Solar firm weathers storm with sound principles
Updated: 2013-12-25 09:20
By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)
Bucking prevailing opinions, Gao believes that rapid expansion before the crisis was not what caused the ensuing catastrophe. The reason, he believes, comes down to corporate management.
"It is not because the expansion was too fast but because the fast expansion was not accompanied by good management. It is like houses that are not properly maintained after they are built," he said.
According to Gao, before the crisis, the industry was dazzled by the bright prospects of the solar industry, as investors, most without much experience in the sector, flocked in. They spent huge amounts on land and facilities. But much of it was left idle after it was bought.
Gao, however, never hid his contempt for these "speculators" and believes he became a sentry for the industry.
In 1997, when few in China had even heard the word "photovoltaic", Gao started his company. He had always believed that demand for solar power would grow.
But even as leader of the company, Gao said he never single-handedly makes all the major decisions. Those are all fully discussed at the management level before any action is taken. The diversity of the board and management team - every regional company of the NYSE-listed firm is managed by local talent - ensures that Trina is well-informed on opportunities and risks of local markets.
"I've always said that solid management was the fundamental guarantee of our success. As early as 2006, when we went public, we realized it was essential to build a global talent pool," Gao said.
This means that Trina has expended great effort to find the right talent for different areas, whether it is production, sales, quality control or environment protection.
In addition, "we manufacturers should not always talk about 'grand concepts'. Specific work should be done, and no part (of the company) can afford to have problems," Gao said.
In fact, the company's corporate management is so formularized that some employees complain it sometimes can be too rigid. "It is more like an American company," said one former employee who refused to be identified.
Trina might not seem like an exciting place to some employees, but its financials are solid. In the third quarter of this year, sales revenue surged 24.4 percent over the second quarter to hit $548 million.
And it is reassuring to see how the company's revenue sources have changed. A year ago, the German market made up 42.1 percent of Trina's revenue, while China contributed only 5 percent.
Now, China has emerged as the largest market, contributing 39 percent of the company's revenue while Germany has retreated to 16 percent.