By Bryan Bonahoom
Kevin Hinkle is the LEGO Community Manager for the Americas. What does this mean and is Kevin the right man for the job? Well, obviously we think he is the right man for the job (note the title of this post if there is any doubt what we think).
If you haven't met Kevin Hinkle at a LEGO fan event in the Americas, then you really need to go to more fan events. Kevin attends 6 or so events a year. One in Canada. One in South America (well, there is only one in South America). And, four in the US. This may sound disproportionate. But it is not. Most of the events in the Americas take place in the US (Brickworld has 4).
Kevin has a job with The LEGO Group that is very unique among jobs in general. In fact, LEGO is the only company we are aware of that actually has team members like Kevin on what they call "The Community Team". Their only purpose is to be the liaison between the company and the fan base.
Is his job to answer all of our questions? No, not really. In fact, at Brickworld we stopped even having a Q&A session with Kevin during large group gatherings because we were tired of the phrase "I can't discuss future sets" (or something to that effect). That phrase was uttered countless times by Kevin and his predecessors (whom we also liked). So, if he can't answer all of our questions, then what can he do for us?
Kevin can answer some of your questions. Ask him about LEGO User Groups, how LEGO supports user groups, he can answer process questions, and he might even be able to help guide you toward a way to apply for discounted parts to support a special project.
Kevin is usually listening. And, he is a good listener. He strives to take messages from the community and consolidate them into something coherent and actionable for the company. Does this mean he takes our messages to the company and we always get exactly what we want/ask for? No, it does not mean this at all. If that was the case, I think I would ask for unlimited free parts with a delivery lead time of 4 hours and the ability to send back parts I am not using. What the heck, if they are free, then why should I bother storing anything? It would eliminate my least favorite activity: Sorting.
Kevin is fair and even. Or, at least he tries to be whenever it is possible. Kevin has to work within a set of constraints. He is doing this as a job, not a hobby like most of us. So, he has to watch out for the rules and procedures set forth by his boss and the company.
Kevin is responsive. One of Kevin's roles is to provide support to the multitude of events that occur all over the Americas whether he is attending personally or not. This means he is getting sets shipped, monitoring bulk orders of parts, working with store managers from the Brand Retail side of the business, addressing the concerns of people running events, and keeping his sanity through it all.
Do the simple math on Kevin's time: About 3 weeks a year visiting Denmark for team meetings, a week in South America (because it would be pointless to go for a shorter period of time), probably 3 weeks of vacation, maybe he is sick for a week total (he does not have conthrax immunity), and about 2 weeks of holidays throughout the year.
This leaves 42 weeks or 210 days to do the rest of his job. Attending 5 other events eats up 15 of those days. There are another 12 conventions and probably 200 RLUG events that he supports throughout the year. If he spends just 4 hours on an RLUG event then he is spending 800 hours or 100 days of time there. If he spends 24 hours doing all the prep, approvals, and followup for each convention, there went another 51 days. If he spends 2 hours per RLUG for their annual needs (eg - LUGBulk order) and there are about 80 RLUGs then there went another 20 days.
Now he is down to just 24 days to do all the other interaction (both internal and external), planning, and executing. Take away department weekly meetings (1 hour per week) and report writing (1 hour per week) and there went about another 13 days and he is down to 45 days a year - less than 1/2 day per week to keep up with everything LEGO is doing and everything the community is doing.
So, just to keep his sanity requires a lot of effort.
Kevin Hinkle is awesome because none of this ever shows. When you are with Kevin, you are the only thing that matters. And, he doesn't forget to follow up with you if he promises to check on something (well, not often at least).
So, THANKS KEVIN FOR BEING AWESOME!