• This Founder Trusts His 275 Employees to Leave the Office at 2 p.m. Here's Why It Doesn't Make Him Nervous
  • May 19, 2019
  • Law Firm: - Office
  • Origami Risk takes its team-focused culture to a logical conclusion--tying compensation to how well the team performs as well as to how well the individual performs. That has a tendency to weed out any slackers pretty quickly. "Almost all of the successes at Origami are team events," says Robert Petrie, the co-founder and CEO. The premium on talent is typical for a startup, but Origami Risk is hardly that. A decade on, the company, with headquarters in Chicago, has 275 employees across seven U.S. offices plus London. It's more of an attitude that has lived on. "This was a business tilting against windmills," says Petrie of taking on rivals such as Aon in those early days. "That led to solidarity, because we had to fight for every client."

    "Origamians" develop and implement the firm's own cloud-based software, which pulls clients' risk data-- exposures, losses, incidents, assessments, surveys, audits--into one central repository. The service helps clients reduce their cost of risk. This means the data is available to all the risk-management entities that need it, including insurance companies, brokers, and claims adjusters.

    Origami's biggest team, the service department, is responsible for applying the software across very distinct client organĀ­izations. Its employees solve comĀ­panies' diverse problems by putting their heads together in teams of 10 to 12. Although the team structure is ingrained, the demands on each team member are significant. "It requires a high amount of individual thinking and strategy," Petrie says.

    To reinforce the team-building ethos, the company has an annual Colleague Conference, a warm-weather retreat at which employees from all offices deepen relationships through group activities. "We tend to assign teams of people who don't usually work together," Petrie says. Last year, they competed in beach competitions in San Diego; this year, Western-themed games in Tucson, such as building fences blindfolded. In what's become a tradition, the plushest rooms often go to the newest employees, says Maribeth Nash, the corporate-events manager. "The people at the resorts think it's hilarious," she says.

    They'd have a chuckle at Origami's headquarters, too. Petrie still sits in the middle of the open Chicago office. He also ensures that Origamians can build their lives around their families, not work. So, as long as clients are happy, employees are free to leave at 2 p.m. to catch a school concert or soccer game. "I don't care if they get their work done between midnight and 6 in the morning," Petrie says. "We give them a job to do, and we trust them to do it."