The path to entrepreneurship
Dato’ Chia, CEO of Chia Trading, after finishing high school set up a hardware store with his younger brother. “We sold just about anything related to construction, wood, and cement … every kind of building material,” says Dato’ Chia as he casts back to 1986, the year they started.
“We were selling goods, especially sand and aggregate, so we started to have delivery issues. We were still small so we were not a priority customer for the truck companies and sometimes we were unable to deliver our orders,” explains Dato’ Chia. The frustration was too much for the young businessman, so he went out and bought his own truck. “I got my Goods Driving License (GDL), bought a one-ton truck and drove it myself,” he remembers proudly.
Now, Dato’ Chia is evolving to towards a “top-down business approach”. In association with several partners, he is leading a dozen companies, from building materials traders to transport services. Several big regional projects in which he is involved, stretching over the next decade, might serve his ambition: the 325 km between Kota Bharu and Kuala Pilah, the Central Spine Road, the extension of the Kuantan port.
Dato’ Chia recently acquired several quarries to add to his milling plants and various factories producing aggregate, asphalt, and coating products. With the new partnership formed, he is able to offer customers a turnkey solution, from the quarry to the construction site.
Word of mouth, a key to building business
Having worked as a driver meant that Dato’ Chia was well aware of the importance of choosing reliable trucks. But for him, the choice of UD was also hugely influenced by the personality of the salesman at that time, Mr Lim Thing Eng, today the General Manager of the Heavy Duty Division at Tan Chong Industrial Equipment Sdn. Bhd (TCIE) – the UD Malaysia importer. “He is a wonderful salesman,” Dato’ Chia recalls, “and he always gave me a great service.
Furthermore, he was recommended to me by two friends.’’ That last point may be the most important of all, in this Chinese-Malay context, it seems that every business deal is a matter of relationships. As President of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Bentong and Vice President of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Pahang, Dato’ Chia knows this well.
The two associations are essentially oriented towards networking and also serve as spokespersons between the government and the powerful Chinese business community. “Now it’s my turn to recommended UD trucks to business partners, and I’m happy to do that”, he says.
Retaining drivers through good leadership
“We repair as much as we can by ourselves and we take our trucks to the UD workshop for major repairs. I think preventive maintenance is the secret to keeping a truck going longer. That’s why we also have our own workshop and employ 11 full-time mechanics” says Dato’ Chia.
Actually, in Chia Trading, all members of the leadership have also been drivers at some point in their lives, they have a good understanding of the task and have maintained their driver turn-over rate at a manageable level.
“Some drivers have been with us for more than 20 years,” explains Sam Kon Fatt, the fleet manager. “One of our drivers came here when his wife was pregnant, because he needed a stable job. Now their son, is also working for us as a driver!’’ Apart from the 11 mechanics, the company now employs 70 drivers as well as 3 engineers.