Creating a Sound Plan for Growth and Success


Out-Of-Tune HR and Payroll Practices

On his debut album, Prince is said to have played every single instrument – all 27 of them. At Intonation Music, students don’t need to learn quite that many, but they do learn the basics of drums, bass, guitar, piano and voice, forming their own bands as a way to learn the value of teamwork and find their voices as individuals.

Based in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, Intonation makes music accessible to area kids by providing them with instruments, instruction, mentorship, and the chance to perform on stages across the city. But while the focus on teamwork and collaboration was succeeding with students, things were less harmonious both organizationally and operationally behind the scenes. Intonation’s Executive Director, Mike Simons, knew they needed to make changes, but the question was how. Intonation needed someone with the expertise not only to assess the organization, but also help implement the necessary changes through hands-on support and the right industry connections.

Intonation Music
Intonation Music students perform


Streamlining Processes and Procedures

When Kris signed on to help Intonation, she quickly impressed Simons with her insightful and practical analysis of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and her ability to ask the tough questions to help Intonation achieve its goals.

“She saw pretty quickly that there were big chunks of work that weren’t being managed by any dedicated staff members, and that included HR and finance processes and procedures,” Simons says. “Kris offered detailed and practical recommendations to help us streamline.”

Kris helped Intonation design a new payroll system for instructors, providing benchmarking research that dramatically simplified the organization’s pay structure while ensuring individual instructors were paid appropriately. On the HR front, Kris worked with Intonation to identify tasks that had previously been neglected and develop processes to manage them efficiently. Kris also helped to find an area provider to implement new HR technology for the organization, while assisting with a robust training and professional development schedule for each staff member.

Partnering with providers based in the Greater Bronzeville area is important to Intonation, and Kris proved to be a valuable resource there as well. Through her large professional network, she was able to connect them with a number of key contractors, including a woman-owned software company and minority IT strategic planning consultants from the immediate and nearby neighborhoods.


Setting the Stage for Future Success

Since 2005, Intonation has helped thousands of students in third grade through high school explore their potential by learning to play instruments and forming their own bands. Intonation’s programs are designed to help kids take charge of their own direction, something the organization itself has done by working with Kris. By providing the organization with practical and achievable recommendations, she has helped streamline both HR and payroll processes and free Intonation up to focus on what matters.

“Before, we were paying instructors lots of different rates to do lots of different things. Kris helped us roll that all up into one rate, which really helped us to simplify the back end and make the whole operation more efficient,” Simons says.

Similarly, Kris provided Intonation with a detailed HR roadmap that gave staff concrete steps to follow, making the transition to new roles easier for everyone. That’s why, in the world of consultants and technical assistance providers, Intonation considers Kris a true rock star.

"When it comes to HR and organizational structure, Kris is just so insightful and well-versed, so direct and practical and thorough, that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her to anyone. She’s an incredibly generous provider, someone whose heart is really in the work."
Mike Simmons
Mike Simons
Executive Director, Intonation