Liu Jiren and two colleagues at Northeastern University in Shenyang, China, founded Neusoft Corporation in 1991. Its first software product was quickly pirated, so the company switched gears and started selling software and services. In less than 20 years, the company has grown to more than 16,000 employees and become China’s largest provider of IT solutions and services, with $600 million in revenue. While most of the rest of the world suffered through a recession in 2009, profits at Neusoft grew by 30 percent. In order to gain the skills it needs to fuel this growth, Neusoft has created a powerful talent network with several IT education and training institutes.
While Liu may not face the same business environment his Western peers do, Neusoft’s chairman and chief executive still must address universal leadership challenges: How do you motivate and retain your staff, and maintain your corporate culture as you expand globally? How do you set strategy and develop business models in the face of uncertainty?
In 2009, Liu was named one of the top ten Economic Persons of the Year in China by China Central Television, the national TV station of the People’s Republic of China. He oversees a company that now serves customers in a wide range of industries, from mobile telecommunications and utilities to health care. About 30 percent of Neusoft’s revenues are generated overseas, a large proportion from Japan. In 2009 Neusoft expanded in the United States and European markets through mergers and acquisitions.
The company also formed a joint venture with Philips in 2004 to develop and manufacture medical imaging systems. The company went public on the Shanghai stock exchange in 1996, creating a wave of millionaires among its employees.
In his conversation with David Michael, a senior partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group, Liu discusses leadership. Excerpts from their conversation follow.