馬來西亞的故鄉情。中國的中華情。臺灣的本土情

群聯電子總經理 潘健成-南洋小子台灣夢


 

一股年少不服輸的拚勁與韌性,一份以小搏大的膽識與魄力,三十三歲成為最年輕的股王總經理,一路面對超齡的挑戰,這位來自大馬的僑生潘健成,如何從無到有、寫下創業傳奇?

眼前這位娃娃臉、戴眼鏡,笑起來很靦腆的鄰家大男孩,很難讓人聯想,他是一位營收超過兩百億的企業總經理。

三十三歲,他創立的企業股價曾超越聯發科,奪下台股IC設計股王,成為最年輕的股王總經理。

三十四歲,已經和六十四歲的施振榮、六十一歲的曹興誠、五十六歲的施崇棠等企業界鉅子,並列為交大選出五十年內在產業界最有影響力的五十位校友。

他是群聯的總經理潘健成,如今人手一支的隨身碟,正是從群聯誕生。

遙遠的夢想

椰風搖影、烈日灼身,九歲的潘健成第一次跟著父親一起下田,「人,不會一輩子倒楣的,努力做,自然就有,」正午時分,在棕櫚葉覆蓋著的簡陋茅屋裡休息,父親這樣告訴他。

這裡是馬來西亞一座華人聚居的小村莊「適耕莊」,在首都吉隆坡北方約 八十公里 ,潘家已經在這裡落腳第三代了。身為長子,因為母親懷孕,九歲的孩子再也不能無憂無慮,只能一肩挑起家計。

他說自己和金庸武俠小說(射鵰英雄傳)裡的男主角郭靖有點像,都是異鄉移民,一個在大漠,一個在南洋;也都是「從無到有」,刻苦自勉,一個說話結巴的牧羊童成為一代大俠,一個長於窮困農家的小僑生成為身價億萬的總經理。

曾經,夢想離他好遠。中午放學回家,堅強的父親卻在落淚,母親在一旁罵人,兩歲的弟弟在睡覺,家裡沒米了。爸爸騎著摩托車載著十一歲的他,拉下臉去向親友借錢,買了一包米和兩個罐頭,一家人的午、晚餐才有了著落。

籃球場上,同學們神氣地穿著球鞋奔馳,十四歲、買不起籃球鞋的他,只能忍住腳底的痛,赤著腳運球、上籃,至今腳底的肌腱炎仍隱隱作痛。這些痛苦的經驗讓他立誓,絕對不要讓自己和下一代再過一樣的生活。

一九九二年,十八歲,靠著辛苦打工和親友資助,湊了十二萬元,他隻身來到台灣,成為交大控制工程系學生,靠著在圖書館與福利社打工賺生活費,只吃的起一餐三十五元的自助餐。

研究所畢業後,他透過恩師吳炳飛教授的介紹,進入慧亞科技(慧榮前身)工作,成了一名安穩領薪水的上班族,苦日子似乎成為過去。
在慧亞任職一年左右,二000年七月,潘健成就被指派成立新的子公司慧陞科技。
但三個月之後,卻因為母公司資金沒有順利到位,新公司不但無法繼續、還負債一百多萬。母公司決定放棄剛在孵育階段的慧陞。
經過不到三十天的抉擇與掙扎,這場幾乎被拋棄的危機,竟成為群聯誕生的契機。一般所謂從零開始的「白手起家」,而群聯的出發,卻是從負債的「棄嬰」,開始走上成長之路。

被逼走上創業路

二十六歲的潘健成,和另外四名年齡相仿的伙伴,憑藉著一股少年人不服輸的韌性,再二000年 一月八日 創立群聯。群聯,意指一群人聯合在一起。「群策群力」的團隊精神,也成為群聯最重要的企業價值之一。

