Corporate culture nurtures creativity at PDS

Craig Schiefelbein

Chief executive officer

Paragon Development Systems

1823 Executive Dr., Oconomowoc

Craig Schiefelbein co-founded Paragon Development Systems (PDS) in 1986. The Oconomowoc-based technology integration company has grown from a few original co-founders to more than 300 employees. It grew 38 percent last year alone and is on track this year to nearly double in size from three years ago.

According to Schiefelbein, chief executive officer of the company, said the company started out with a narrow focus but over the years has spread out and now provides a variety of products and services. That willingness to change focus and do more has helped the company grow its annual revenues, which are now approaching $250 million.

“The status quo is dead,” Schiefelbein said. “Historically it has always been that way in our industry, but now it seems everywhere you look there is emergence of new technologies that allow collaboration like never before.”

Paragon Development Systems provides IT management support, hardware, software and services to medium and large organizations in the health care, government, education, corporate and professional services sectors.

“We have multiple types of innovation that drive success in our industry,” Schiefelbein said. “Innovation doesn’t have to mean creating the next iPad. For us it happens at all levels in the organization and we do it constantly to remain competitive in our industry.”

According to Schiefelbein, the company has re-created its business model at least seven different times throughout its 25 year history.

“We routinely rethink the way our organization runs, goes to market, and what products are important at that time in history,” Schiefelbein said. “Everything we did from a product standpoint three or four years ago we no longer do. Strategic innovation and fostering a culture of organizational agility is key to growing a company.”

It isn’t enough to say the company culture must be innovative and expect it to be innovative, Schiefelbein said.

“You have to foster a culture and an environment that prompts innovative thinking. There has to be transparency from leadership that allows our employees to understand where we are, where we are going and where we want to be,” he said. “There must be clarity in defining what the purpose of an organization is so an ecosystem where everyone can contribute ideas and innovation on behalf of the customer becomes a natural condition.”

PDS holds more than 400 certifications in assembly, installation, and support of computer systems and services. Twice Scheifelbein has been named a finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. He says he has grown his business by staying focused.

“We’ve also managed to grow by turning down business that doesn’t fit with our strategic goals or strategy,” Scheifelbein said. “It’s important to maintain a good relationship with your customers, so we evaluate their corporate culture and try to make sure they understand the difference between a partner and a vendor. We haven’t grown by going after every single book of business. That’s now how we do things.”

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