It’s official. Penrod made the Inc. 500. If you asked me five years ago when we started Penrod if we would be an Inc. 500 company, I would have said absolutely, because that has always been my goal. But my cofounder Chris and I couldn’t have done it alone. We have a lot of great people behind us who made it happen.
This day has been a long time in coming. From the day we opened our doors, Chris and I both knew we wanted to start a growth company. Our first two years were tough, though. We were in a totally different business than either of us had been in, and we had a lot of learning to do.
Things really turned around in year three. We started growing by 30% year over year at that point and our newly-formed partnership with Salesforce brought in some large accounts that fueled our growth. Without those customers, we wouldn’t have had a shot, but they took a chance on us, believed in us, and we rewarded them with fantastic service – something we continue to this day.
And now it’s 2017. We’re an Inc. 500 company. Our team has grown from 7 to 60. We’ve gone from offering just a few benefits to being able to give our employees everything from four weeks mandatory vacation to free health and dental insurance. Our first office was 800 square feet; today, we occupy over 30,000 square feet in four cities across North America.
5 Things I’m Most Proud of at Penrod
Along the way, we’ve done some awesome things, and while I’m proud of all of it, there are five things that really stand out.
- Building an amazing company culture We’ve built an amazing culture here that’s not for everyone, but the people it is for really enjoy it. It all came down to being really careful who we hire, especially in the early days. Back then, we couldn’t afford to hire people who had lots of experience, so we looked for high potential people – this included recent college grads, kids who had been valedictorians, and students at the top of their class. They may have lacked work experience, but they joined us ready to succeed and to help our customers.
- Creating a place where our people can grow We don’t just want to hire people, work them to death, and then send them off to find a new job. We also don’t want to hire people who only care about a paycheck. We want our people to grow both personally and career wise. This comes down to making opportunities for them to grow, like ongoing training, not putting limits on how fast they can move in their careers, and paying them what they’re worth.
- We’ve never had a customer fire us From day one, we’ve been a customer-centric company. We didn’t know much about running a professional services business when we started, but we kept our word, were honest, and kept our services on-budget. And just like we’re careful about who we hire, we’re also careful to only work with customers who are providing true value to the world. Because we put them first, our customers reward us by sticking around.
- Learning lots of different businesses and creating solutions that work for those businesses We work with healthcare payers, providers, pharma, and medical device companies. Each new customer brings with them a new business that we get to dive into and learn about. Instead of only trying to close deals, we go through an in-depth discovery period with each customer to find ways we can deliver solutions that provide real value. We learn what they do now and determine best practices to help them improve.
- The energy when I walk into the office everyday We have four offices now. It doesn’t matter which office I’m at – the minute I walk in the door, there’s this energy coming from each of our employees. We’re a tight-knit group and there’s this happy-go-lucky atmosphere where high fives get thrown around a lot. I think our “use your best judgment” policy is behind all this energy. We don’t have a huge employee handbook that makes our people cautious. Other than following legal, moral, and ethical standards, they are free to make decisions that they believe are best.
Top 3 Issues We’ve Faced
There’s plenty I’m proud of, but there’s also plenty we’ve learned in the past five years.
- Learning a new industry we had no experience in Neither Chris nor I had ever worked in a consulting company before. I was in marketing and he was in tech. Along the way, we didn’t always know what we were doing, so we made a lot of mistakes. We’ve got some great people on our team and some incredibly loyal customers, and we’re thankful they stuck with us as we learned.
- Learning to not allow an employee or a customer bring down the culture We’ve learned that when someone is toxic to the culture we’ve worked so hard to build, we can’t keep them around. We’ve had to learn to make hard decisions when needed.
- Figuring out cash flow (thanks Associated Bank!) We never raised capital at any point in Penrod’s history, so we didn’t have big rounds of funding to back up our growth. Thankfully we’ve got a great bank who partnered with us and made sure we had the cash we needed to keep growing.
“The Inc. 500 isn’t our final destination. We’re going to continue to grow and open new offices across the U.S. and around the globe. We’re going to continue delivering value, keeping our customers first, and helping our people grow.”
– Joseph Taylor