Embracing the Risk of Leaving the Cubicle

36°N Editors Note: We're excited to announce The Persimmon Group as our newest community partner. The following is a note from their founder and CEO Bill Fournet on why the company decided to come alongside us in our mission to support Tulsa's entrepreneurs.

In 2001, I left my corporate cubicle with my box of standard cube art items—family photos, awards, and lidless pens—and stepped into controlling my future. My safety line of a steady paycheck, benefits, stability, and retirement was cut.  What had I done?  For me, it was a no-brainer:  I was done with feelings of constraint and under-appreciation, along with their friend, futility.  Staring into a future of unknowns with a wife and two young children (with a third unknowingly on the way), as the single income-earner for our young family, there was a daunting aspect to this.  But, I had the confidence that no matter what, it would be okay.

Flash forward three years of solo work, and I was ready to start something more. I formed The Persimmon Group in 2004, along with another area consultant who shared similar philosophies about what the market needed.  We soon went to three people, then 5, then 10, and so on.  I was building something substantial in our company that reflected and lived the values and principles for which I left that cubicle back in 2001.  Now, 13 years later, there have been amazing people, clients, and projects.  There have also been tough years, travel from my family, and the weight of all my employees and their families on my shoulders.  Business is not easy.  Most think it looks cool, but run as soon as it gets tough.  If I had it all to do again, would I change my decision to start this path?  Hell no.

Bill Fournet, Founder and CEO of The Persimmon Group

Bill Fournet, Founder and CEO of The Persimmon Group

So, why did I do this?  Looking back on my life, there have been four things I have always done: 1) Solve difficult challenges, 2) Create things, 3) Take calculated risks, and 4) Help people realize their potential—personally and as a team.  From Boy Scout backpacking treks to school clubs, I threw myself into activities that hit all four of these.  Load up a U-Haul and move to Seattle without knowing anyone or a job? Did it.  Job in New York at MTV? Sure.  I share these, not to boast but because I believe these four items are the keys to being an entrepreneur.  You must be relentless in your pursuit of your passions, confident in your capabilities, and real with yourself to know learning is constant (and if you think you know everything, then failure is around the next corner).

Taking these four keys, I founded Persimmon with the desire to create a family of team members who, like a family, may not always like each other but must love each other (this was my lesson from my first job in Seattle at a local restaurant).  Persimmon is a flat organization where people may serve in different roles due to experience or expertise, but we are all equal as human beings—no one is better than another (this was a lesson from my parents).  And Persimmon works with its team members to support their family and personal needs—if someone is dealing with a sick family member or needs to attend a school event, we rally to support them for that (my personal belief that work is one aspect to life—and not the most important).

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are the front-lines of innovation, adaptation, and community.  They are intimate with their employees and give back to the places they live.  They sustain us.   And that’s why we are proud to be part of the 36 Degrees North family.  I support the challenge each member has taken on and thank our fellow sponsors for enabling this garden to grow.

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As part of 36 Degrees North's partnership with The Persimmon Group, 36°N members get access to free Persimmon classes, both online and in person. Contact us if you'd like to sign up for a class.

PLUS members can attend a special workshop with Bill at 36°N on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Reserve your spot here.