A popular culture

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance for her employees is a high
priority for Nien-Ling Wacker.

“We don’t expect people to work long
hours, at night, overtime or anything else,”
Wacker says. “I basically say, ‘Enjoy your
life.’ If you put your best 40 hours a week
into something you enjoy, your customer
will love to see you, and you’ll have a full
life, and you can do things that are really,
truly enjoyable.”

Wacker, chairman and CEO of
Laserfiche, a Long Beach-based document imaging solutions provider,
encourages her 200 employees
worldwide to enjoy their work, as
well. That might mean anything
from taking advantage of the foos-ball, billiards and pingpong tables in
the office to participating in a company softball, sailing or running club
after hours. Wacker says those
activities have helped create camaraderie, which, in turn, has inspired
idea-sharing and collaboration.

Smart Business spoke with
Wacker about optimism and how
her Chinese heritage influences
her leadership style.

Q: How would you describe the
culture of your company?

I am from Shanghai originally,
but I’m educated in the West. If
you look at our company, it is
very diverse, and I really believe
that I have combined the best of
the East and the West.

In the Eastern culture, you want
harmony, but sometimes you get stagnation — you don’t grow. Western culture is
very forced progress, so you push and
push, and my goal is to combine these two,
to not only have a harmonious environment but also allow for growth.

People look at growth as effortless. By
doing every day’s work and doing their
functions and applying themselves, they
are actually creating growth, in a way.

Q: What is one trait all successful business leaders share?

People like myself are very optimistic. We
are good problem-solvers, but we aren’t just limited to problem solving; we are
builders. We try to build on what we are
doing to build the next thing. We always
continue to grow in that sense.

The real world, especially in technology,
is changing all the time. If you don’t have
optimism, you can’t survive. Some people
always look at the negative aspect. I look at
something and say, ‘How do I solve it, but
how do I eliminate it?’

Instead of doing it in a direct way, I
think about a clever way to avoid that
problem, maybe by changing some infrastructure. For example, I built a support
site for our customers so they can actually get more information rather than
having a bottleneck where information
only comes from us.

Q: What are the dangers of growing too fast?

Our growth is very reasonable. I don’t
have any rich uncles behind us. Everything
we have is from our people. Our people are
our major asset, and our growth has been a
managed growth.

Other organizations take a lot of money
from venture people, and it’s this steroids
kind of growth. I would love to have hockey-stick growth, but you have to create an
environment to do that, rather than just
growth for the sake of growth.

Every company and every organization
has resources. How do you manage your
resources cost-effectively and, in the meantime, provide service to your current customers? In our business, the software business, as soon as you release a product,
you already have to be thinking about
the next release. It’s moving all the
time. So the way we do it is to service
our customers, and our customers are
our salespeople in a way. Word-of-mouth helps us spread to other people,
their colleagues and their friends.

We basically get the message out with
happy customers, and they help us
grow. This is very organic growth.

Q: What advice would you offer a
brand-new CEO?

It depends on the individual’s background, but first of all, you have to
understand yourself. Do a soul-searching. What are my strengths? What is my
style? What is the environment I want?
What are my goals?

A lot of people don’t look at themselves
as much. What are my limited resources?
What are my assets? Then using those
assets, try to avoid the limits and find the
best way to reach your goals. Instead of
going from A to B the direct way, sometimes there is a more clever way.

Leadership really has to have a direction. If leadership doesn’t have a direction,
the whole organization is going to be spinning its wheels. Any CEO has to understand, like the book of Sun Tzu says, that
you have to understand your environment,
your heaven, your earth and what’s going
on, and be able to tackle it.

You can tackle any problem, but you also
know what your limits are and your resources are. Being a good company is really knowing how to manage your resources
efficiently and getting the maximum
amount of return and involving your people so they are enjoying the journey itself.

HOW TO REACH: Laserfiche, www.laserfiche.com or (562) 988-1688