“Either four people would be fired, or everybody had to sacrifice 20% of their salary.”
When the newly hired design manager Robert Jean Tondreault packed his belongings and was traveling from New York, he did not know that his salary had been cut by 20%. But as a New Yorker, who understood what had happened, he agreed to the cut like all the others. Today, he is research and development manager and one of the partners of the company.
While companies owned by brothers sometimes have difficulties in management, the parent company of Rapid Conn, the Connect County Group, is managed like a family company among its American, Singaporean and Turkish owners. Hidirlar states that the secret behind the harmony can be found in the 2000-year-old Chinese philosophy of business.
He attributes the harmony to the partnership structure in which the partners never lie or cheat each other and always in trust each other and work with honesty. As old-Chinese philosophy, The Art of War (Sunzi bingfa/Sun-tzu ping fa) has these rules in
He describes Ang Chuang Juay, his partner for 20 years in this way: “Probably he didn’t spend time with his son as much as he spends with me.”
THE ONLY TURK IN THE COMPANY
25 people are employed at the US headquarters of Rapid Conn and the company also has 12 sales representatives. The Malaysian company (Connect County Sdn Bhd) employs 31, the Singaporean company (Connect City Pte Ltd.) employs 8, and the Chinese company (Rapid Conn Co. Ltd.) employs 120 people. In addition, about 3200 people work as subcontractors for the company in China. With a new 160 thousand square meter manufacturing plant in China, the number of employees will increase to 580.
The US subsidiary, Rapid Conn Inc., has been entrusted to a Turk. Turker Hidirlar was born to a family which immigrated to Germany. After his graduation from Mainz University in economics, he studied marketing in England. He moved to Singapore after his marriage, and there met his partner Ang Chuang Juay, whom he portrays thusly: “We are like mentor and apprentice.” He worked as the international marketing director for the same technology company (NS-Tech).
When NS-Tech bought a company with its Taiwan partners in the US which manufactured cables and connectors, the doors of the new continent opened for Hidirlar. He was not only an employee but also a partner in the new company. In his first year at the company with a 40-year history, he and his team, which had 21 marketing specialists, engineers, and 64 operators, actualized 12 million dollars in sales. After deciding having his own company, Rapid Conn Inc was established in 2001. He is currently the CEO and marketing and sales manager of the company.
WENT PUBLIC IN MALAYSIA
Connect County Holdings Berhad, the parent company, was established in Malaysia in 2003. Twenty five percent of the shares were opened to the public on the Malaysian Stock Exchange (MESDAQ) in October 2005. Connect County Holdings Berhad has four subsidiaries in four different countries: Malaysia, the USA, Singapore and China. The country that the group closely follows is India.
The only Turk working for Connect County Holdings Berhad subsidiaries is Turker Hidirlar. Hidirlar is also on the Connect County Group board of directors. Hidirlar states that focusing on value added products was the turning point in the growth of the company.
“Product development according to the demands and the needs of our customers is our strength. We are not only a custom manufacturing company. We provide our customers with products that reflect our experience and design capabilities. We are able to solve any possible problems with the products rapidly with the help of our engineers in our research and development unit located in California.”
At the beginning, producing in China raised questions concerning quality and prestige, but their R&D departments and their competence in design was enough to prove themselves in the sector.
100 MILLION DOLLARS
Hidirlar states their plans to become a 100 million dollar company within six years and is confident that they have the potential. He says: “I believe that we can provide employment to 25 to 30 thousand people, because we have the determination and the power.”
The Group produces 25 million cables and connectors in a year and Connect County is one of the leading companies in the interconnect market.
One of the issues Hidirlar is attaching importance to is to be a part of the process in determining standards.
“We are not only a custom manufacturing company, but we have a say in the design phase,” he says, adding that they outdid a company with 4.5 billion dollars turnover in the production of electric cables, which would continue conductivity after being underwater for six days, and that they assumed the responsibility of manufacturing specially designed connectors in the scope of the projects.
Hidirlar announces: “We managed to realize in three months something that hadn’t been done in 1.5 years,” and explains that because of the connecting cables they have developed, it will be possible to conduct electricity in flood disasters without cables being affected by the water. After initial test production, the manufacture of 30 thousand of these intermediary connection cables is planned. These cables will be used in 1.8 million homes.
The group is targeting the sector necessitating high technology. Broadband network products, multimedia and data products, hard disks and media drives are some of these.
TURKEY IS AN ATTRACTIVE MARKET
The group is targeting the sector requiring high technology. Broadband network products, multimedia and data products, hard disks and media drives are some of these.
Hıdırlar expresses their desire to improve in the European design field, and adds that the Turkish market should not be disregarded. He says: “If manufacturers with close connections to our sector such as Beko, Arçelik, and Vestel desire to produce in Asia and put their products on the Turkish market, we are receptive to this. The market in Turkey is big and attractive.”
33 BILLION DOLLAR MARKET
According to research conducted by the independent market research company Bishop & Associates, Inc. the annual volume of the connector markets is 33 billion dollars (as of 2004). The annual sales volume has increased 5% in the last 25 years, and on average secures net profits of 6%. The profitability of the industry is more than the computer, automobile, semiconductor, aircraft, and distribution sectors.
