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Birmingham’s KMS building a business reputation, family legacy at the same time

The focus at KMS is to keep projects moving, from interstates to bank ATMs.

“We are a turn-key management company – one-point of contact,” explained Jay Kemp, the company’s relationship manager. “We handle a project from start to finish.”

Three months after celebrating its 10th anniversary, KMS continues to grow by building a reputation while diversifying its approach. And it starts with an inner core that’s all family:

“James is very concrete, factual,” Mike Kemp explained. “Jaylen (Jay) is very conceptual. Having both of them together has been a treat to watch. They play off each other well.”

Parents dream of building a business, then making it a family affair. That was always the hope of the elder Kemps, but never a declaration. The aspiration was that the sons would come in on their own, then earn their way.

That’s just how it worked out.

“Working for my dad wasn’t something he pressured me to do,” said James. “When I came out after earning my MBA, I just saw an opportunity to learn.”

While Mike’s background was in civil engineering, James enjoyed drawing as a kid and dreamed of being an architect. As he got older, his interest moved to the stock market and a potential future in capital markets. But he also saw what his father was building.

“I knew I’d have the opportunity to learn more here than I would anywhere else,” James said, “while also contributing to the family legacy.”

Jay is the most recent addition. After graduating from Birmingham-Southern College, he spent six months elsewhere before joining the KMS team.

“It was a dream for all of us to work together, but I wanted to go somewhere else first, get experience and validate myself,” Jay said.

The brothers are already validating themselves, teaming to launch a new software application called Frameworq. The app helps businesses manage ongoing construction and facilities management projects from beginning to end, making the most vital information available on a laptop or cell phone.

Marcus Lundy, Regions’ supplier diversity function manager, believes Frameworq will be transformative: “Frameworq will become a business verb like Zoom.”

With that in mind, the Kemps are focused on raising capital for the venture and fine-tuning the application so it can be taken to the next level.

“We want to be innovative,” James said. “We have a new product that has a place in the world.”

“I’ve been around Regions a long time, since 2003,” said Mike of a relationship that began when he worked for a national construction company. “After starting KMS, I maintained those relationships. I talk to my boys all the time about how important it is to maintain relationships.”

Just before its 10th anniversary, KMS moved into a gleaming new facility in Birmingham’s Pepper Place district, a space that offers opportunities for collaboration but provides social distance. It includes a 32-person training room, which will allow a new joint effort with the University of Alabama at Birmingham – the Project Management Academy – to grow on the KMS campus. Investing in their team’s success is at the forefront of the Kemps’ minds.

With Mike focused on the project management end, and the brothers on building the new software application, the business continues to grow. And so, do the relationships, which have always been deep and grow ever stronger.

“I don’t take it for granted,” James said. “We all bring something unique to the company.”

“We all have roles to play,” Jay added.

There are boundaries. Work doesn’t drift into family time.

“Our work life dynamic is unique. However, when work is done for the day it’s always family first, and the huge bonus is we genuinely care for each other,” Ursula Kemp said. “Focusing on how we keep things in balance is something we all work at individually.“

Those are the rules. No deviation.

“I’m proud of where we are. My saying is that we haven’t reached that pinnacle yet, but there are some things that are pretty exciting about the future,” Mike said.

And they’ll tackle that future together. As a family.

(Courtesy of Regions)