人物專訪：謝孟章 (A Versatile Leader of the Food Industry )
(English Article Follows)
印尼Great Giant Food Commissioner
訪談前心中充滿著疑問，一個人有辦法做這麼工作嗎? 難道他的時間跟我們不一樣，他一天的時間是48小時? 還是有瞬間移動的超能力，只要手指一彈馬上就到下一個場景? 終於來到了訪問當天，見到了謝孟璋先生後，讓所有的疑問有了答案。
謝孟璋畢業於美國哥倫比亞大學國際事務研究所碩士，身為長子的謝孟璋從小在父母的安排下，從小隻身美國求學，從小學開始到中學、高中都在美國東北部紐英倫念書，之後到了紐約哥倫比亞大學取得碩士學位。在唸碩士的最後一年，暑假期間進入了所羅門兄弟公司實習，在實習的最後一天，老闆會把實習生叫進辦公室並關起門來，告知實習表現結果，並是否有機會轉正職。當下每位實習生都想轉正職，這樣畢業後馬上有工作。「Would you like me to make you an offer for the Asia Pacific?」這是進辦公室時，老闆對他說的第一句話，謝孟璋回憶著說，這份工作也是他人生中最刺激的時期，於是畢業後就在華爾街工作約3~4年的時間，因此也累積了許多的財務經歷。
我最喜歡一本書是 拿破崙的鈕釦(Napoleon’s Buttons)，這本書非常精采的描述如何化學與材料學改變了歷史謝孟璋說著並向我們介紹了這本書而書名則是引用書裡其中一個故事將拿破崙會在俄羅斯大潰敗的原因之一歸罪於軍服的釦子! 由於以前的釦子是錫製的，錫在低溫時會崩解成粉末狀，軍衣扣子扣不起來使的士兵在酷寒中生病喪命，導致西元一八一二年拿破崙對俄軍戰役的大潰敗，若當初這些軍衣上的錫製鈕釦能不在低溫時裂解，是否法軍能繼續東征，並將歐洲的演進歷史推往一個完全不同的方向？從一個小小的釦子就有許多科學&化學的知識，甚至影響到整個戰爭的局面，此時謝孟璋繼續和我們分享其他的關於科學&化學相關的小故事，像男孩般開心的和朋友分享著自己喜歡的遊戲。
A Versatile Leader of the Food Industry
Synmax Biochemical Co., Ltd Chairman
Taitung Enterprise Co., Ltd. Vice-Chairman
Food Industry Research and Development Institute. – Chairman
Chinese National Federation Of Industries. – Director
Taiwan Canners Association. – Honorary Director
CURRY HOUSE CoCo ICHIBANYA (TAIWAN) – Board Member
Great Giant Food. – Commissioner
Wei Chuan Foods Corp. – Board Member
Elite Material Co.,Ltd.- Board Member
Upon seeing the list of titles above, one would think that there are a number of people being described. However, these various leadership positions are held by only one person – Mr. Mark Hsieh. Prior to our interview with Mr. Hsieh, it was nature to question, “How does Mr. Hsieh hold so many positions at one time? Does he have 48 hours in each of his days? Does he have “super powers”, where he can morph quickly from one project to the next?” On the day of the interview, we received answers to all of our questions.
As the door to the meeting room opens, we receive a friendly greeting from Mark, “Hello, how are you?” We immediately start into our interview. He begins to tell us about his life and businesses.
Mark is the oldest child in his family. From the time he was a boy, his parents arranged for Mark to be educated in the USA. From grade school through high school, he was educated in New England. Mark is a graduate of Columbia University in New York City, and received a Masters degree in International Affairs. During the summer of his last year in graduate school, he went to work for Salomon Brothers as an intern. On the final day of his internship, all of the interns were to meet with the supervisor, with hopes that they would have an opportunity to become full-time employees, upon graduation. Since Mark was an outstanding intern, his supervisor, asked directly, “Would you like me to make you an offer for the Asia Pacific?
Mark recalls that this was the most exciting work of his life, since he had just graduated and was working in a permanent position on Wall Street. In 4 years at Salomon Brothers, Mark gained extensive experience in the field of corporate finance. (Salomon Brothers was established in 1910 on Wall Street and was quite famous. In 1990, Salomon Brothers merged with Travelers Corp., and then was acquired by Citibank in 1998.)
Why did you come back to Taiwan to develop in the Food Industry, instead of remaining in the USA in the financial industry?
Mark returned to Taiwan in 1997. The reasons for his decision were twofold; first, his family was involved in many food-related companies in Taiwan and second, his father had a stroke, the family needed Mark to come home to take over the corporation.
Mark’s grandfather was one of the founders of Taiwan Pineapple in the 1950’s, and was successful in exporting canned pineapple to overseas markets. His grandfather also started the Taiwan Food Industry Research Center, in an effort to improve Taiwan’s food quality. It is also a formal training center for those involved with food research in Taiwan. Mark’s father was also heavily involved with the food industry, but also expanded into other areas such as electronics, biotechnology, and chemicals.
