Tim Opsitnick

Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Send the right message

"I don’t know how to do that.”

Most business leaders wouldn’t think that’s a great comment to hear from their employees, but at JurInnov Ltd., we’ve created a workplace where our 24 employees are actually encouraged to say that.

JurInnov, a technology company that provides litigation support services to law firms and corporate legal departments, has grown by leaps and bounds since being founded in 2000, including an annual growth rate of 50 to 60 percent the last three years.

For us to maintain our rate of growth, our employees need to grow and evolve, as well. And that means that, at times, people are asked to perform tasks that they are not familiar with or that we have never done before. The only way that we can be successful is for employees to feel able to ask for help, additional resources and expertise to get the job done, and to create an environment where they feel they can make mistakes without fear of being second-guessed.

We went through a period where our infrastructure grew markedly, and we were hiring people to support the growth, but you can only hire so fast. So you work hard at getting your direct reports and supervisors to understand that you are not walking around with a sword to take people’s heads off, and then encourage them to do the same with their direct reports.

You take the extreme examples and openly dissect what went wrong, and you underscore that it’s nobody’s fault. When people see there is no hunt for the guilty, but rather, a focus on learning, they respond.

We work hard at this, creating project plans, identifying knowledge gaps and risks, and we debrief after every project to identify lessons learned. I expect people not only to admit when they make a mistake but to also lead the charge for brainstorming a solution.

The only way we have found to maintain those standards is to empower employees to be as aggressive and passionate about learning and developing new skills as they are about client service.

TIM OPSITNICK is founder, senior partner and general counsel of JurInnov Ltd. (www.jurinnov.com) and a member of the Cleveland Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (www.eonetwork.org), an international organization of business owners dedicated to helping each other learn and grow.