screenshot of podium technology
Podium’s technology allows businesses to connect with customers via text, email, online or through social media. — Podium

Podium knows how tough it can be for small businesses to grow. After all, it was a pretty small business itself five years ago. The Utah-based company provides businesses with tech tools to connect with their customers. Podium started with just two founders working from an apartment in 2014. Today, it has 600 employees and $60 million in sales in 2018.

The irony of Podium’s growth is that it is entwined so closely with the growth of its own customers.

“We are helping small businesses grow quickly, that’s why we’re growing, too,” said Eric Rea, CEO and co-founder of Podium. We’re helping them grow and hire and our growth is a reflection of how we’re helping those businesses that have been neglected by technology.”

We are helping small businesses grow quickly, that’s why we’re growing, too.

Eric Rea, CEO and co-founder, Podium

Join Us!

Join CO— and our keynote speaker Daymond John at our Summit for small and growing businesses in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16-17, 2019. We hope to see you there!


Cheers,
CO—

Podium’s technology, which it describes as an “interaction management tool,” allows businesses to connect with customers via text, email, online or through social media. It ties all those communications together in one internal tool so that companies can manage customer interactions, keep track of them and assign them internally.

The system solves a growing problem for small businesses whose customers have an increasing number of options for communicating with them, which often leaves businesses that have limited customer service resources struggling to keep up.

The product, which started out as a tool to help encourage customers to leave reviews, can be used by businesses of all types. Its first customer was a Utah-based auto shop (which still uses the product). While Podium still focuses on serving small businesses, it’s gotten the attention of some bigger companies, too. Clients include 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, La-Z-Boy and Vivint. It’s also gotten the attention of investors. It has received $92 million in venture funding, including investments from Silicon Valley's Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from GV (formerly Google Ventures), Accel, Summit Partners and Y Combinator.

The company’s rocket-fast growth has also earned it the rank of No. 52 on the 2019 Inc. 5,000 list, showcasing the fastest growing companies in America.

Podium founders Eric Rea and Dennis Steele interviewed at CO— Salt Lake City event.
 Eric Rea headshot
Eric Rea, CEO and co-founder of Podium. — Podium

Slow growth before fast

Managing that kind of growth would be a challenge for any business, but Rea and Dennis Steele, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, say that fast-paced growth started with very deliberate — and often slow — decisions.

“We got really good at hiring people,” Rea said. “In the beginning, we were really focused on finding the right people not just the people that showed up. Sometimes we would wait nine months to fill a key position.”

That patience paid off. Those key hires helped the company put in place systems and processes that has allowed it to grow faster than Rea and Steele ever could have imagined.

The company is growing so fast, in fact, that they are hiring as many as 40 new employees a month. Last year they built a 125,000-square-foot office space in Lehi, Utah. They are currently building a second 125,000-square-foot office that will include an in-house child care facility for employees’ children.

 Dennis Steele headshot
Dennis Steele, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Podium. — Podium

DIY first

Rea and Steele dove into entrepreneurship knowing what they didn’t know. In fact, Rea, who was a software engineer with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Steele, who had a marketing and communications background, said they were actually not at all prepared to start a technology company.

Concerned that the technical skills they did have were outdated, the two enrolled themselves in coding boot camp and attended five nights a week and every Saturday for three months after starting the business.

Their commitment to getting into the weeds paid off.

“We needed to understand how it all works,” said Steele. “Having that background of understanding what was going on helped us so much to understand that side of the product. It also allowed us to fill product manager role for a long time.”

Together the pair have built a company that is not only serving customers, but its employees, as well. Word has spread about how happy its employees are. The pair say they receive hundreds of applications for each opening, despite the fact that Utah has a very low unemployment rate.

“Our reputation is that Podium is a place where you can grow and feel fulfillment,” Rea said. “It’s now also known as a place where you can come make a difference.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published August 28, 2019