Q&A with Tia Jenkins, President of Kieding

Since 1995, Tia Jenkins has been a trailblazer at Kieding, a Denver-based interior architecture and design firm. Joining the firm as a senior project manager, she quickly established herself as an expert in documentation and code issues across the many municipalities of metro Denver.

Her work ethic and dedication to client service has inspired loyalty among brokers, property managers and other commercial real estate professional at every level. She has excelled in both tenant development and tenant representation management throughout her 37 years in the industry. As owner of the firm since 2007, Jenkins has maintained her role as a “working principal” and architect in addition to her administrative, marketing and leadership roles for Kieding.

Facts About Tia

  • Married for more than 35 years, two stepsons, thirteen grandchildren and two Airedale Terriers.
  • Wichita, Kansas native with a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Kansas, a Master of Architecture Degree and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Colorado.
  • Kansas Jayhawk for life!
  • NCARB and NCIDQ certifications. Licensed in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming
  • Devout fan of Brit author Neil Gaiman and hooked on Game of Thrones.

What does Kieding do, specifically?

Most of the industry refers to our brand of work as “tenant finish.” We design interior office spaces, which can include medical, flex, light manufacturing and restaurant/retail, among others. We don’t do core-and-shell work, but we have partnered with those types of firms in turnkey relationships. The bulk of our work is with building owners, but we’ve always done a good bit of tenant representation projects, as well.

When did you take over the firm?

Founder Warren Kieding was gradually on the road to retirement around 2005 or so. I purchased the firm  in 2007, right before the Great Recession. How’s that for timing? I was nervous even before that as a first-time business owner. In fact, we came through it much stronger. We had a great staff and management in place—still do–and most of our client base stuck with us. There still is something to be said about loyalty.

How is Kieding different?

I will say that our greatest strengths are what our particular market demands: accuracy and speed, in that order. We’re blessed with an outstanding design team, and the production power to turn projects around very rapidly. It’s a very high-stress type of interior architecture, so we try to balance that with a pretty laid-back office culture. We try not to take ourselves too seriously in the office. That has paid major dividends for us in employee performance and retention.

Why did you choose commercial interior architecture? 

I had done my internships after college with “classic” architecture firms, and I did not care for the deliberate, sometimes even painfully slow pace of the projects. Interiors work, on the other demands speed with projects coming to completion in months, even weeks. I thrive on the pace, the problem solving and the endless options on the design side. It’s never boring, and always a challenge.

What are the major changes you’ve seen in office design?

A couple things: the precipitous rise and fall of the open office, and the demand for more and better building amenities. Most office spaces today are some kind of hybrid or agile type with a primarily open plan. Collaboration is a major component, as are ad hoc private spaces of different sizes and shapes. And amenities are still red hot. Lobbies, and other building common areas kind of fit in that same basket. We’re doing more building upgrades as landlords continue to compete for tenants. And of course, technology is infused in everything everybody does at work today. From fast WiFi to the Internet of Things to smart buildings—security, employee comfort, drone tech and even artificial intelligence — the advancements are staggering, and we have to pay attention to all of them.

How has Kieding Responded? 

We’re a small outfit, very nimble, very flexible, so we’re prepared for change. The market is fluid, so we feel we must continuously evolve on the fly. We do a good bit of research and talk often to people in the industry who are well-informed about the big picture and also the nuances that might affect us. That doesn’t mean we change our core competency. We don’t. We improve in the areas we know best, but we also know we have to adapt to new ways of doing business.

Who has been a mentor to you?

Warren Kieding. He established the business practices of the firm that have allowed us to prosper over the past 45 years. Warren very frequently reminded all of us that our product is documentation, and the precision of those documents could never be sacrificed. He also stressed that the senior project managers should take ownership of each client and operate independently to develop our voice and personal style. That lesson in leadership has served me well over the years, and it’s still the foundation of the firm today.

Do you promote the firm as a woman-owned business? 

Not really. Our entire senior management are all women, so that speaks for itself. We don’t need to advertise it. In fact, seventy percent of our staff right now is female, but it was seventy percent male when I was hired here twenty-one years ago. So, I’ve seen both cultures up close and personal. Fairness, compassion and mutual respect have been the cornerstone of this firm regardless of gender mix. That leans toward the touchy-feely side, but it has worked very well for us. I have a softer management style than many, but the core values are still in place. I’m very proud of our team. Of course, I’m conscious of the struggles that many women still have in the industry, and there is a lot of social and cultural work yet to be done. I’m encouraged by the many women in high executive positions that we have the privilege of working with. And it’s great to see more women entrepreneurs stepping out, like the many women-preferred co-working outfits coming here from all over the country.

What do you like most about the job?

Problem-solving. Managing both the elements of the project and the people involved with it. I still enjoy the daily challenges and finding new and creative ways to meet them. I’m a details person. Most of my day revolves around answering questions, teaching, dealing with different personalities and working with color and design. I also like to mentor the smart young people in our office as often as I possibly can. It makes me feel that there is hope for us after all.

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