People are everything in business. Focus on making sure your people are taken care of financially, and challenge them in a way that makes them excited about the work. Having the human factor involved in every aspect is important.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Pinsker.
Michael is the CEO and founder of Docupace Technologies, LLC. He grew up in Kiev, Ukraine, where he studied math from a very young age. In 1991, when he immigrated to the US, he turned that talent in mathematics towards focusing on technology and software development. After graduating from UCLA with a Computer Science and Engineering degree, Mr. Pinsker founded MPDN International Inc, a consulting firm specializing in workflow, imaging and document management services. Through projects with clients as diverse as Datamax Technologies, Unisys, and Paramount Pictures, Scottsdale Insurance, New York Department of Insurance and others, Michael implemented and validated different workflow solutions and document management strategies. This background and expertise led him to found Docupace Technologies, LLC in 2002, focusing on bringing the workflow and document management platform in a SAAS (Software as a Service) model to various industries. Since 2005, Michael has led Docupace with the focus on the Financial Services Industry. He co-invented the ePACS, a patent pending SAAS offering for Financial Services that has become the leading SEC and FINRA compliant straight through processing platform for the industry.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been a technologist at heart and my interest in the field grew significantly while working towards my degree in Computer Science. During school I worked for a few technology firms, and went on to work for more once I graduated. After a few years of gaining experience, I felt that something was missing for me, and I could not stand the beaurocracy that I experienced in the large organizations.
I guess my entrepreneurial nature was always there, but was really unlocked by my two friends who invited me to start a business with them selling vitamins. Yes, that is a long way from building and selling software, and maybe the reason why this particular business was shut down a few months after its start. This did, however, unlock my desire to build my career as an entrepreneur. This let me to start a consulting business installing and configuring the workflow and document management systems for insurance and government organizations in 1997. While I was able to grow that business successfully, I always wanted to build a product that will be impactful and help smaller enterprises leverage the power of automation and document management that had only been available to large companies at that time. So that is how Docupace was born in 2002 — with the idea to create a web-based workflow and document management platform of an enterprise grade in order to reduce cost and increase efficiencies for business of various sizes. As Docupace grew, we focused on the Wealth Management Industry and have been at it since 2005.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Starting and growing a business is not easy. There are many challenges that I had to overcome to grow the company. It could be cash flow, talent acquisition, or sales going slower than expected, just to name a few. Since I have self-financed the company, cash flow has been an issue at times and there were situations where I had to come up with capital in a short period to cover the payroll. Let me tell you, it is very hard and can definitely cause sleepless nights when you know you have to make the payroll and you don’t know if the funds that you are counting on will come in time. This is where I felt responsible not only for me and my family, but for all employees in the company and their families. I did not want to disappoint folks who trusted and believed in me and the vision that I laid out for them when I recruited them into the company. Every time I was able to find a solution and overcome the cash crunch, whether through personal investment or a customer paying on time, it was a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I am happy to say that we never missed the payroll in our history, no matter how hard it was.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
It is important to have a good support system as one navigates through tough times, and for me it is a multipronged one. It starts with myself and the affirmations that I use to get me going — like repeating that I am “the deciding element” when I am facing a problem that feels out of control or seems to be impossible to handle. Secondly, I have a strong support from my family and my wife in particular. Without them, I would have been in shambles in some situations and would not be able to continue forward. Finally, I have several close confidants who are experts in different fields that I can rely on to listen and provide an outside perspective and advice. There are many situations where it served me well to get an outside perspective and look at the problem I am facing from a different angle. All of a sudden, by doing so, a solution would emerge that I was comfortable with and I would move into an execution mode with my focus on the solution and a renewed will to continue.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things could not be better today. I have great partners who invested in the company and not only provide necessary financial support to the business, but also offer a ton of expertise and resources to help us grow the business together. More importantly, they are very supportive and aligned with me and our leadership team and the direction that we are taking the business to. Secondly, I can’t be more proud of the team we have assembled in Docupace, starting with the leadership team and our CEO in particular. It took many years to build the depth of knowledge, expertise and most importantly, talent that we have accumulated. Many of us have been through a lot together and with each obstacle we faced we have only become stronger, plus we were able to expand and add new talent to our team. As a result, I feel that there is no challenge that we cannot overcome together and we are poised for huge success as we continue our journey together.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early in the business it was just a few of us and I was running around from appointment to appointment, so it’s not surprising that I have made the mistake of scheduling two meetings at the same time. One was a sales opportunity that I needed to close and the other one was a technical meeting that one of our clients wanted my team (mostly me) to participate in. Both of meetings were very important but I could not be in both places at the same time, so the only solution I could come up with is to send my wife who was helping me with the business at the time to the technical meeting which really just required our representative. The problem was that she was not technical at all, to the extent that she did not know any technical terms. I told her not to worry, and that if someone asks her a question to simply respond with “Good question. Let me will get back to you.” So, that is exactly what we did. I went to the sales call and she went to the technical meeting. After the meeting I asked her how it went and she said that she had no clue about what everyone was talking about, and that it was like a foreign language to her, but whenever she was asked a question she responded as I recommended. The funny part was that shortly after, I received the email from the client saying that the meeting went well and that my wife was very helpful with her responses. I guess perception is everything.