他和伙伴們到處募資,還曾被銀行拒於門外,但最終再一個月內集資三千萬台幣,一群人就暫時窩在工研院育成中心的地下室。

不到 二十坪 大的空間,五點之後就沒有冷氣,在悶熱的夏天,這一群大男孩只能穿著短褲工作,但當時他們滿腦子想的只是「不能漏氣」,絕對不能讓公司倒掉,這股拼勁讓已有一定研發基礎的群聯團隊,在三個月之內就把產品生產出來,九個月就達到損益兩平。

二00一年,他們設計出全球第一顆USB快閃記憶體(flash)的系統控制單晶片(soc),隨後成功設計製造出全球第一支單晶片隨身碟Pen Drive,搭上愈來愈熱的隨身碟風潮,更因而吸引了國際大廠東芝(Toshiba)和M-Systems的投資。

二十六歲,他離成功似乎愈來愈近,二十八歲,夢想卻差一點灰飛湮滅。

我沒有理由要放棄 

創業兩年後,正在飛速成長的群聯,面臨生死交觀的考驗。二00二年,老東家慧榮科技控告他和當時同在慧亞任職的研發副總經理歐陽志光侵權、違約等民、刑事罪名。群聯所有的資金四千五百萬全被法院扣押,完全沒有現金可以週轉,差一點就渡不了難關。

面對業界龍頭,二十八歲、「一打就倒」的矛頭小子最簡單的選擇,就是投降。然而,當他一想到,一旦放棄,這段期間心血將付諸東流,也對不起當初相信他、掏錢出來投資的伙伴和投資人,「這樣子讓人失望,還算是個人嗎?」

他找不到放棄的理由、也沒有輸的準備與打算,他決定咬緊牙關硬撐,說服股東、客戶和廠商,獲得他們的通融和支持。這場官司足足打了四年,一審判決群聯勝訴,在二審時以和解收場,但群聯得象徵性賠償慧榮數百萬元。

逆向與助緣,往往只有一線之隔。談起這段人生中最大的風暴,潘健成雖難掩憤怒,但對於舊東家慧榮、總經理苟嘉章也是他交大的學長,他還是心存「感激」,如果沒有經歷這一場官司,「群聯應該不會跑那麼快,」正是因為慧榮的存在,讓群聯友很大的危機感,也讓內部士氣更為堅固、團結。


潘健成的得與失

至今,這場官司點起的硝煙依然沒有散去。和慧榮的恩怨,使得他在商戰中緊咬著慧榮不放,搶客戶、毫不留情的玩殺價戰,「他賣三毛二、我就賣一毛八」;華碩Eee Pc的SSD控制晶片原本是由慧榮獨家供應,從今年二月起,群聯正式打入這條供應鏈,再在都可以嗅到一絲絲火藥味。

這場官司前後所衍生的諸多糾葛,也讓潘健成輸掉了他與恩師吳炳飛從大學開始建立的深厚情誼。

對交大電控系學生而言,吳炳飛教授可說是該系的「大台柱」,他也是潘健成在交大最感激的老師,他能夠從電控系「半路出家」進入IC設計領域,靠的也是這位老師的!引領,「沒有吳炳飛老師,就沒有今天的潘健成,」無論是面對記者,或者對著演講台下數十位電控系的學弟妹,他總是這樣說。
從大四以來跟著吳炳飛做研究,潘健成說兩人的關係曾經「情同父子」。如今,是非恩怨看似已成過眼雲煙,不過,恩師對他的成功不願對媒體多做評論,只是在信中語重心長的希望他「保持低調、全心全力專注在事業上(keep low key and pay his full attention on his career),」切莫因為外界加諸的光環而失去自己。

少年得志」如履薄冰 

在商場江湖中的飽經歷練、敢以小博大的膽識,讓年僅三十四歲的他,就被外界形容為「老辣商人」,對這個封號,他也不否認,問他自覺的心智年齡有多大,他有點苦笑著說,「反正不會太年輕就是了,老頭子吧!」