In early 1990’s, when China began to open to the “outside”, Mark remarks that there were not many professionals in the securities industry who had adequate English-Chinese language capabilities, so Mark was assigned by his company to work in Hong Kong. However, in 1995, China experienced an economic downturn, and financial transactions dwindled. While Salomon Brothers continued to pay a lucrative salary, Mark resigned as he had stopped learning . Mark then resigned and went to Japan to attend Keio University to learn Japanese, one of his many interests.
One of the joint ventures between Mark’s family company was with UCC Coffee of Japan. Since Mark had language skills in English, Chinese, and Japanese, the Head of UCC suggested to Mark’s father that that Mark work directly in his Japan office. Mark worked at UCC for 1 year. However, after a year at UCC, Mark’s father became ill, so Mark came back to Taiwan to take care of his father and assume the management of the family’s many businesses.
Considering that Mark is generally a very well-organized person, to accept control of his family’s businesses under these conditions was quite a challenge. However, this was Mark’s duty, and he accepted his responsibilities as a dutiful son, and overseas educated businessman.
“I enjoy science, and challenges. I get a sense of accomplishment when I can overcome adversity.”
Mark, states, “What I achieved with Synmax Chemicals has given me the greatest satisfaction in my professional life. Synmax was established by his father, along with other institutional investors and its primary business was the production of B-lactam antibiotics. However, Mainland China became the leading producer of antibiotics, since there was an abundance of basic materials for their production there. Coupled with the export subsidies placed on these materials being exported globally , in 2000 most of the chemical companies producing antibiotics went out-of-business. However, investors were reluctant to close the company , so at 33, Mark accepted the challenge of taking over this faltering company, which could easily have been closed.
Since Mark has an interest in science and medical chemical products, Mark’s first action was to cease the production of antibiotics and then initiate the development of new products. One of his new products was a Key intermediate for hypertension . Also, stepping “out of the box”, Mark developed a relationship with a large Japanese LCD chemical manufacturer, which required the use of chemicals in the production of LCD. Thereby, the LCD Chemical Division of Synmax was created.
To undertake a “Change Management” exercise, where complete departments and products are abandoned, and new products and departments are created, is not an easy task. It wasn’t until the 4th year of this new operation that Synmax began to generate a profit and its new operation stabilized. Mark recounts that if it wasn’t for the support and willingness of his employees to share the risk with Mark, this effort would surely have failed.
“Although this was a difficult goal to achieve, and not all “smooth sailing”, the end results justify our effort”. Mark face is smiling, reflecting his accomplishment and gratitude towards his dedicated staff.
“I enjoy reading, especially books about science and particularly science history, because these books inspire creative thinking.”
Mark recalls, “One of my favorite books is called Napoleon’s Buttons, which weaves history with development of chemistry and material science. The title of the book entices readers with one of several anecdotal explanations of how chemistry changed the course of history. In Napoleon’s case, the book attributes the poor quality of the soldier’s’ uniform buttons as one of the contributing factors to Napoleon’s failure to conquer Russia. Their buttons cracked in the frigid Russian winter, causing soldiers’ uniform to fall apart, exposing Napoleon’s army to the deadly Russian winter. As a result, the French army could not properly wage war, and was defeated. The author speculates that if the buttons had been made of a different material, which did not fail in cold weather, perhaps Napoleon would have won this war and expanded France’s geographical “Sphere of Influence”. In this case, Europe’s history could possibly have been changed. The importance of science in even the smallest detail cannot be overlooked.”’ Mark is like a little child, excited and happy to re-tell one of his favorite stories to anyone who is interested.
Mark relates, “I often remind my two sons and others around me about my personal Values and Principles in 8 Chinese characters, “Pu Shr, Zhi Wo, Leh Guan, Jing Chur”. The meanings of each of these four ideas are:
“Pu Shr” – “Simplicity” – In Life and in undertaking tasks, try to keep things simple.,
“Zhi Wo” – “Individuality” – Do not follow the crowd but try to accomplish things that you are interested in and can be creative doing.
“Leh Guan” – “Be Positive” – Being positive allows goals to be achieved in a good frame of mind and affects those around you.
“Jing Chur” – “Diligence” – To achieve anything worthwhile, one must be diligent. Each step should be carefully considered, and action taken in proper sequence.
“While these eight characters are quite simple, to live by and take action in accord with these principles is not an easy to do. The purpose of a Company is not only to generate a profit, but to create a secure and harmonious environment for its staff, and to contribute to society. In any business, there will be challenges. However, challenges should not be considered to be a bad thing – rather as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each challenge should be optimistically and carefully assessed, then a strategy developed to overcome the challenge with an action plan, with proper execution of that strategy. Finally, to be pessimistic on any level, does not help to overcome a challenge, or benefit anyone. These are the guiding principles of my Life, which are particularly applicable to young people, and people who may be facing particular difficulties.”