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It is our culture of care that sets us apart. We care about our teammates, we care about our clients, we care about our investors and we care about our technology partners. This aspect of our culture has always been very important to me, as it reflects who I am. Right from the get-go I tried to build it into the matrix of everything we do, and lead by example. Being customer centric is what we highlight within our processes and how we approach our day to day work. That is one of the reasons for why we have such a great retention with our clients. We have firms who have been with Docupace for over 15 years and happily use our software and services. The same goes for our team. When I look around the room in our meetings, I see people who have been with me for over a decade, and people who have just joined, but it is clear that everyone is engaged and eager to help each other. We are like family, we may have our internal disagreements that come up from time to time, but everyone has the best intentions at heart and is always eager to help the person next to them. It is very rewarding to see this as part of our culture.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I always go back to the affirmation that I repeat periodically: “You are the deciding element!” This means that I have to take care of myself in order to be able to take care of others. So “burning out” is a big no-no, however it is easier said than done. There are many different practices that work for different people. For me, it is minimizing the amount of work that I do on the weekends. If I can help it, I try to spend weekends with my family and not focus on work — at the least not sitting in front of the computer. The other practice is to take frequent small vacations. Take a half day here and there or make it a long weekend to take your mind off of the day to day operation. For some people I know, taking a 20 minute power nap in the middle of the day works really well. I tried it a few times, but it did not stick with me consistently. Bottom line, each person should find what works for them to switch off work or at least change the environment in order to reset their mind and avoid “burn out.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are several people I am grateful for. On the personal side, my wife has been a great supporter of my business from the beginning. I appreciate her entrepreneurial mindset because it allows me to share things with her and receive encouragement to think outside the box and take risks. No matter what, she stands behind me in support and I know that I can look to her to keep me grounded.
On the business side, I am part of multiple organizations made up of entrepreneurs and CEOs who regularly share their experiences in sessions with a moderator. This has helped me navigate some tough situations and keep things in perspective. When you hear others speak about challenges they’re experiencing, it helps you learn and grow, and carry that advice into your business and life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I personally believe in charity and work one should be doing what you’re passionate about. I have been lucky that my success enabled me give back in the areas of education and wellbeing. I’m involved with both UCLA (my Alma Mater) and my son’s school to help student athletes advance their career. I also work with Health Research group to combat some kidney related illnesses that we do not have cure for yet. In my engagement I provide funding where possible and help promote and advance the organization in its mission. Giving back to the community through my involvement in these organizations is something I enjoy in my free time, and it feels really rewarding.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- People are everything in business. Focus on making sure your people are taken care of financially, and challenge them in a way that makes them excited about the work. Having the human factor involved in every aspect is important.
- Staying focused. The sooner you realize this, the better. It’s not easy in the beginning, when you have so many opportunities you want to pursue and put your energy towards — the challenge is the overflow. Keep your focus on what matters the most, and your end goal, don’t overwhelm yourself with the things in between.
- Trust your people and delegate correctly. It’s easy to think you could have done something better than someone else, but it’s better to dedicate yourself to larger picture things, and to show your employees that you value their work skill.
- Grow with your business. Sharpen your ability to change for each person as the business grows. You don’t want to fall behind, so constantly challenge yourself and learn. Listen to other leaders speak and read books on business topics to elevate your knowledge. As a business grows, more needs are created, so recognize that and see how you can grow with the business. Sometimes we lose track and become stagnant so challenge yourself to keep your perspective open and realize when you need a shift in your mindset.
- How to deal with tough decisions. You will come across challenges at different points in your career and especially with having a business. One example in particular, is letting go of an employee in your business. Around six or seven years ago someone mentioned the analogy of a rope when you’re standing on a bridge. Someone is hanging off by a thread trying not to fall, so you throw a rope over but they’re too heavy to pull up. In this instance you have to decide whether you’re going over with them, or let them fall. This analogy plays into the concept of letting someone go and doing the right thing for yourself (and the business) in the long term, even if it’s tough. While it’s hard for both yourself and the other person, it helps the greater good (business and employees).
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
As we look throughout our history, we periodically run into transformational technologies that really transform our world. Whether it is electricity, computers, or internet, we have seen how impactful these transformative technologies can be. Today, I believe we have a new technology that has the potential to be as transformative as those I mentioned — and that is blockchain. We are in the very early stages, but if we can promote the creation of the applications that we use in our daily lives and in our businesses using that technology, I think it will be as dramatic of an impact on our world as adoption of the internet has been. The kind of streamlined efficiency that is completely transparent and fully distributed, i.e. harnessing the power across the world instead of centralized locations, would be unbelievable. The general movement and education about blockchain has already started. Taking it to the next level in its evolution and creating an application layer that is available to the masses is what will make it a true transformative technology.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Personal Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-pinsker-1807951/
Docupace Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/company/docupace-technologies
Docupace Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/DocupaceTechnologies/
Docupace Twitter — https://twitter.com/docupace