商場上幾許江湖事,心智上一點少年老成,外界對於潘健成和群聯,總認為「少年得志」,不少人認為他們只是運氣好,有一個富爸爸東芝投資家持,他也因此不斷警惕自己,「現在有可能只是運氣好。」

IC設計經常是一代拳王,一個消費性產品的需求消失,一個股王就頓時隕落。潘健成更加如履薄冰,但至少到目前,他擺脫了一個困境,創造了一個馬來西亞的台灣夢。

因此在財務操作上,群聯也相對保守,盡量不向銀行借錢,目前零負債、還有二十億現金,就是要避免哪一天不小心「翻船」。

問他未來的規劃?他說想都沒想過,「想太多的人反而無法專心,」假如一直在思考該怎麼走,反而永遠都到不了目的地,還不如走了再說。現在,他只想要把眼前的事情做好,「我沒有時間去做夢。」

參考資料:http://www.cw.com.tw/article/index.jsp?id=35050  天下雜誌400


It is hard to believe that this baby-faced boy-next-door with his bookish eyeglasses and modest smile is the general manager of a company with revenues exceeding NT$20 billion.

In fact, this 33-year-old Malaysian Chinese who first arrived in Taiwan as a university student, became the youngest CEO of a Taiex darling stock, when his company’s share price topped the IC design sector in July 2007 after overtaking, if only briefly, that of IC design giant MediaTek Inc.

He is K.S. Pua, the president of chip design house Phison Electronics Corp., which turned the USB flash drive into an essential tool in today’s digitalized world.

A Distant Dream

The first time Pua joined his father to work the land at the family’s home in Malaysia, his father told him something he would never forget. Taking a break from the scorching sun in a simple palm-covered hut, his father told the nine-year-old Pua, “People are not unlucky their entire lives. If you work hard, you will naturally be rewarded.”

The home, located in the ethnic Chinese village of Sekinchan about 80 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur, had been in the family for three generations. As the oldest son and with his mother pregnant, the nine-year-old could no longer live a carefree existence and had to help his family make a living.

During those years, his dreams were a very distant glimmer. One day when he was 11, he returned home from school to find his normally resolute father in tears and his mother cursing as his two-year-old brother slept. The family had run out of rice.

Swallowing his pride, his father took Pua on his motorcycle to borrow money from friends and bought a sack of rice and two canned goods, ensuring that his family would have something to eat for lunch and dinner.

Those difficult times made Pua vow that neither he nor his children would be forced to endure the same life.

In 1992, at the age of 18, Pua scratched together the equivalent of NT$120,000 through odd jobs and the help of family and friends, and traveled to Taiwan to enroll at National Chiao Tung University. He relied on jobs in the library and the school commissary to pay for his expenses, and survived on just NT$35 a meal.

After he graduated with a master’s degree in electrical and control engineering, he got a job at Feiya Technology Corp. (which has since become Silicon Motion Technology Corp.) through an introduction from his academic mentor, professor Wu Bing-fei. With his steady salaried job, Pua’s arduous past seemed behind him.

Forced into Founding Phison

After serving at Feiya Technology for about a year, Pua was appointed to start up a new subsidiary in July 2000.

But after three months, the parent company had yet to put up funding for the new operation, and not only was the spin-off not able to continue, it had accumulated more than NT$1 million in debts. Not surprisingly, Feiya decided to abandon the start-up soon after it was born.

Yet this crisis, in which Pua’s company teetered on the edge of the dustbin, became an opportunity to create something completely new. After agonizing over his options for less than 30 days, he decided to found Phison Electronics. While many companies start from scratch, with zero capital or resources, Phison actually started well in the red. Yet it gradually climbed a path of growth.

The 26-year-old Pua and four other partners of around the same age showed their youthful tenacity and refusal to accept defeat by forming Phison Electronics Corp. on November 8, 2000. The company’s Chinese name means “a group of people united together,” and this team spirit that emphasizes pooling the group’s collective wisdom became one of Phison’s most important corporate values.

