Taiwan's Jonney Shih

Top execs at Taiwanese electronics companies would do just about anything to land a big-name computer company as a customer. Then there's Asustek Computer Chairman Jonney Shih. When the company recently decided to boost sales of computer mainboards to leading PC makers, one top U.S. manufacturer didn't cut it. Shih thought the PC maker's low-cost strategy didn't fit his company's quality-conscious image. "We insist on good-quality customers," says Shih, 45.

Being a stickler hasn't hurt Shih's meteoric rise in the global computer industry. Just a startup eight years ago, Asustek is now the largest motherboard maker in Taiwan--and the second-largest in the world after Intel Corp. By hiring top-caliber engineers, Shih has ensured that his company is a key link in the worldwide supply chains of top computer makers. That has buffered Asustek from the Asian crisis and provided Shih with fat margins in a cutthroat business. Last year, the company earned $212 million on sales of $650 million. And because Shih tests boards for Intel, he can release new ones as soon as Intel delivers new chips--and beat competitors to market.

Low-key, even reclusive, Shih joined Asustek in 1993 from computer maker Acer Inc., where he made his mark in research. He remains an engineer at heart, teaching his employees advanced electronics theory and getting involved with the conceptual design of new products.

When Intel Chairman Andrew S. Grove comes to town, he always makes time for Shih. On a recent visit, Grove smiled when Shih showed him an outline of the Asustek business philosophy with the heading "Only the Paranoid Survive," the title of Grove's book. Shih notes that he and Grove share some characteristics--both are engineering-oriented and have exacting natures. Says Shih: "If you want to be No.1, is there any difference between perfectionist and paranoid?"

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