Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cautionary tale: Juris jobs gone

Okay, so the Brentwood company's two entrepreneurs are looking for their next mountains to climb...but Nashville is left to reflect on how 70 jobs at the former Juris Inc. will be replaced. LexisNexis, which bought Juris last summer, confirmed today all Juris jobs will relocate to other cities. As reported on, Juris, which provides software and services for law firms, apparently commanded a premium at sale far beyond its $12 million annual revenue. Juris Founder Tom Collins, 66, told me he's disappointed LexisNexis is moving Juris jobs, and expressed regret that family-owned businesses often sell to faraway owners whose calculations are global. Tom says he'll keep writing fiction and looking for a publisher, and will play an investor role in Nashville Capital Network's new fund. Meanwhile, his son Stephen, 42, who spent five years prior to the sale increasing Juris revenue and earnings, said today he's looking for his next CEO gig. With three young children at home, Stephen said he hopes to remain here, even if his next venture requires spending time on the coasts. He's taking a sabbatical to consider the state of the world, doing a lot of competitive bicycling and some community-service work. He stressed that during his five years improving Juris operations, he was often "beyond disappointment" at how hard it was to recruit talented, ambitious people who aren't afraid of risk. Having labored in the vineyards of New York City and elsewhere, he believes Nashville is exporting its hardiest workers to other cities that have more risk-embracing cultures. Particularly frustrating, he said, is the fact that Nashville has all the pieces -- quality of life, no personal income tax and much more. However, Steve said all those pieces "need to be 'animated'...something's got to explode here, besides healthcare." He warned Nashville's labor-cost advantages will soon erode, leaving the region at a greater disadvantage. (Pictured: Tom and Stephen)


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Venture Nashville Connections said...

Comments posted here April 15 and 18 by one or more Anonymous visitors contained personal criticism directed toward Stephen Collins. The comments reflected resentment regarding Collins' expressed disappointment about locally available tech talent. I'm appending those earlier posts here; but, if entered, no such further posts on this subject will remain posted, unless they contain substance and facts, rather than ire. Collins did say to me after the interview that he wanted to make clear he appreciated the work of Juris employees.

April 15- Anonymous said...
Well its an even bigger disappointment to hear how Stephen was "beyond disappointment" with all the employees at Juris, Inc and the Nashville area. I suppose that Juris, Inc. became a viable and lucritive company by his sheer will and talent alone. I sincerley hope that his comments were meant to exclude the employees that devoted so much of their lives to Juris, Inc. and that it instead directed towards the Nashville technical community that he feels doesn't measure up to "New York Standards".

2:24 PM, April 15, 2008

April 18- Anonymous said...
Define Stephen Collins: His initials may also refer to him as Satan's Child due to his silver spooned corporate devilry! A tyrant from the south but wants to think he's a New Yorker. Since he couldn’t make it in the north east he was banished back to the south to make the staff at Juris go through hell for his personal gains. Using good hard working people, with great work ehtics, a passion for the product, and company in general just to dupe them in the end! Stephen once recommended that his staff "vote with their feet" if they weren’t happy! Well maybe whats left of the staff at Juris should vote with their feet, and give good old Stephen a kick in the seat of his pants!

5:21 AM, April 18, 2008

Anonymous said...

Mr Capps,
As a reporter, I would think you would want to seek the facts about this issue that people are commenting about. To do this I would recomment that you interview some of the employees at Juris. They will be there through June. Then you can get the facts!

Venture Nashville Connections said...

Ref comments (prev comment) about interviewing employees: I'm not prepared to cover the workforce angle on this blog, though the jobs impact was clearly something I emphasized at the beginning of my original post. Also, today I heard from someone who suggested the second post crossed the line in invective. Although he second post is why I've begun reviewing posts prior to publication ("anonymous" submissions are still allowed), I'm leaving the second post on the blog. I would welcome further substantive, factual comment about the talent pool, rather than ad hominen attacks.

Gene Reese said...

The Juris post may be a dead horse but I feel additional clarification is needed. Not only for the readers of this blog but hopefully to educate the anonymous posters that seem determined to propagate a negative impression of Juris employees. When I met with Stephen in the first interview he stressed his hiring frustrations and I understood his comments both then and now as a compliment to those he brought on board. Stephen does have exceedingly high standards for himself and his employees. However the value proposition for me and many of the recent hires was this: Better title, more responsibility and the opportunity, etc. For many people that doesn’t resonate. Most expect above market salaries or equity to compensate for the increased responsibility or the idea that they may be a little uncomfortable once in a while. Can you argue the validity of that statement with someone that helped grow a company from 50 employees to over 2000 worth $12 billion market cap? Is New York so great that those who “couldn’t make it” can simply invest their net worth and triple the revenue of a 25 year old business? If so then Frank Sinatra was right, you can make it anywhere.

