It’s deja vu for Acer Inc (宏碁) founder Stan Shih (施振榮) as he prepares to step down again later this month — he retired 10 years ago, but returned to take back the reins of the struggling Taiwanese PC maker.
Since his comeback as chairman and interim president late last year — which he always billed as a temporary measure — the company has gone through a painful restructuring, after two top executives quit over the firm’s poor performance.
However, with Acer swinging back to profit in the first quarter of this year, following three consecutive losses, 69-year-old Shih says he is looking forward, not back.
“I don’t like to waste my mind on regret, I don’t have time,” he said in an interview last week at Acer headquarters in Taipei, where industry leaders from all over the world were gathered for Computex, Asia’s largest tech trade show.
“You have to always look ahead, always be positive. It’s your choice, your destiny. You have to enjoy life,” he said.
Shih founded Acer in 1976 and built it into the world’s second-largest PC maker in its heyday, and one of the best-known Taiwanese brands internationally, before retiring in 2004.
Its fortunes have worsened in recent years as sales have been hit by competition from Apple Inc and other rivals, as well as shrinking demand for PCs.
Ahead of Computex, Acer launched its new Build Your Own Cloud (BYOC) service, touting it as the future of cloud computing, whereby individuals can access information stashed online instead of their computer hard drives.
It also revealed a wristband to track fitness, its first-ever wearable device.
With this new vision, Shih has predicted the company will “return to glory” by 2017 — still with a clear commitment to its PC-making roots.
Shih said there is now a better sense of teamwork and entrepreneurship at Acer, where senior executives took voluntary salary cuts of 30 percent as part of the overhaul.
“Before I made the decision [to return] it was a headache — my wife didn’t agree, but no one accepted my invitation to the chairmanship. I asked many people. We tried every other possible way, but there was no choice,” Shih said. “The main reason I came back was my personal social responsibility, not my investment. There are so many shareholders, so many employees and partners under Acer.”
The father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight is to step down as chairman at a board meeting on June 18, but will remain a board member. Cofounder George Huang (黃少華) is to take his place as chairman.
Chip expert Jason Chen (陳俊聖) became president and CEO in December last year, and Shih’s son, Maverick Shih (施宣輝), heads up the company’s BYOC and tablet group.
“I have a new chairman, new CEO, new management team. Of course it’s just beginning, but it looks as though everything is shaping up,” Shih said. “I think all our efforts have had a good result — it’s too early to claim an achievement, but we’re encouraged.”
And his wife of 43 years, Carolyn Yeh (葉紫華), is also happy despite her initial reservations.
“She supports me and she can see it’s [the company] stabilized and turned around gradually,” he said, crediting her for looking after his health. “I get up in the morning and walk with my wife. After dinner we also walk again — 10,000 steps together every day. It’s good for us because we chat a lot when we walk.”