As a PhD student at the University of North Carolina, Pan Wen-Whe asked his professor for a piece of wisdom he could take into the future. The professor gave him two words: “Be needed.” This advice has steered Pan through the 33 years of his career. “I’ve always put myself in a position where others need me,” he says.
“When people depend on you, there is no need to worry about a change in the relationship. If you’re needed, you’re successful. This attitude applies to subordinates, customers, bosses, suppliers – everyone you come in contact with.”
“I’ve always put myself in a position where others need me … If you’re needed, you’re successful.”
Pan was nominated as CEO of United Renewable Energy (URE) in 2018 when three companies, Neo Solar Power, Gintech and Solartech, merged to form Taiwan’s largest photovoltaic cell producer. Pan believes that as a communicative manager, he has the skills to lead the company forward.
“Good managers communicate well with their employees,” he says. “I take a hands-on approach to solving problems while keeping communication open among our team.”
URE’s unique position as an amalgamation of three leading solar companies gives it the strength to offer a complete solution to customers. “We are an international company with factories located in Taiwan, China and Thailand,” he explains. “We offer a variety of products and solutions to customers by reducing the manufacturing costs and avoiding trade barriers.”
URE’s presence in both Taiwan and China means it must navigate a complicated relationship. Pan says that China’s low manufacturing costs, economic scale and large domestic market make it a challenging country to compete in.
“We plan to do more outsourcing to leverage China’s low costs while focusing on technology and innovation to offer new products,” he adds. “I think this is the only way to face this challenge.”
URE is the only solar company in Taiwan to have received government support and funding, a total of TW$2.8 billion (US$90 million). The government has been actively promoting the development of green energy, with the goal of increasing renewable energy to 20% by 2025. To support these goals, URE will combine solar panels with agriculture to make its agricultural land more productive.
“Our solar panels will be mounted high enough to allow the crops below to receive almost as much sunlight as they would if the panels were not there,” Pan explains. “Likewise, we will build a floating solar panel on the surface of fish ponds and reservoirs.
This system will increase the total productivity of the land and waters in Taiwan. My long-term goal is to transform URE into a total solution provider of solar PV systems and solar energy storage systems. I also see us developing hydrogen-powered motorcycles in the electromobility sector.”
Pan has focused on unifying the three companies’ employees after the merger. “The culture of a company is tough to set up, especially in our case,” he admits. “Sometimes, in the beginning, you need to tolerate something you don’t believe in because the other side does. I try to show people they can trust me and follow me.
“Integrity and innovation are two of my personal values, as well as our company’s values,” he adds. “They have always been important to me. As I often say to my strategic partners, we do what we say. We keep our promises. We also focus on innovation and technology to stay ahead of the competition, and we always stand behind our product.”
Pan attributes his success to four guiding principles: be needed, enjoy your life, nurture the body and mind, and turn dreams into reality. “During the weekends and evenings, I don’t work,” he says.
“I work eight to nine hours a day and make sure not to bury myself in work. You must foster your passions in life and nurture your health or you may not be able to handle the pressures around you. You must set up a goal in life and plan to achieve it. You must act on your dreams and prepare for the future.”
Not one to sit back and let life drift by, Pan takes adventure into his own hands. At 50 years of age, he swam five kilometres across Taiwan’s famous Sun Moon Lake. At 60, he set out to climb the highest mountain in Taiwan called Jade Mountain, reaching close to 4,000 metres high. That same year, he climbed Mount Fuji in Japan.
When he turned 62, he cycled 900 kilometres around Taiwan. He completed the challenge in nine days. “When you achieve a goal you’ve set for yourself, you feel great,” he says. “You believe in yourself. The same applies to your professional career.”
URE believes that Taiwanese manufacturers should come together to form a flagship solar company with a competitive edge on the global market and build a flourishing and prosperous integrated platform. URE’s business model complements Taiwan’s green energy goals and it invites other Taiwanese solar companies to join its platform, to facilitate the sustainable development and upgrade of the country’s solar power industry.