Forensic Technology Inc.: Behind every great entrepreneur ...

Written by Jack Kohane

If there were a television show called “CSI: Canada”, Forensic Technology Inc. would be its star. FTI is a ballistics technology firm based in Côte St-Luc, Que., and its star product is the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) technology. Put simply: it digitally captures images of bullets and cartridge cases, stores them in a database, performs automatic comparisons of the images and ranks them according to the likelihood of a match. IBIS is now used in over 300 law enforcement installations in 29 countries around the world, as well as some snazzy working models on a few TV cop shows.

For president Robert Walsh’s enterprise building, export savvy and crime-busting innovations, Walsh was recently named Quebec’s 2002 Entrepreneur of the Year. Despite the fact that the award was presented specifically to him for his entrepreneurial vision, professionalism and integrity, like many business leaders, he attributes the firms’ success to his staff. “We couldn’t have done it without our people,” he says.

FTI’s group of R&D engineers, which includes law enforcement personnel with backgrounds in firearms and forensics, devise the technical innovations. “They tell us if we’re on the right track with our product concepts, prototypes and upgrades as new technology comes on stream,” says Walsh, “so it pays for us to attract and retain people with this kind of know-how.”

He found his star staffers using headhunters, his extensive police and government network, and contacts made at law-enforcement tradeshows over the years. Walsh seeks employees who possess what he calls the “4-I qualities”: integrity, intelligence, innovation and independence. “You may not get everything you’re looking for in every individual,” he says, “but when you find people who come closest to these four attributes, you’ve got people who relish the challenges of the job every day.”

What does Walsh do to attract and keep top employees? The nature of his business is enough to gain a lot of interest. “We’re doing great things to fight crime, and that’s the main motivator in our organization,” he explains. “Our technical people could be employed in any high-tech sector, but they like the fact that we’re not creating yet another widget here — we’re creating a whole new type of widget.”

A good way to retain staff, says Walsh, is to maintain a family-like atmosphere: “That helps employees bond, which is a key approach to promoting teamwork,” he says. The company has a social club, regular breakfast get-togethers and a weekly internal newsletter that keeps everyone abreast of company events and advances internationally. “A constant stream of communication that lets everyone know the inroads a company is making instills a sense of pride and a feeling of ownership,” says Walsh. “We’re all integral parts of the company’s direction and success.”

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© 2003 Jack Kohane

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