CEO of Rodask Jowita Penkala in conversation with Digby Summerhill from Minotti London about the importance of the family business.
Jowita is passionate about watches! She should be, her family has been making timepiece art since 1881. However, she only joined the firm in 2017 to spearhead Rodask’s launch into the UK. Now, she indulge her passion by visiting the world’s elite across the globe where Rodask clients rarely ask about price!
After leaving Poland on a government sponsored initiative, Jowita studied for her Masters in Marketing subsequently working in the USA for several years as a brand professional, learning skills that enabled her to launch and grow the hugely successful Uniqua Brand.
Hit the play button below to watch the full conversation, or read the full transcript below:
Digby Summerhill: Hi, my name is Digby Summerhill. We’re here at Minotti London. And today we are speaking to Jowita Penkala, from the Rodask brand. So Jowita, thank you for coming in. Welcome. Why don’t you give us a brief introduction about yourself and the company.
Jowita Penkala: Thank you very much for having me here. So my name as you’ve mentioned is Jowita Penkala and I am CEO of Rodask. And also, my role is to preserve and protect all the skills and craftsmanship of my family that has been obviously learned over the years, and this enables our company to make amazing and beautiful watches, which are Rodask watches.
Digby: Fantastic. And so you are the fourth generation, is that right in the company?
Jowita: Yes, that’s right. Long time.
Digby: Wow. Over three centuries. And so it’s yourself and your brother that work in the company currently.
Jowita: Correct. Yes, absolutely. It’s fully family business. We don’t employ any other people outside the family. Only of course if it’s to help with other stuff like a little bit of marketing, et cetera. But when it comes to making watches, it’s just within the family.
Digby: Yeah. I can relate to that. Minotti and Minotti London are both family businesses and also maybe a little bit nerve wracking at times, right?
Jowita: Of course.
Digby: You’re kind of trying to be the steward of this legacy.
Digby: And so what about your vision for the legacy for the future? Because obviously this is past, but can you tell us a little bit about your vision of the future of the legacy?
Jowita: I have a big imagination. So I really am very, very high. And I just really feel in my heart that I was put in this position, ironically only after my dad died eight years ago, to make sure that his legacy will live perhaps almost forever, I would say. That would be my aim and my purpose.
We are very strong in terms of what we stand for, our values, and we will never break those values when it comes to for example, compared to making profit. For us, the most important is the legacy of the brand, being known or well known around the world because currently, we are very well known in some parts of Europe, which is obviously Poland and a little bit of Russia.
But my aim is to make sure that the name is known around the world, within small circles of people because we only make around 40 watches per year.
Digby: Wow. Yeah. So very, very limited, very, very focused.
Jowita: Absolutely. And each watch is unique, one of a kind. So we don’t make watches and try to sell them, it’s by commission only. So when a client comes in, we take a brief and then we work with the clients to make sure that they have something extraordinary, one of a kind.
Digby: So that sounds really interesting. So could you maybe talk us through that process of, if I wanted to have a spoke watch made and what that process would look like, how much time that would take?
Jowita: So if you were a client, I would meet you, discuss, the most important question is why you want to have a watch made, because we don’t just make beautiful looking watches, we want the watch to tell a story of our client. So it’s an emotional involvement, that’s the biggest probably part in making our watch, or a watch for a client.
So we sit down and we ask for a reason why this watch is being made. What special moment or a particular situation in your life you would like to commemorate with the watch. And then once we drill down into the story and the emotional side of the specific situation or moment in your life, then we start the process of taking a brief for this particular watch you want to have made.
Once this is obviously as you know, with any creative designs, whether it’s a design for interiors or anything else, when it comes to creativity, there’s a little bit of back and forth coming in, going on and creating something absolutely amazing and extraordinary. So this process usually takes around two to three months.
And once you would accept and approve the design, which is made in 3D render, then this is the time, zero, as we call it. And this is the time where pretty much we are in control of what we are doing next, which is the process of making the watch exactly as it is seen on the design. And this takes… again, depending on what watch we are making, it takes from five to six months up to 18 months-
Jowita: … for a watch to be made. But of course, during the time when the client waits for a watch, we communicate with the client, we sent authentic videos from the workshop.
What sort of stages that the watch is going through to make sure that obviously eventually, it creates something extraordinary. And eventually once the watch is made, we make a big splash how we deliver the watch to a client as well, depending of course where the client is, because obviously there are some restrictions where we can travel to deliver the watch, but that’s roughly the process.
Digby: Wow. So it’s very involved in the beginning and then-
Digby: … you even get to kind of be on the journey with the watch maker.
Jowita: Absolutely. And the anticipation, because it’s all handmade or mostly all handmade. Sometimes things go wrong and you need to start from scratch. So hence the process takes so much time.
Digby: Yeah. Because every component-
Jowita: We need to calculate some errors into the time waiting or the leak time for having a watch made.
Digby: Yeah. Because everything needs to be perfect, I suppose.
Digby: And you mentioned before that you only recently joined the business. So you didn’t always know that you wanted to be in the family business, or?
Jowita: No. I never wanted to, to be honest. My father always tried to make me actually become a watchmaker. I never wanted to. I was really fascinated with how he makes the watches and watching him, observing him how he does it. And I was mesmerised by it, but never felt in my heart really that I want to become like his, a watchmaker.
