6 Business Lessons from the Jury Box
I’ve spent the majority of this week doing jury duty at our local Superior Court. I’ve sat on a jury before when I lived in Virginia, but this was the first time being a juror in civil cases rather than a criminal one. As with any life experiences, I walked away with a few insights, some of which I felt could be applied to running a home business. Here are my 6 lessons from the Jury Box:
1. Doing the right thing often comes at a cost.
I’ve been in the jury pool since the beginning of January. This meant losing several days over the two months to jury selection. Just when I thought I’d be ‘safe’ from sitting on an actual jury, during my final jury selection last Friday, I was chosen as a juror in not one, but two civil cases. Yes, it’s very unusual to be chosen for two trials. On the day of jury selection a large number of traverse jurors didn’t show up, which meant several of us were called on to do double duty. As a home business owner with no employees, this scared the living crap out of me. I knew that it was likely that I would be required to be at the courthouse for the better part of the week, if not the entire thing. And the $16.80 I would be paid a day didn’t come close to covering the income I could possibly lose. Very few people love the thought of jury duty, but where would our legal system be if everyone just didn’t show up? Making myself available for jury duty was the right thing to do, even though I knew it would come at a cost. As a business owner, you may find yourself in other situations that fall under that same rule. Knowing the right thing is to refund a customer for some reason or to donate time or services. Just because it may cost you or your business, if it’s the right thing to do, do it.
2. No two people view things exactly the same.
Every juror sitting in a jury box sees and hears the same evidence. Yet when you get together in that jury room and start deliberating, it can seem like every single one of you were seeing and hearing something different. Everyone views things through the lens of their own experiences and it impacts how you interpret evidence. This is a good thing to keep in mind when dealing with other individuals in your business. You might not see the importance of something that a client or customer views as a deal breaker. You might feel that something is being blown way out of proportion or not being taken seriously enough. It’s always good to remind yourself that just because you don’t view something a certain way, it doesn’t make the other person wrong for seeing it that way.
3. Compromise isn’t failure.
In civil trials you are often called upon to determine monetary damages. It’s a tricky issue and people usually have different ideas on what is fair and just. If everyone refused to compromise on what they felt was fair, it would turn into a nightmare situation pretty quickly. The same goes for running your own business. Just because you told yourself you would never work evenings or on a weekend, occasionally a situation just makes compromising on that the smart thing to do. It doesn’t mean you have to work every night or weekend, but knowing there are times when you may need to compromise on certain things makes running your business a bit easier.
4. It’s ok to change your mind.
When jurors leave the courtroom and are sequestered in the jury room, they all probably have an idea about who’s guilty and who’s not. The whole point of deliberation is for jurors to share why they feel the way they do so that the other jurors can hear the reasoning behind it. Sometimes when they hear another viewpoint, it can make you question your initial thoughts on the matter. And that’s a good thing. Deciding someone else’s guilt or innocence in a matter is life changing, so jurors should always remain open and able to change their mind if presented with more evidence that causes them to rethink their initial reactions. In your home business, you should also remain open to changing your mind about things. Sometimes you may need to stop offering a service that is too time consuming or you may need to change your hours to accommodate something else going on in your life. During the pandemic we had to change the way we did meetings by adopting Zoom, even though for some of us being live on camera was something we swore we’d never do.
5. Just because others don’t agree with you doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong.
In a civil case, the jury does not have to be unanimous to decide on a verdict. Instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you have in criminal trials, it’s simply a “preponderance of evidence” which is to say that something is more likely than not. Not every person in our jury came to the same conclusion as the majority did. Yet, that didn’t necessarily make them wrong in this case. They simply felt the preponderance of evidence wasn’t there while the others did. In the same way, you may feel that you need to run your business a certain way and find that others disagree with you. That doesn’t make you wrong. For example, when I first wrote about the fact that I do not answer phone calls and instead choose to schedule all of my calls, I got quite a bit of negative feedback from other business owners. They had strong feelings. Everything from believing not being available by phone was poor customer service to being certain that not answering calls would limit getting new business. And while those viewpoints might have been right for them and their businesses, limiting my time on the phone is one of the strengths of my business because it allows me more uninterrupted work time for my clients. They don’t have to agree, but it’s still the right thing for me and my business.
6. Sometimes no one is the bad guy.
Civil cases are perhaps harder to be a juror on than a criminal case. Many times you are dealing with things like car accidents where no one really seems to be at fault. That’s why they are called accidents right? Even so, as a juror, you have to make a decision based on the evidence and on the law. In the case of car accidents, motor vehicle laws. A person may not have been reckless or done anything blatantly wrong on either side of the case, so you don’t have a ‘bad guy’ to blame. You just have two people who were trying to do the right thing when something bad happened. The same can happen when you’re doing business. Sometimes you have situations where things don’t work out and it’s not because either party is the bad guy, perhaps your work styles just don’t mesh, or your personalities make it difficult to work well together. Sometimes hard decisions need to be made about working together even when no one is the ‘bad guy’.
Even though I was, like a lot of people, reluctant and a bit worried about being selected for jury duty I’m glad I was. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience that has not only added to my life experience but has also taught me a few lessons that I can apply to doing business. If you don’t ever get the chance to serve, I hope that by sharing these 6 lessons I learned from the jury box will help you too.
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