Bill Gates did it, Andy Grove did it, indeed anyone who is anyone in the computer industry seems compelled to put pen to paper. The latest to dabble in the literary arts is Stan Shih, founder, chairman and CEO of $6bn Taiwanese PC vendor, Acer. But while Microsoft CEO Gates is widely perceived as a […]
Bill Gates did it, Andy Grove did it, indeed anyone who is anyone in the computer industry seems compelled to put pen to paper. The latest to dabble in the literary arts is Stan Shih, founder, chairman and CEO of $6bn Taiwanese PC vendor, Acer. But while Microsoft CEO Gates is widely perceived as a geek made good and Intel’s co-founder Andy Grove as aggressive, Shih’s ‘Me-Too Is Not My Style’ is more thoughtful, perhaps reflecting his difficult upbringing. Shih’s father died when he was three, leaving his mother to bring him up on her own while also running the family grocery shop. Introverted as a child, Shih admits to being not outstanding at school. Bucking the trend of his peers, most of whom wanted to become doctors and work abroad, he went on to study electronics at National Chiao-Tung University, graduating in 1971 just as Taiwan’s nascent electronics industry was getting into gear. From university, Shih joined indigenous electronics firm Unitron and was assigned to the R&D department. He quickly made his mark when his calculator design was adopted by the company. I was not the first person at Unitron to develop calculators, but I was the first one to have them commercialized, he says. What I did differently from my colleagues was, besides designing the circuit board and making it work, I added the concept of packaging and cost analysis. I asked an industrial designer to do the casing design, and an acrylic- plastic sign-board maker to make a model for the machine. I then worked on an analysis of the material cost in a report, says Shih.
By Graeme Burton
The product never hit the market because the circuit board tended to short circuit, but his work impressed the Lin family which founded and ran Unitron. Shih was promoted first to manage the semiconductor production line, in charge of 800 people, then to director of the company’s entire manufacturing operations. Shih next moved to Qualitron, a calculator manufacturer also owned by the Lin family, on the request of Vincent Lin, the family’s third son. Qualitron was ultimately undone by a cavalier attitude to investment and finance. Shih took his knowledge of how not to run a company and applied it at Multitech, which he founded in 1976 and which evolved into Acer in the 1980s. At Qualitron, the line between company money and family money quickly became blurred, a problem common in Taiwanese business. The chairman, who was Vincent’s elder brother, was in charge of finance. He diverted money Qualitron borrowed from banks to support his family’s textile business, says Shih. But ‘Me-Too Is Not My Style’ is not just an autobiography. Much of the book is devoted to explaining Acer’s current business strategy, based, he says, on the fast- food industry model, with the ‘central kitchen’ located in Asia and semi-independent Acer units around the world acting as customers, responding to local market needs. Some day, writes Shih, ordering a PC will be as simple as ordering a pizza. This may well have inspired his company’s strong support for the network computer idea. Yet despite the analogy with American fast-food, Shih’s book provides many insights into the way business is done in Asia which many will find useful.
Me-Too Is Not My Style * By Stan Shih * Publisher: Acer Inc * Available online at http://www.acer.com.tw/
Computer Business Review. á