There are more than 1200 connector producers around the globe. The top 10 companies hold 53% of the market. The American Tyco, Molex, Delphi, Amphenol and the Japanese Yazaki, JST, JAE and Hirose are the leading companies. FCI is the leader in Europe, while Foxconn leads in the Asia Pacific region.
WE HAVE TO BE THERE WHERE THE ADVANTAGES ARE
Your company has four subsidiaries in four different countries. How do you make them work together perfectly? Are being different locations not a disadvantage?
In today global economy you have to be there where the advantages are. Our diversified customer base requires a diversified set of advantages. In our case we positioned our subsidiaries purposefully into strategic geographies; our China based operations takes full advantage of the lower cost centre while benefiting from the strong vendor base with which we established our strong supply chain. Initially China was the cost centre but today China developed to become also the primary business growth centre of our group. We supply in China global contract manufacturers such as Solectron, Flextronic, Foxconn, Elcoteq and Thomson/RCA.
How do you deal with cultural differences in business life?
We have in particular seconded Chinese speaking management staff from Singapore and Malaysia to China to help in bridging cultural bridges and language barriers. Our traditional position in the USA gives us access to the worlds largest electronic development centre. With our engineering headquarter being in the US, we not only are close to our customers but to the technology trends that are governed by product associations.
Which organizations do your companies belong to?
Connect County Group and its US subsidiary is full member of next generation’s product associations that include the Serial ATA.org; Universal Serial Bus (USB).org as well as HDMI.org. Being leading members in these organizations gives us the opportunity to part ourselves form the many me-too players in Asia and position ourselves as innovative technology leader. Our participation in the trade associations provide us access to the next generation product designs of the leading technology companies that include Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Nokia, DELL, Sony, Apple and many others.
WHAT IS A CONNECTOR?
Electronic connectors are small electro-mechanic devices that connect signals in electric appliances from one point to the other. The electronic signal needs to be transferred under any condition. Connectors are devices needed in any type of electronic equipment. Computers, printers, cars, trucks, aircraft, and medical equipment all need connectors.
WHO IS WHO IN CONNECT COUNTY?
Born in Germany, Turker Hidirlar is the executive director and member of the board of directors of Connect County Holdings Berhad Group. He is also the CEO and Marketing & Sales director of the group’s US subsidiary Rapid Conn, Inc.
He studied marketing at Staffordshire University, UK and has business experience in Singapore, England and Germany. He travles so much that he spent 267 days outside the US last year.
ROBERT JEAN TONDREAULT
Graduate of Northeastern University, Boston in electrical engineering. He joined the group after the September 11 attacks, and was appointed to the board of directors of the company in 2003. Before joining Rapid Conn, Inc., he worked for Augat, Midland Ross Corporation, and Robinson Nugent Inc., all well-known companies in the sector. Having put his signature on many successful projects, Tondreault leads the research and development department of Rapid Conn, Inc., and personally holds 14 patents in his name.
ANG CHUANG JUAY
Singaporean businessman, who laid the foundation of Connect County Holdings Berhad Group. Besides being the director of the group, he also is the director of the subsidiaries Connect City Pte Ltd (Singapore), and Connect County Sdn Bhd (Malaysia).
After graduating from the National University of Singapore in engineering, Juay was hired by Wearnes Technology to direct the Printed Circuit Board operations. In his six year of employment there he successfully directed the floppy disk drive (FDD) and the hard disk drive (HDD) operations and worked at the Taiwan and China offices of the company. He also worked as a manager in an English IT firm. When the IT company was sold, Juay was appointed consultant at NS-Tech Co. Ltd. He drew the attention of the owner with his capability, experience and knowledge. He led the expansion of the Singapore based NS-Tech Co. Ltd. into the US market. Believing that the company had to have other targets than merely being an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) subcontracting other companies, he transformed NS-Tech Co. Ltd. into the Connect County Holdings Berhad Group.
CONNECT COUNTY GROUP
Connect County Sdn Bhd (Malaysia)
Connect City Pte Ltd (Singapore)
Rapid Conn Inc. (California, USA)
Rapid Conn Co. Ltd. (China)
Company Product Category
Thomson, Inc. Value-added and ISP
Hughes Network Value-added
Teac Electronics Value-added, custom and ISP
Flextronics Value-added and ISP
Wearnes Precision Value-added, custom and ISP
Jabil Circuit, LLC. Value-added and ISP
Key Tronics Corp. ISP
Senzpak Pte Ltd Value-added and custom
Smartwork Holdings Value-added, custom and ISP
Creative Technology ISP
REGIONAL CONNECTOR SALES / ($ Milyon)
Region 2004 Percentage (%)
North America $9,087.6 27.2
Europe $8,680.3 26.0
Japan $5,802.6 17.4
China $4,118.5 12.3
Asia Pacific $3,859.3 11.5
Resource: Biscop & Associates, Inc.
(July 2006, 21st Issue Cover)