[ By Tim Talevich ]
William Wang reaches his vision in Vizio
O SAY IT HAS BEEN AN EVENTFUL EIGHT YEARS for William Wang is a gross understate- SAY IT HAS BEEN AN EVENTFUL EIGHT YEARS for William Wang is a gross understate-m ent. In November 2000, Wang traveled to Asia to meet with creditors in a desperate attempt
t o keep them supporting his failing computer monitor company. Then came the plane crash.
T he Singapore Airlines 747he wasontookoff onthe wrongrunwayin Taiwan, struckaconstruction
site and broke in two. Eighty-three passengers and crew members were killed in the accident. Wang
was among the survivors, and three years later he founded Vizio, now one of the world’s leading
flat-panel television makers. In this interview in his Irvine, California, office, Wang talks about the
crash, how Vizio started, the company’s model for success and plans for the future.
The Costco Connection: How did the jet
crash make a difference for you today? I can’t
imagine a more shattering experience.
William Wang: I am a very optimistic person.
Optimism got me through my hard times. I think
of everything as being half full. The event was
pretty crazy. I wish I could have stayed longer to
help more people.
It happened at the time where I hit the
bottom of my career also. But actually, the crash
gave me more courage more than anything
else. My dreams didn’t die. In fact, they were
renewed. I always had a lot of guts. After that,
I had a little more.
CC: The biggest question people have is how you
can bring a line of HDTVs [high-definition TVs]
to market at a low price without sacrificing quality. In short, how do you do it?
WW: I have been in the consumer electronics
industry for a long time— 25 years on the computer side. I know all the component makers
and the key technology influencers in today’s
TV industry from my years in the computer
The TV is a much different device today. Ten
years ago, it was an analog device. Today’s TV is
actually a little computer with a TV monitor. So
with my background in the computer industry,
I was positioned to understand the future of
TV very well.
The opportunity was given to us by the U. S.
government when it declared that all analog TV
transmissions would switch to digital. I thought
of all the opportunities that would evolve, and I
thought, hmm, maybe I could put together a TV
that was more affordable than what was on the
market at the time.
I shopped around for a new TV myself and
couldn’t afford one: $9,000 for one 42-inch TV,
even more for others. That was crazy. Certainly
we could offer one for much less as people
replaced their old TVs with new ones.
CC: What are the key business practices to make
this all work?
WW: It starts with a globalization outsourcing
model, just like PC makers use. We use qualified
manufacturers to make the components for us
based on our specifications.
Next, we have to work extremely efficiently.
There are just 100 people here in Irvine, half of
whom are in tech support. We have to watch
overhead very closely. This means we have to
work very smart.
We also have to constantly watch inventory.
In a business where the resolution keeps going
up and the prices keep going down, holding
on to inventory can be disastrous. So, we have
to be very good at forecasting sales to meet
demand, but not exceed it. We watch the numbers like a hawk every day. Some other big com-