Are Stephen’s expectations unrealistic for this market compared to the dotcom gold rush? Probably. Particularly when you hear the stories of early DCLK hires with multiple post graduate degrees willing to risk financial security for stock options in an until then unproven industry. Only so many of those people exist in any market. Fewer in a smaller market like Nashville that tends to export the best and brightest that don’t have a foot in the door of healthcare. “Good people are hard to find” is a sentiment repeated by many entrepreneurs in this community. Look at the profiles of the future 50 companies over the last few years. More often than not they list the biggest hurdle to growth as “finding the right people”.

As a former Juris employee in the job market it is clear the problem cannot be limited to the workforce. The healthcare community is all but closed to anyone without previous experience or the right connections. Talk to the placement office at Vanderbilt, talk to local recruiters if you don’t believe me. The venture community in general is also very exclusive. You are either in or not. If you sincerely want to “animate” all the pieces that make Nashville unique there has to be a shift in attitude. It has to be an inclusive approach to qualified candidates.

The Collins do not need me or anyone else to defend their decisions. Especially from bitter and myopic former employees looking to scapegoat “evil” capitalists. You don’t pour your life into a business and not give a damn about what happens to it and the people who helped you build it. If former Juris employees want to play the victim at least get your facts straight. You are the victim of a publishing company that does not have a clue how to run a successful software company.

Anonymous said...

It bears highlighting that Gene speaks from the viewpoint of a short-time Juris once-employee that was hired AFTER Stephen was already well established in "pad the bottom line" mode. Those of us who have/had been there longer remember the days when working at Juris was its own reward. We didn't sign on to help ready the company for acquisition...we jumped onboard to work at a small "mom-and-pop shop" that was doing good things for our clients, giving them the best service we could possibly give them, and enjoying doing so. We signed on for the stability of working at a company that had been around for literally decades and showed no sign of slowing down. We signed on to be at a company that APPRECIATED its employees (and SHOWED IT) ala Tom Collins, not one that dared them to take their skills elsewhere if they didn't like something. Stephen Collins, in contrast, was well known throughout the building for badmouthing his employees...employees his father placed great faith in, employees that did all the actual WORK in "tripl[ing] the revenue of a 25 year old business." Ultimately, Stephen's problem was not that Nashville has some crucial shortage of top-caliber job's that he couldn't readily find New York-grade fast-pace risk-takers that would jump at the chance to help him make Juris, Inc. an attractive buy, and couldn't convince the existing workforce that his path was a totally positive one. What he found was a current employee base that wanted nothing more than what was good for the company for the long haul, and job candidates that were looking for a place they could retire from, not dump off to someone else. And why would they want otherwise? What did ANY EMPLOYEE actually GAIN from the sale of Juris Inc? Nothing, that's what. No Juris employee to date has gotten ANY real benefit from the post-Collins company...and the majority got a good hard shove out the door.

Cliché though it may be, all good things come to an end, and obviously, this one did too. Yes, I'll (almost) totally agree that the biggest "bad guy" in what may ultimately end up being the demise of Juris is the publishing company. It was their call to relocate Juris and its 70-something jobs, and to neglect most/all of the things that built Juris to what it was. However, that doesn't free Stephen of responsibility for what's happened after he took his money and ran. It's one thing to cry about how sad it is that all these jobs went away, but it's another thing entirely to do something about it. Had he been truly concerned about the staff that put him in the position to sell Juris "at a premium" he'd've done more to stick up for their interests in the aftermath, via whatever means were feasible. Is that bitter and myopic? No, not really...just people oriented, rather than bottom-line.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add to the comments posted above in regards to the direction that Lexis has taken Juris. We may all bemoan the loss of local jobs, but Lexis has done something Juris leadership never did: truly recognize those members of the team who contributed to the overall continued success of the company. If you were not a cycling male then you did not make attain any sort of management position in the company regardless of your advanced education and/or industry knowledge and experience.

In the defense of Stephen, it was clear to anyone paying attention what his goal was from day one of taking the company over. If you did not prepare for that or understand what it could mean then you had your head buried in the sand.

Some who left under the former management have even returned to better roles, while many others who were never acknowledged for their talent or had others take credit for that talent have advanced and it bears saying that there is very little left of the "talent" that was brought in under Stephen's reign. You can decide or infer the reason for that.

The owners of Juris achieved their goals in the sale as is their right and anyone who has issue with that should realize that one is not entitled to a job, a job is earned. If not recognized or appreciated it is an employee's right to move on, not their right to be entitled to a job and complain about it.

Lexis is valuing and re-recruiting the talent needed to continue to advance the Juris product base.

Venture Nashville Connections said...

I've gotten a couple more anonymous posts castigating Stephen Collins. I posted one, but now the piling-on without declaring one's identity has gotten exessive. If you'd like to resubmit similar comments and put a name with them, I'll take a look. It'd be really great if you added something about business lessons out of all this, instead of just the ad hominem attacks. Milt Capps