Pua and his partners scrambled to raise capital, and were even turned away when they came to the bank hat in hand. But ultimately, they managed to raise NT$30 million in a month. Their temporary headquarters was a 65-square-meter room in the basement of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) Incubator building. With the air conditioning shut off after 5 p.m., the young partners worked through the muggy heat of summer wearing nothing more than shorts. But undistracted by their environment, they single-mindedly focused on staying the course, determined not to allow the company to fail. The Phison team, with a considerable foundation in research, persevered, producing products within three months and breaking even after nine.

In 2001, they designed the world’s first USB flash memory SOC (system-on-chip) and followed that by successfully designing and manufacturing the world’s first single-chip USB flash pen drive, riding the momentum of the global USB flash craze.

At the young age of 26, Pua seemed to be on the verge of success, but his dream was nearly extinguished a short time later.

The Struggle for Survival

Two years after the company’s inception, fast-growing Phison’s very survival was threatened.

In 2002, Feiya Technology filed civil and criminal complaints against Phison, Pua, and another former Feiya employee, vice president Aw Yong Chee Kong, for allegedly stealing trade secrets. A Hsinchu court issued an order to freeze Phison’s entire cash reserves of NT$45 million, leaving it without any cash to operate and almost forcing it out of business.

Faced with a challenge from such an imposing rival, Pua’s simplest option would have been to surrender. But he believed that giving in would have wasted the efforts of the previous two years and betrayed the trust of the partners and investors who had backed him from the beginning.

“If you disappointed people like that, could you still look yourself in the mirror?” Pua felt at the time.

The suit proceeded for a full four years, with the court initially ruling in Phison’s favor. But during the appeals process in September 2006, the two sides reached a settlement that forced Phison to pay NT$3 million in compensation to Silicon Motion (which by that time had acquired Feiya).

Hitting Back

Often, only a fine line separates bad luck from good fortune. Reflecting on the biggest tempest of his life, Pua has trouble hiding his anger, but he is still “grateful” toward Silicon Motion and its president Wallace C. Kou, like Pua a National Chiao Tung University alum. If Phison had not been put through the lawsuit, Pua says, “Phison would have never progressed so quickly.”

The enmity lit by the lawsuit remains to this day. Pua’s resentment toward his former employer has manifested itself in the commercial arena, with Phison stalking Silicon Motion mercilessly, stealing its customers and undercutting its prices.

“If they sell [an item] for NT$0.32, I’ll sell it for NT$0.18,” Pua says.

One such example may have played out in the competition over a part in an Asustek Computer product. The embedded SSD controllers Asus uses in its low-cost Eee Pc were originally supplied exclusively by Silicon Motion, but since February of this year, Phison formally joined the supply chain for this item, a move carrying the distinct scent of Pua’s continuing desire for revenge.

Losing a Friend and Mentor

As much as the legal wrangling may have triggered Phison’s growth, it also had negative consequences, including driving an irreparable wedge between Pua and his close friend and academic mentor Wu Bing-fei.

Of all of Pua’s professors during his years at National Chiao Tung University, he is most indebted to Wu, long a pillar of the university’s Department of Electrical and Control Engineering. Pua’s leap from that department into IC design with no formal training in the IC field was helped to a considerable degree by Wu’s guidance.

Pua, who collaborated with Wu on research projects from the time he was a university senior, described their past relationship as that of “father and son.” Today, the discords of the past seem to be water under the bridge, but Wu is unwilling to discuss Pua’s success with the media. In a letter, the professor expressed the hope that Pua would remain “low key” and focus his full attention on his career, rather than losing himself in the media limelight.

And what are Pua’s plans for the future? He hasn’t really pondered it.

“People who think too much are unable to concentrate,” he says, contending that if all you do is ponder how to move forward, you’ll never reach the destination. He prefers to take action and then think about the direction. At this point in time, Pua says, he is solely focused on properly handling the tasks at hand.

“I don’t have time to dream,” he says.

Translated from the Chinese by Luke Sabatier

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