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The Man Who Makes Your iPhone
September 11, 2010 4:44 AM   Subscribe

The Man Who Makes Your iPhone - Bloomberg Businessweek profiles Terry Gou, the founder and chairman of Foxconn, the controversial manufacturer of consumer electronic devices for Apple, Sony, HP and Dell, among others.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The company currently employs about 1,000 workers in a Houston plant that makes specialized high-end servers for corporate clients the company declined to disclose, and Gou envisions a fully automated plant to produce components within five years. "If I can automate in the U.S.A. and ship to China, cost-wise it can still be competitive," he says. "But I worry America has too many lawyers. I don't want to spend time having people sue me every day."

It seems to me that what he means by that last sentence is that doing business in America means subjecting himself to its laws (environmental laws, worker safety laws, minimum wage laws, patent laws. etc.) and the (generally uncorrupt) system of justice that enforces them.

It is much more profitable for Mr. Gou to manufacture in places where there are few such laws and lax enforcement and then ship those products without any tariff into countries like America where such laws do exist.

Conservatives (and way too many Democrats) champion this under the banner of "free" trade when what they are really championing is "free of American laws" trade.
posted by three blind mice at 5:12 AM on September 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


Thanks for the gruesome reminder that the man who actually made my iPhone probably pitched himself out the window of his -- ooh hey, Game Center!
posted by Pants McCracky at 5:30 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay...
Foxconn founder Terry Gou might be regarded as Henry Ford reincarnated if only a dozen of his workers hadn't killed themselves this year. An exclusive look inside a postmodern industrial empire
Postmodern? I was trying to figure out what they meant before I realized they just meant really modern. Maybe a nod to the fact that companies sell stuff stamped "Apple" or "HP" are actually made by a totally different company, but who knows.
This was followed by a two-hour rally inside a vast sports stadium featuring acrobats, musical performances, fireworks, and life-affirming testimonials punctuated by chants of "treasure your life" and "care for each other to build a wonderful future."
A little creepy.

It was hardly a spontaneous outpouring. Rather, it was a joint production of employee unions and management ... The need to do so became apparent after 11 Foxconn employees committed suicide earlier this year Hmm, it should be pointed out that "labor unions" mean something very different in china then they do in the U.S. Chinese labor unions are part of the communist party and controlled by the government. They mainly look out for the interests of management.
Finally, Gou's company hired the New York firm Burson-Marsteller to help devise a formal public-relations strategy, its first in more than 35 years of existence.
Mark Penn's company!? Damn, that guy really gets around!
Prominent on display are biographies of Gou, one of which collects his many aphorisms, including "work itself is a type of joy," "a harsh environment is a good thing," "hungry people have especially clear minds," and "an army of one thousand is easy to get, one general is tough to find."
Well, he doesn't seem to be short on self-esteem! No doubt most Business Week readers will agree with a lot of those quotes.
Gou (pronounced "Gwo")
No, Not really. ("Gwo" would be spelled Guo in Pin-Yin Gou would sound similar to "Go" with a long o at the end)
posted by delmoi at 5:32 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since the end of May, Gou, who normally divides his time between Hon Hai headquarters in Taipei and China, has been living at Longhua in a room behind his office, dealing with the aftermath of the suicides. He says he works 16 hours a day and eats three meals at his desk. There is scarcely time for indulgences. "I was getting my hair dyed at 11 p.m. last night for this interview," he says, introducing himself with a firm handshake. He hasn't played a round of golf in months and stays fit by doing pushups in the morning and using the time to reflect on "the five-year plan. That's the most important."
This is why a lot of "business men" can't understand why their employees need breaks in their 8 hour shifts and stuff like that. They work 18 hours a day so why shouldn't they be rewarded.

What they don't realize is that they're not working they're having fun. If someone plays world of warcraft 18 hours a day that doesn't make them a hard worker. Neither does being a CEO or banker or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 5:37 AM on September 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


The public nature of Foxconn's labor problems could end up benefiting the company, enabling it to pass on the costs of its new worker-friendly initiatives. The raises will cut earnings per share by about 5 percent this year and by 12 percent in 2011, according to Daiwa Securities in Taipei. Yet all it would take is a 1 percent increase in the price of most finished products—$4 more for a 64-gig iPod touch, for example—to offset the added labor costs. Given the awful spectacle of the suicide epidemic, who's going to complain?
This is an important point. I've seen people make claims like "You're not paying the real price for your stuff! If workers were paid well an iPod would cost $3000!!!!"

It's totally false. The labor cost is not high at all, and increasing wages would only have a minor effect on overall prices. But when you're trying to make quarterly numbers pinching pennies helps. And a foreign company looking to outsource would rather pay $99 then $99.05 on a component if they could, without worrying about how much workers get paid or their living conditions.
posted by delmoi at 5:51 AM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]




Third link - Kudos to mefi's moderators for surviving the most dangerous job in tech.
posted by Ahab at 7:10 AM on September 11, 2010


Among the nuggets in this article:
“• Gou on Warren Buffett (‘He's too old’), the uselessness of business degrees (‘You can't read a book to learn to swim’), Steve Jobs (‘I forced him to give me his business card’) and New York bankers who ‘see the Hudson River and say, 'I'm a king of the world.'

