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XXIV - 2016

by SCMP

XXIV 24

Leica boss Oliver Kaltner is a man with a clear vision

When it comes to business, one should structure time otherwise it won’t be long before you run into trouble, the CEO says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 9:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 3:00pm

Oliver Kaltner, CEO of Leica Cameras, is a man who looks at time from a holistic point of view. “Time should become your friend rather than an enemy sitting on your shoulder. If I turn 90 years old, I want to assume I have reached half time, and think, ‘Wow, another half to go’. This is a fantastic outlook, isn’t it?”

Time is important to Kaltner. It is crucial to him to be able to find moments to reflect on the events of each day. He is also a big collector of music of all genres, whether on vinyl, CD or in digital format. A part from music, Leica’s top man admires fine craftsmanship, especially in premium cameras and timepieces. Meticulous manufacturing, attention to detail, precision, quality and lifetime value are some of the terms he uses to describe such things.

“If you walk on the street with a Leica camera, people will look at you and they get in touch with you because they want to know more about it.”

Kaltner practises “quality over quantity” when it comes to his experiences, and does not believe in restricting himself. “Step out of the comfort zone and do something new that might bring you to your own limits. Only from there can you raise the personal bar.”

Step out of the comfort zone and do something new that might bring you to your own limits. Only from there can you raise the personal bar
Oliver Kaltner

Meticulous planning is equally important to Kaltner, at a time when the world is becoming increasingly complex, globalised and digitalised. With the smartphone now serving as the main communications device, people’s professional lives can easily merge into their private lives. “If you run a business you should have a clear vision and mission that you translate into a plan. This plan is the fundament for the team and therefore you can make decisions on who is doing what and until when. If you don’t structure your time, you will get into trouble soon. And so will your company.”

Kaltner knows what he is talking about. Before joining Leica, he worked for some of the world’s most recognisable brands, including Sony, Sky, and Microsoft. He attributes his success to the people he has worked with and is still working with.

“If you want to succeed in business, you need a strong team. The privilege in my work life is that I have the chance every single day to work with talented people around me.”

The change from working for big companies to a mid-sized one was deliberate. Change is not easy for many people. However, life is all about choices, Kaltner believes.

All the companies Kaltner has worked for were tremendous learning platforms, which he feels privileged to have been involved in – and Leica is part of this learning tradition.

“Leica is an outstanding brand with a family as the main shareholder that is looking into a long-term future rather than the short term. I am trained to manage scorecards and dashboards – indeed, very useful tools for running a business. However, the development of your staff and partner network, the substantial growth in talent capabilities, are the real value of the company. Despite all I have learnt, I [know] that humbleness is a very precious gift in our lives. “ LHC