When DATATRAK International Inc. hit the Japanese market, Jeffrey A. Green thought the company would instantly thrive there because of Japan’s historically quick adoption of new technology.
But what Green didn’t consider was that software used in Japan must be written in kanji, the Japanese system of writing, and the company’s success in that market took longer than expected. But working through cultural challenges is nothing new for Green and DATATRAK, which provides technology solutions for the global clinical trials industry in 59 countries.
Smart Business spoke with Green, chairman, president and CEO of the $17.7 million company, about the dangers of spin and why you have to be honest — always — about everything.
Q: How would you describe your management style?
I try to find the best people for a position and let them do their job. Unless I vehemently disagree with what route they’re taking, or I don’t believe it’s what we should be doing, I usually give them pretty free rein to get their jobs done.
Support them, and give them what resources they need, and let them go. The only alternative other than that style is you closely micromanage what they do.
Either style has its liabilities. If you pick the wrong person and let them go, they do a certain amount of damage before you figure it out. And if you get a good person and micromanage them, you strangle them.
So obviously, you try to find a happy medium in between. But really, my personality is very hands-off.
Q: What are the critical components of leadership?
The best way to lead is by example. So, as much as I can, I try to lead people because if they see Jeff doing certain things or taking certain stances, ‘That must be what he wants the company to do.’
Being visible is key. My door is always open. People can come in and speak to me about anything they want.
Now, I have to be honest and say that has created challenges. There are certain people who have a belief that you should only go through certain channels. I am not of that belief. I think anybody should be able to bring up whatever they want, to anyone they want, at any time.
At times, that has created issues because maybe their supervisors don’t want them doing that. My stance on it is very simple: If everybody is honest about everything, there is never a problem. The only time there is ever a problem is when somebody wants to either filter the message or conceal the message so they can put the proper spin on it — which I personally detest. I promote direct honesty above everything.
Q: How can employee filtering create problems?
The sales personality is one that likes to bring back the positive information; they don’t like to bring back the negative information. But the negative and the positive information is critical to me if I am to make a judgment on which pathway the company is to go. I have had salespeople filter information to me before, and that filter usually has very detrimental consequences for them.
Imagine how much better a world it would be if we just had one critical factor, and that factor was called honesty. It would eliminate a significant percentage of the world’s problems. Imagine if our politicians were honest a good percent of the time.
Q: What are some other pitfalls to avoid?
You make wrong choices. Everybody makes a wrong choice; the issue is, do you correct it as soon as you identify it? We have a saying around the office: ‘Don’t throw good money after bad.’ If you’ve made a bad decision and it just isn’t working out the way you think, don’t continue to pour resources, thinking you’re going to fix it.
Q: How do you deal with the challenges that come with growth?
The one we fear the most, and I think most companies do, is if you’re growing your sales, you have to be able to deliver it. And you have to be able to deliver quality. In our case, we had one word for our business plan — delivery.
It’s more important than price; it’s more important than selling something to somebody and having them be surprised later. The ability to deliver a good, quality product is our No. 1 priority.
In the technology business, you have to make sure you’re able to scale your systems. You need to make sure you’ve got the personnel in place to monitor the projects you have sold.
HOW TO REACH: DATATRAK International Inc., (440) 443-0082 or www.datatrak.net