• A sampling of Gou's collected aphorisms: ‘work itself is a type of joy,’ ‘a harsh environment is a good thing,’ ‘hungry people have especially clear minds,’ and ‘an army of one thousand is easy to get, one general is tough to find.’

• That Gou dropped his libel lawsuit against two China Business News reporters who exposed harsh working conditions at Foxconn's iPod factory at the behest of Apple and Hewlett-Packard, two of his most important clients.

• That it's the threat of getting sued that concerns him as he prepares to move some of his production facilities from China to the U.S.”
posted by ericb at 7:16 AM on September 11, 2010


The labor cost is not high at all, and increasing wages would only have a minor effect on overall prices.

Citation needed? According to iSuppli the iPhone labor cost is somewhere like $6 per unit, which is 6 hours of worker time in China, and would cost you at least $100 in the U.S. Most electronics products are specifically designed for cheap Chinese labor and would have to be redesigned to be manufactured domestically.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2010


Here are some pictures from the rally.
posted by homunculus at 9:17 AM on September 11, 2010


Mr Gou is about as American as you can get. For example

• A sampling of Gou's collected aphorisms: ‘work itself is a type of joy,’

-aka 'Protestant Work Ethic'

‘a harsh environment is a good thing,’

...for the owner

‘hungry people have especially clear minds,’

-bootstraps lol

and ‘an army of one thousand is easy to get, one general is tough to find.’

-literally the exact argument used to justify both CEO pay and income inequality in America.

Gou's aphorisms are basically a notepad file called american_capitalism.txt. It only sounds outrageous because, not being a native English speaker, he doesn't quite have the same euphemisms for his beliefs that you'd hear from an American CEO or shithead Republican 'small-business owner.'
posted by hamida2242 at 12:40 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is why a lot of "business men" can't understand why their employees need breaks in their 8 hour shifts and stuff like that. They work 18 hours a day so why shouldn't they be rewarded.

What they don't realize is that they're not working they're having fun. If someone plays world of warcraft 18 hours a day that doesn't make them a hard worker. Neither does being a CEO or banker or whatever.


Here's a fun challenge: whenever you see a self-described conservative or libertarian on the internet talking about their "hard earned money," "working hard," or how "lazy" a given group is, check if they're posting from work and watch how vigorously they'll justify it.
posted by hamida2242 at 1:26 PM on September 11, 2010


Here's a fun challenge: whenever you see a self-described conservative or libertarian on the internet talking about their "hard earned money," "working hard," or how "lazy" a given group is, check if they're posting from work and watch how vigorously they'll justify it.
Honestly, though, if someone in the USA can't figure out how to make six figures, they just aren't trying. That's fine, though, because people have priorities other than making money.
posted by planet at 2:10 PM on September 11, 2010


I tried to move on but "privileged blindness" wasn't one of the flag reasons.
posted by yoHighness at 2:24 PM on September 11, 2010


Honestly, though, if someone in the USA can't figure out how to make six figures, they just aren't trying.

Most of us have figured it out. It's just that we can't figure out how to get the resources required to get into the position to make those six figures. Don't have rich supportive parents, can't suppress my sense of decency long enough to bilk thousands of poor or elderly, can't get a business loan from the bank, and don't have the gumption to risk jail time.

There's very few ways to seriously make over 100k without screwing someone over somewhere, even if it's the mundane, everyday screw-overs like taking massive bonuses for a successful year, while the lower-downs see little reward for their hard work. Like other parts of life, landing a well-paying job often is a crap shoot, being in the right place at the right time.

In a nation where an adult can expect to average around 35k, I really don't believe that we are, on average, one-third-assing it.
posted by explosion at 4:02 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's very few ways to seriously make over 100k without screwing someone over somewhere, even if it's the mundane, everyday screw-overs like taking massive bonuses for a successful year, while the lower-downs see little reward for their hard work.
Yes, this mindset is the problem. What reward should there be just for "hard work"? None, if you ask me. Nobody cares if you just show up and punish yourself.

People who are willing to work hard but can't be bothered to pay attention to focus their hard work at something that will be profitable are screwing themselves over.
posted by planet at 4:32 PM on September 11, 2010


• A sampling of Gou's collected aphorisms: ‘work itself is a type of joy,’

Kraft durch Freude!
posted by homerica at 6:28 PM on September 11, 2010


No, Not really. ("Gwo" would be spelled Guo in Pin-Yin Gou would sound similar to "Go" with a long o at the end)

Terry Gou's name (like every other Taiwanese person's name) isn't in Hanyu Pinyin. His name is 郭台銘 i.e. Guo Taiming.
posted by alidarbac at 8:30 PM on September 11, 2010


Johann Hari explains why Foxconn is actually worse than the BusinessWeek article makes them look.
posted by Slogby at 1:36 AM on September 13, 2010


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