Having realised how popular our brand and personal stories are we’ve decided to introduce a new theme to our blog: The Ascertus Spotlight
Every quarter, we shine a light on one of our team members here at Ascertus so that you can get to know us a little better.
To start the new year we’ve interviewed one of our longest-standing employees; Co-owner and Sales & Marketing, Director, Jon Wainwright. He’ll tell us not only about his story and time at Ascertus but also give us an insight into being a business co-owner and simultaneously running a fast-paced sales and marketing team. Never a dull moment here at Ascertus!
Tell us a bit about how you ended up at Ascertus.
I left school at 16 and joined the Junior Army and the Royal Signals regiment, based out of Pennypot near Harrogate, North Yorkshire. I had a real fascination with electronics and received excellent training, plus learnt many life skills, that have helped during my career. In my early twenties I left the Army and joined ICL, a UK based company that produced IBM clone frames for the UK public sector, and maintained word processing equipment for government and large companies who had typing pools - this was my first introduction to document management. After a couple of years, I joined Wordplex a smaller but similar company to ICL. Shortly after joining an opportunity arose in the sales team, which I was encouraged to apply for. The only incentive I needed was a nicer company car, which I subsequently wrote off within two weeks. Not my best achievement.
My first foray into legal was a few years later when I joined a small company based in Headingley, Leeds, called Solicitec selling a DOS-based case management system to small law firms - predominantly for conveyancing. Solicitec was a dynamic, young and vibrant company, with a superb team ethos and work hard play, hard philosophy. We built an incredibly successful case management product called Solcase which became the mainstream choice for lawyers across Britain. The company rebranded to Visualfiles and was eventually bought by LexisNexis - the product is going strong even today with many of the original employees remaining, some 20 years on. I stayed at LexisNexis for another two years by which time I was the Sales Director.
At the time, Geoff Hornsby, worked for Interwoven (now iManage) and approached me for a pure sales role, which I accepted. When Interwoven was bought by Autonomy a year later, I was made redundant.
When one door closes, another one opens. The week that I was made redundant, I was meant to be having a meeting with Roy (Russell) who was a small iManage partner (I had the role of looking after the smaller partners). I rang him to apologise for not being able to make the meeting as I no longer worked for Interwoven. Roy told me that it was fantastic news and that we should meet anyway. He offered me a position to work and become a co-business owner of Ascertus. I’ve never looked back.
How has Ascertus changed since you joined?
When I joined in 2008, we were only five or six employees - today we are over 50 strong. With this growth, we have needed to become more structured, organised and procedural with the ability to prove compliance. We now work with some big legal and accounting firms as well as many well-known corporate entities.
What hasn’t changed is our approach to clients – regardless of how large or small our customers might be, Roy and I try to ensure that they all receive a high level of service and care. We have done this by increasing the number of support people, technical experts and the size of our pre-sales team as well as introducing sales advocates who ensure that customers are looked after, post-sale.
How has the industry changed in your opinion?
Most suppliers in the market tend to be software vendors who provide the solutions.
The number of suppliers has grown significantly in recent years - having said that, there’s also been considerable consolidation with mergers and acquisitions.
Ascertus is unique in the marketplace as we’re purely a services driven supplier who doesn’t author any software - this gives us the ability to select the best products and devise the right solutions for our clients. Being independent gives us the ability to constantly look at other third-party systems and solutions to see if they can enhance what we already offer to our customers.
What makes Ascertus such a great place to work at?
We very consciously ensure that there’s no “blame culture” in the company. Treating each other with respect and care as human beings is paramount. When things go wrong (and they occasionally do) we pull together to resolve, learn lessons and move on. Personally, I’ve tried to replicate the family, respect work hard, play hard culture that I experienced in the Army and at Solicitec.
You’ve had some great personal and professional success over the years- can you share some of the secrets to your success?
One of my previous bosses once said, “It’s funny, but the harder I work the luckier I appear to be”. Leading by example, listening to people, treating others with respect, loyalty and accepting when I’m wrong, are traits I sincerely believe in and stand by. I try to keep learning and expanding my horizons - not just from the industry but also from other sources such as my kids who have taught me not to prejudge. I also think that my stable personal life has helped, as it has given me the security that I needed.
I like to work hard and am tenacious, but I always make the time to have fun - with my friends, family, colleagues, and peers.
In your opinion what makes a great leader?
All the above, but most importantly, leading by example. You don’t have to be the best but you do have to be somebody who is respected by your team as well as being there for them when they need help. It’s also important to give the team a safe environment to learn from their mistakes.
What major changes do you see in the next five years in the industry as a whole?
The move to the cloud has been the big story over the last couple of years but I think that in the next few years the role IT departments will change considerably - in particular they will become much more business focussed - i.e., as there will be less involvement in implementing and supporting infrastructure, there will be more emphasis on optimising the technology the firm is using, including ensuring improved workflows, integration between systems, data analysis and security. People will have to work faster, smarter and in a more agile way to improve client services and reduce costs.
Customer service will likewise be at the forefront, with the after-sales experience becoming even more important to businesses like Ascertus. We have a deep understanding of the market and are taking a more consultative approach to guide and advise clients, and help them to overcome their challenges.
How do you manage a hybrid remote working team and how can businesses learn from it?
Ascertus has always been a hybrid company and we appreciate that employee needs are varied; some working better in the office and others, from home, depending on their role and geographic location.
We advocate that all new employees spend time working from the office to begin with, which most people seem to prefer, mainly to learn their role, work closely with peers and most importantly feel part of the company they have joined. Going for a coffee or drink after work is also important for a good work life balance.
Now that many firms have moved to the cloud, which lends itself to the hybrid working model, employers have faith that work output is just as good, if not better.
What are your top tips for managing a high-impact (strong product) relationship with vendors, such as the one you have with iManage?
I believe our partnership with iManage works because we collaborate well with mutual trust at the core. We also enjoy working together! The relationship is strong because we equally need each other and are working towards the same goals - to provide excellent service and an ongoing relationship with the customer. Communication is key too, in particular the opportunity to provide feedback (both positive and negative), and input for future product development. This approach has proven invaluable for our customers.
Thank you so much Jon, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you.