Why I Co-founded Penrod, by Joseph Taylor - CEO

December 5th, 2017 • 8 min read

When I was in 2nd grade, my school decided I was gifted. I was supposed to jump ahead a grade. A part of the process was that I had to write a short story and present it. I remember having to do it over and over until it was perfect. Then one day I decided to just start over and throw away everything I did. None of the teachers understood why I did it. They implored me to rewrite what I already did. I didn't care. I just wanted to create things, not perfect things.

In 8th grade I knew for sure what I wanted to do with my life, and that was to start my own company. Someone had just shown me how to change the color of a website, and I was fascinated.

I watched people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and how they were changing the world through technology, and I knew I wanted something similar for my life. I read everything I could about icons like them to help me understand why they were so successful. In high school and college, I focused my efforts on business, marketing, and tech classes, and I was always pushing myself to learn and take on new challenges.

Never meant to have a boss

A defining moment came in my life at 19. I was working at a bank and was trying to decide whether to pursue a career in finance or one in tech. I asked my boss, the CEO of the bank, and his response was that no matter what I did, I was never meant to have a boss.

The rest of my 20s proved him right. I had jobs in different sectors because I wanted to learn every part of running a business, but at jobs where the boss was hands on, it didn’t go well. On the other hand, when I was in an environment where I had freedom to make decisions, I thrived.  

When I saw my 30s looming, I knew now was the time. I had done all the learning I could about starting a business. I was also aware that I probably knew nothing, but it was time to test it out anyway.

My friend Chris and I got together and started planning just what kind of company we wanted to start and what it would look like. Initially, we didn’t know what industry we wanted to be in or even the product we would offer, but we did know exactly the values we wanted our company to have.

Employees are the backbone of every company, and at my company they would be valued.

Joseph Taylor

Happiness and Helpfulness

One company I really admire is Zappos. In the beginning when we had a decision to make, we’d often ask “what would Zappos do?” The thing that differentiated Zappos from the competitive market around it was its emphasis on helpfulness.

It empowered its employees to make decisions to help customers, and as a result, Zappos practically became a synonym for rockstar customer service. Happy customers helped them build trust in the marketplace. Even people who had never bought from them trusted them.

This is what I wanted - a company that built trust. That trust doesn’t come through marketing and sales but through caring about the customer and delivering on promises.

From the very beginning, I sought out helpful people to work with us. Initially, we may not have had the resources to hire the people with the most experience but we could hire helpful people, and that’s what made the difference in who we are today. We evaluated how helpful they were to the community around them and to coworkers, and the ones who stood out for their kindness, gratitude, and generosity were the people we choose to work with us.

Building a company based solely on the bottom line and how much money we could make wouldn’t be worth it in the end. Instead, I wanted to create a good company that gives back to its community and its employees. Employees are the backbone of every company, and at my company they would be valued.

My goal was to give real people a place where they could love their work and a place that empowered them to do good - both at work and in their community. A happy and engaged employee would have a direct impact on how helpful we are able to be to our customers.

What industry could use more happy, helpful people?

Once Chris and I determined that we wanted to stand out for our helpfulness, we took a look at the competitive marketplace to find industries where this type of company was lacking. As it turns out, the professional services field needed a company driven by customer service.

Even though a consulting firm is essentially a customer service firm, most of them out there weren’t focused on customer service. Often, we found, employees and management don’t show gratitude toward their customers. They complain about difficult customers instead of showing empathy.

When Chris and I started Penrod, we wanted how we value our people and our customers, even our most difficult ones, to be our main competitive advantage. We’ve found that when we are happy and appreciative to our most difficult clients - when we kill them with kindness - they become a true partner because they trust and respect us.

Our values and the culture we’ve embraced make all the difference in how we do what we do.

Joseph Taylor

Genuineness and Craftsmanship

Our values were also a determining factor in the location we would choose for our company. Chris lived in Milwaukee and I lived in Los Angeles, and while the West Coast is an awesome place to find hard-working people and a great environment for startups, we chose Milwaukee because Midwestern values aligned really well with our values.

Where our company was based would determine the people we hired and we wanted to hire people who were genuine, kind, honest, and who valued true craftsmanship. How our employees grew up was going to affect how they did work and interacted with customers.

I’ve found that Midwesterners are some of the most genuine people you will meet, and that’s what we look for at Penrod. They’re kind and know how to be transparent. They don’t try to be superstars. A huge key to our growth has been hiring people who are looking out for the success of Penrod and their coworkers, not just themselves.

Another thing I love about Milwaukee and the Midwest is that craftsmanship is so highly valued. This region was the center of manufacturing and still is. Milwaukee alone produced Harley Davidson, MillerCoors (not to mention all the other breweries that call Milwaukee home), Johnson Controls, and Milwaukee Tool to name a few.

Milwaukee and the Midwest overall has a rich history of creating amazing products, and the key to this was innovation. Not innovation in the sense of major overhauls, but innovation in the sense of consistent, small improvements over time. Small changes over time make truly great products, and Silicon Valley has latched on to this and even studied 20th century manufacturers to replicate them.

Each of our other offices is based in a Midwestern city with other claims to fame, and overall I’ve found that people here are proud of what they produce and really get how to innovate. They’ve been known for creating valuable products for generations and that skill is instilled in the Midwest’s current workforce. Even though we’re a professional services firm, we need people who value our product and take pride in it.

It’s not about what we do. It’s about who we are.

After a few different iterations, we finally became a consulting firm that works exclusively in the Salesforce ecosystem. But Chris and I didn’t just start Penrod to just help customers implement a platform. We started Penrod because we wanted to be part of a great company built around strong values that delivers on the promises we make to our customers. Our values and the culture we’ve embraced make all the difference in how we do what we do.

Why is it called Penrod?

We wanted something professional, and we wanted something fun, so we returned to our childhood and both loved the cartoon dog Penrod Pooch, aka Hong Kong Phooey. He was an accidental superhero and we felt whatever Penrod became would also be accidental, but still be what we wanted.

- Co-founder and CEO, Joseph Taylor

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