Innovation and Resolve
Taiwan's Most Admired Entrepreneurs
The ranks of Taiwan's top ten most respected business leaders are filled with familiar faces this year – legends of industry sharing certain qualities that have led to great success.
Taiwan's Most Admired EntrepreneursBy Ching-Hsuan Huang
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 407 )
CommonWealth Magazine's "Most Admired Entrepreneurs" survey 2008 for the first time yielded a Top Ten name list completely identical with the previous year's. This year TSMC's Morris Chang heads the list, putting last year's No. 1, Terry Gou, in second place. But other than that, only a slight reshuffling in positions took place among the remaining eight business heavyweights.
The paragons of the computer and conventional industries of the 1980s still occupy major spots in the ranking even though they are no longer in charge of daily operations. Chi Mei Group founder Hsu Wen-lung, Formosa Plastics Group founder Wang Yung-ching, and Stan Shih of the Acer Group have all formally retired from the day-to-day management of their giant corporations. Others on the list like Morris Chang and Uni-President Group founder Kao Chin-yen have also taken a less active role in running their companies, instead serving as business gurus and management mentors.
This year leaders from the finance and service industries, who used to occasionally make it into the Top Ten, have completely vanished from the list. This outcome only underscores that the finance and service industries have fallen behind the manufacturing industries in many respects, be it visionary thinking, capacity to innovate, business performance or position within global industry.
Leading Enterprises Account for One Third of Market Value
Although the ten entrepreneurs on the list have been giants in their respective industries already for many years, their influence does not seem to have waned. The conglomerates and business groups that these men represent have a combined market value of NT$7 trillion, about one third of the total market value of all 1,500 companies listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, Over-the-Counter Market and Emerging Stock Market. There is no denying that these men's business strategies and expansion plans drive Taiwan's overall economic development.
But new role models are not born easily. In contemporary Taiwanese society, be it politics or the corporate world, they seem few and far between.
Acer's Stan Shih, who has been voted a most admired entrepreneur for 13 years in a row, believes becoming a role model takes time and means assuming social responsibility – a must in today's globalizing world. In fact, Shih is most admired by his peers for his "significant contribution to the industrial environment and economic development."
Shih formally passed the baton to his successor J.T. Wang four years ago but remains involved in the Group's branding and continues to exert major influence on the industry.
At a CEO forum on brand management strategies in early October, Shih was grabbed by a fan who demanded to be photographed with the former Acer boss. Even Peter Chou, CEO of smartphone manufacturer HTC, who carries considerable weight in the industry as the "sage of Taiwanese innovation," cannot help but confess to being a huge admirer. "I am in fact a fan of Mr. Shih, I have always admired him for his leadership and vision," says Chou, who engaged in a dialogue with Shih at the forum.
Before HTC launched its own-brand smartphones, the company repeatedly sought Shih's advice. Not surprisingly, Stan Shih is the entrepreneur that other entrepreneurs admire most.
Key Figures who Changed Their Industries
In this group belong entrepreneurs who changed their respective industries with innovative business models. One of the most prominent cases is Morris Chang, who led TSMC to break into the closed monopoly of semiconductor manufacturing. He rewrote the industry's business model by introducing the idea of dedicated foundries, which allowed smaller enterprises to get into semiconductor manufacturing. The new model also spurred the founding of a host of IC design houses, allowing Taiwan's IC design industry to become the second largest in the world.
Mediatek chairman Tsai Ming-kai, who came in 10th place this year, led his company to quickly become the world's fifth largest IC design house. Without Mediatek, Chinese unbranded mobile phones would not be so hugely popular and widely sold today.
This year's hottest high-tech product, the low-cost subnotebook, began electrifying the market with the arrival of the EeePc, released late last year by Asus. According to the Institute for Information Industry (III), about 8 million inexpensive subnotebooks will be sold this year, and that figure will skyrocket to 18.3 million next year, representing a growth rate of 128 percent.
Thanks to Asus chairman Jonney Shih, who labored long in conceptualizing this new market segment, it has become possible for everyone to own a subnotebook on top of a laptop or desktop computer.
The big players are already pouring into the fiercely contested subnotebook market. Even Acer, perennially focused on its presence in the mainstream market, has already entered the new subnotebook battlefield. Foreign market leaders such as Dell and HP are also scrambling to get their piece of the pie. Topology Research Institute forecasts that thanks to its subnotebook coup Asus will make it into the Top Five of the global notebook industry this year.
The survey results show that in order to become a widely admired paragon of business, entrepreneurs need to shoulder social responsibility, be innovative, possess courage and produce results.
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz