The pillars of my company, and the ones I love.
We don’t sell services at Penrod, we sell culture. When Chris and I started this company, we wanted to build a place that wasn’t about money or fame but about people actually wanting to come to work. Creating that kind of company comes down to the culture — how people act when the boss isn’t around. We put a lot of thought into what ours should look like and over time we’ve developed 14 pillars. I’m going to focus on 5 of my favorites and why I believe they’re so important.
Penrod’s Culture Pillars:
1. Live with purpose. Give a damn.
2. Be Honest. Integrity matters.
3. Winners Win. Enough said.
4. Positive thought. Positive action.
5. Be agile. Adapt and adopt.
6. Fuck mediocrity. That’s for them, not us.
7. Obsess. The work never ends, enjoy the journey.
8. Be silly. Have fun.
9. Be patient. Right place, right time is undefeated.
10. Performance. Less Ego, More Excellence.
11. Write your own story, no one else will.
12. Do You. Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
13. Use your best judgement. Play by the rules, but be ferocious.
14.The spirit of growth, personally and professionally, should always shine through.
Live with purpose. Give a damn.
We want each of our people to want to be here, so they need to know their why. Why are they here at Penrod? And it’s got to be about more than money. If they’re coming in every morning to sit at a desk and collect a paycheck, they need to find what their true passion is because life is about so much more than money.
Be honest. Integrity matters.
In the beginning, we were wrong a lot because we were learning. But the thing that helped us survive was honesty with ourselves, our employees, and our customers. If you haven’t read Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, it’s a must — that’s what we’re trying to do here — create an environment where we care personally but challenge problems directly.
We have lots of people who love our culture here and who would be disappointed if they had to leave. These people tend to attract other great cultural fits. But we’ve had others who aren’t the right fit, and so our environment of radical candor means we help people realize that we may not be the best place for them.
At Penrod, we pursue a competitive spirit. We want to hire people who want to succeed as a team, because when we succeed, our customers succeed. We’ve created several team-like environments for the same person. We change how and where people sit every 90 days. Each of our employees is seated in a pod with three other coworkers. Together, these pods compete as a team against other pods in various fun tasks throughout the quarter.
One another level, each individual is part of a departmental team like sales or customer success. No one individual does one job. Everyone always works in a team environment. What we find is that a team-based culture helps them amplify their best work.
Another thing about winners? They take risks. They learn to be willing to fail over and over again until they succeed. Take Vera Wang, for instance. She worked at Vogue for 17 years and then at Ralph Lauren for a few years after that. It wasn’t until she was 40 that she quit her stable job, became an independent clothing designer, and went on to design wedding gowns for major celebrities. If she had stayed at Ralph Lauren for the rest of her career, we may have never heard her name. As it is, she took a major risk and has become one of the world’s most famous designers.
Positive thought creates positive action.
Negativity doesn’t make the team better. When we constantly complain and focus on obstacles, we’ll never take positive action. Instead, when we focus on the good — the good in our people and our customers, the good in our work, and the good in our company — we move forward.
Understand that a spirit of growth personally and professionally should always shine through.
Paul Graham said that “A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of ‘exit.’ The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.”
Penrod embodies that. We call Penrod a growth company meaning we are growing a certain percentage in revenue year-over-year. But more than that, we value personal and professional growth. We are always changing, mostly for the better, and we want the same for our people When bad change does happen, we self-correct quickly so any negative growth is temporary.
Stretch goals and A-players
We encourage our employees to grow by helping them set stretch goals. 80% of 100 is better than 100% of 50. It’s easy to get stuck in a college mentality that individual good grades are the only thing that matters. Sure, good grades were important, but school is over now. In the real world, you have to work as a team.
In basketball, the A-teams are made up of A-players because A-players want to play with other A-players. We’re not talking about the ball hogs here who think everything is about them. We’re talking about those super successful people who motivate their team members to be productive. We don’t tolerate cut throat behavior, but we do value employees who work hard and help drive other employees.
Rockstars and superstars and why we need both.
At Penrod, we think of people in two different categories: the rockstars and the superstars. Superstars experience exponential career growth — they move up the ladder quickly. Rockstars are the ones who perfect their craft. Both types of people are needed because we need managers and we need someone to write code.
Growing sometimes means outgrowing Penrod.
The final point I want to make about a growth culture is that valuing the personal growth of our people means that we understand that some of them will grow out of Penrod. For some, we may not have the next position for them to grow into, and as much as we hate to lose them, any success outside of Penrod should be celebrated.
Driven by success
Our mission statement sums it up pretty well: Our success is driven by our culture, our culture is driven by our people, and our people are driven by success.