, but with the rise of things like Survey Monkey, that’s not necessarily the case.  It was good to start my career before that era, because we had to build good data from the ground up. 

You also learn that organizations often feel like they have to use data to support their messages, but they don’t always recognize that you don’t have to just limit yourself to the data that’s available.  My experience at Corona gave me confidence to go out and do my own research when I needed to.

On the facilitation side, I’m astonished at how many organizations don’t know how to plan strategically.  Board members come from many different backgrounds.  It’s hard to put board members through training, because they’re just too busy.  You have to take people as they are, and that’s where a skilled facilitator can pull them together to train and lead them through the strategy process.  It gives your executive director an opportunity to participate as well, rather than being the facilitator.

On the topic of collecting your own data, you told us that you have a particular memory of a project with us.  Can you tell us what it is?

Yes, I particularly remember standing on a corner directly outside of Miss Kitty’s [adult store] on Colfax doing observations while we were studying seat belt use.  [Kevin and I] eventually switched corners.

It makes for a funny cocktail story about what I’ve done for my jobs, but there was a bigger purpose.  It was an intriguing contract from the Colorado Department of Transportation that was aimed at improving seat belt use rates among African American men.  I then sat in on some focus groups that identified the stigmas of wearing a seat belt among young African American men.  It was an early experiment in reaching niche markets.  CDOT used the information to run a public information campaign that I’m sure saved lives. 

So you’re the Vice President of Operations at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) now.  What intrigued you about that position?

I’ve gone from the public to the nonprofit to the private sector.  I wanted to try something in a member-based organization that served the private sector, which was why I went to COGA.  Our members are all private organizations, but addressing public issues.

There are beautiful recreation centers, senior centers, and other things that have been built with oil and gas [severance tax] money, and perceptions of the industry are different in different parts of the state.  I’m familiar with corporate social responsibility and how private sector organizations can have positive impacts.  My background in working with local governments gave me a good opportunity to be the bridge.

In this position, you also have to have a fluency in understanding the operational elements, such as finance and project management.  In a trade association, you have to juggle many projects.  Project management is on an annual cycle and getting people onto the team who have different skills.  You then have to interface with your board on strategic vision, and also consider strategic partnerships. 

And one of the more exciting elements of working at both Housing Colorado and at COGA is identifying the number of potential partners out there.  You can’t do it all alone as a small organization.  People tend to think internally first on strategy, so you have to help people think externally. Many organizations are funded by oil and gas to pursue their mission.  When you look around, there’s a pretty big table of allies.  You have to figure that out when you work at a small organization.

We’d like to close with a couple of Corona personality questions.  If Corona Insights was an animal, what would it be?

A little bookworm comes to mind, from the Richard Scarry books.  A caterpillar with glasses.  It offers very observant commentary on issues.

And what three words or phrases best describe Corona?

First, I’d say hungry.  Hungry for the next project.  I can’t see you saying no.  You’re always taking on unusual projects that seem odd but interesting.

Second, I’d say disciplined.  Corona is disciplined and committed to taking people to the finish line.

Third, I’d say non-conforming.  You built the business the way you wanted to and were intentionally nonconformist about your approach.  We don’t value institutions the way we used to, so non-conforming is good.  You can be nimble in how you operate.

That concludes our interview.  You were a great first employee, Sara, and you’ve certainly been successful in your career since leaving Corona.  We’re very grateful to have had you on our team, and we’re proud of your success!


 

Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights in the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.