Rackspace CEO Taylor Rhodes
Rackspace CEOTaylor Rhodes Credit: Courtesy / Taylor Rhodes

Rackspace President and CEO Taylor Rhodes was one of three guest speakers at a business symposium on Thursday at Trinity University. It was his first public appearance since the official announcement of Rackspace going private was made Thursday.

In an intimate classroom setting, Rhodes addressed more than 20 people, many of them students. He talked about how he applies leadership skills learned in the U.S. Marine Corps to the business world.

Rhodes said one of many things he enjoys as a corporate leader is the ability to help create high-paying quality jobs in an industry filled with innovation.

He added that Rackspace has always been in the business of serving other businesses and providing them technological support over the years.

“In business, you’re creating economic wealth for individuals,” Rhodes said. “This is what Rackspace does for San Antonio.”

Rhodes briefly discussed how and why Rackspace began in the 1990s, recalling how its original leaders saw themselves as making computing simpler for businesses.

“We exist to deliver fanatical support for companies that are having a hard time finding the technical support and capital to put web applications on the Internet,” he explained of Rackspace’s initial mission.

But over time, Rhodes said, Rackspace became more of a software company. He noted how different the software development culture is from the support/service culture.

Rhodes said Rackspace going private was partially due to the company getting further away from competing on its main strengths as the cloud computing marketplace got more crowded. This was especially true with the arrival of Amazon Web Services, he added.

“Amazon had way more technical prowess and capital. It was a scale-intensive and price-intensive business,” Rhodes explained. “It wasn’t place for which we were well suited. We didn’t know it at the time.”

Rhodes said Rackspace had essentially “forgotten what it set out to do.” In serving as CEO, he said his responsibility lies in bringing necessary change to the company and guiding it into a new era.

On the same token, he acknowledged that change could not come without difficult decisions, such as selling off some businesses and laying off employees.

“Change is hard, especially in strong cultures like Rackspace, where there are a lot of prominent core values,” he said. “We’ve had to reposition assets and start new businesses. We’ve had to deal with getting out of businesses that we can’t compete in now.”

Rhodes did not address what specifically lies ahead for Rackspace. He said the company’s new owner, Apollo Global Management, believes in Rackspace’s mission and values and that it “should play to (its) strengths.”

“So, here we are – company entering a new milestone with culture intact,” said Rhodes. “A personal success for me is leading Rackspace through these hard times into our next generation of success.”

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.