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