And ironically, only when my dad died eight years ago, I felt something in my heart that I want to join the family business, but not as a watchmaker, of course.
I guess there’s never too late to learn the profession but now, it’s still not in my interest to become a watchmaker. But in a different role, which is obviously creating the vision and overall direction for the firm, and obviously implementing it and making it happen.
Digby: And how was that for your brother who’s the master watchmaker? How was that for him when you joined the business?
Jowita: As you can imagine in a family, there are always some arguments, especially when there are two different people with different characters, personalities.
So there were a lot of clashes at the beginning but eventually, my brother bought into the whole vision of mine. And of course he’s excited, but at the same very scared as well, where I am always only excited.
Digby: Well, it’s difficult. I can appreciate you’re in a family business, sometimes you can clash more than you would with normal colleagues.
Jowita: Absolutely, of course.
Digby: But I also think that when it’s your family, you will always care more about it than you ever would if it was just a job somewhere, it’s really in your essence.
Jowita: Of course, it is in your DNA. It’s very emotional, you put lots of feelings into it and especially when… I’m the fourth generation and I was very close with my dad and I really want his legacy to live forever, or at least for a much, much longer time.
Digby: And speaking of legacy, are there already new family members being trained in the art of watchmaking or in the business?
Jowita: Yes, they are. You’re right. It’s my brother’s son who is already 22, and he’s learning how to obviously make the watches, but he’s also an amazing artist and he loves pencil drawings. So he very often makes the drawings for our clients, which has this special, I would say, feeling to it.
Probably the authenticity of the pencil, rather than just creating something in a 3D render. I guess this is quite raw for our clients and they do appreciate those pencil drawings.
Digby: No, absolutely. I understand. We also work with renders and design digitally, but there is something that appeals greatly to our clients when we still do the hand drawings-
Digby: … or the finish. I think authenticity is a really good word to describe it the way that connects with them.
Jowita: Correct. Absolutely.
Digby: That’s really interesting. And I suppose we’re talking about watches, and about time and time as a personal thing. Aside from being the CEO of a global watch brand, what things do you do in your personal time?
Jowita: I have another passion of mine since I was 10 year old. I love what’s happening in our brain and how it impacts our behaviour, performance and our results. So that’s my passion.
So I love helping other people to improve their lives in an aspect of it, whether it’s business, financial, personal, by helping them to tap into the power of their brain. Which of course, I need to put a little bit of effort to it, but if it’s 10, 30 minutes just to get amazing results in life and feel happy and fulfilled, then I guess that it’s not a big price to pay. So that’s my passion.
So in my spare time, I help other individuals to achieve bigger, better goals. But also, I love a bit of training. So I exercise, hate cardio though. The only thing I do is skipping on a rope in my back garden.
And other than that, I love books, reading books about neuroscience. But not the medical part, more about the behaviour of people and what’s happening in our brain, and what impacts to make specific choices for example, or action. And of course, I love meeting with my friends, socialising and have a drink from time to time as well.
Digby: Wow. It’s a lot of things. I’m impressed that you can fit that in between the work that you want to do, helping others. Neuroscience, certainly not a light subject.
Digby: And even finding time for cardio. I don’t think many people like cardio. I think we all kind of have that sometimes, but we like the end results maybe more than-
Digby: … the time that we put in. So thank you very much for sharing that. And it sounds like you do such a wide variety of things.
You have a vision for the company, you’ve come into it and you’re doing all of these things, it’s really very impressive. What sort of things would you advise to people that aspire to be successful in the watch industry or maybe that work in a legacy brand or in a family business?
Jowita: I think the most important, that’s my strong perhaps point of view, the most important is, instead of actually building just a commercial part of the watch brand, it’s actually build the brand.
And sometimes those two don’t go together. If you have a strong vision for a brand, you should stick to your values and never, never break them. Even if you can see that there is perhaps more profitable option to do something on the side, you should never do it. So for me, if someone wants to develop a successful watch brand, stick to the values.
Or perhaps find out what the values are at the beginning, and stick to them. That’s what would make successful brand, I think.
Digby: Okay. Thank you. And actually, that’s a nice lead in, because you touched on some of the values and not compromising at Rodask.
Digby: Can you tell us a little bit more about your values at the business?
Jowita: So our values are passion, discernity and precision in terms of the work we do. But at the same time, for me, it’s important that we never do more watches than we said that we will, which is around 40.
So if we had a client for example, waiting for, or wanting to have a watch made and he’s outside of the 40 watch brackets per year, we would never compromise to do it just to get more money.
And I am very strong about it. And probably in the next five years, we are already talking with my brother, to decrease the number of watches we are making actually, rather than go the commercial route of obviously increasing revenue.
It’s more for me about the brand and the values, and sticking to it and making sure that people value the brand rather than having a lot of revenue and income coming to our business. So in the next five years, we will be probably decreasing the number of watches to 20 or even less.
Digby: Wow, that’s so nice to hear as well, because I can imagine in today’s world, everybody’s sort of growth is kind of this buzz word that we’re all chasing after.
Digby: And that actually, that’s not what’s important. It’s more about the quality and staying true to the values, which is quite refreshing and quite nice to hear.
Digby: Well, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Thank you for sharing so much information-
Jowita: Thank you.
Digby: … about the values of your business, the heritage of Rodask and the work that you’ve been doing.
Jowita: Thank you very much.
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