THE courier business may not exactly be classified as one of the more popular business ventures to get into. In fact, ask most people what they think of it as a business, and you would probably get some vague answer, telling you how it should be left to those in the transportation fraternity, ? not to be ventured into unless you know the industry fairly well.
Proving the cynics wrong, both Teong Teck Lean, who used to be a dealer with a local brokerage, and Leong Chee Tong, from a healthcare background, have managed to revive local courier company GD Express Sdn Bhd, expand its operations, and also turn the company around, making it profitable, and all this, within a span of some two years.
The company's growth patterns have been phenomenal; “Our company has grown more than three fold over the last two years,” a jubilant Teong, managing director and chief executive officer of GD Express tells BizWeek.
“When we first came in, in 2000, we had some 40 trucks, today we have about a 100. Then, in 2000, we had about 250 staff; today we have more than 500.
“At that time when we first joined GD Express, we were doing about RM500,000 in revenue monthly and the company was run more like a transport company.
“Today we are doing something like RM2 million in monthly revenue, and are well-known in the industry,” Leong, who doubles up as chief operations officer and executive director adds.
The growth levels, the two gentlemen add, are impressive considering the company has yet to start marketing its services, and even more so considering other companies in the same business have been seeing dwindling fortunes.
The growth patterns for the courier company, the two say, is the result of larger volumes from old clients, adding on new business or more cargo, and totally new customers coming forward, after hearing of the improvements and changes for the better within the company.
“We went back to basics, changed the business philosophy, put in the required investments, improved on the transhipment centre, added on the new security surveillance centre and then most importantly changed the mindset of our crew,” Leong says.
“It was about motivating our people, our staff, getting them to do more, making them feel that their effort pay will pay off. In the past, there was no differentiating a hard worker from one who didn’t work at all, a slacker,” Teong adds.
“To facilitate the growth patterns we wanted, we had to shift the mindset (of our people), it involved training our people, teaching them how to use computers and the like, instilling in them a sense of belonging, a sense of pride, a sense of teamwork ? getting them to believe that we genuinely cared for them, and wanted them to succeed with the company,” Leong says.
“The basis for our work incentive schemes are, the more you do the more you get, we looked at rewarding the workers, we looked at what incentive schemes other companies had used, how some failed, why some were successful.
“We did thorough market research basically, as both of us have no experience in the courier business, so we had to spend time planning, each and every step, very cautiously, after which we reviewed the action again and again, after implementing it,” Teong adds.
The effort has paid off as the company has managed to turn around, registering profits for the first time, after being in operations since 1996.
Teong does not deny that there were many problems in the early stages when the duo came in. There were many investments to be made and many sleepless nights spent working with various levels of staff.
“We have had to invest some RM7 million over the last two years, and basically we conducted our research tracing back the basic problems in the industry, and sorted them out one by one, for example, a rampant problem in the industry is one of pilferage.
“We have managed to sort the problem out, pilferage has been reduced tremendously in GD Express, by some 1,000 per cent,” Teong says.
“The first six months we worked hand in hand with our people, we went through exactly what they go through, solely to understand what the job entails, and to better judge the difficulties of the job, to better tackle any problems that might come up.
“As a result of our hard work in that initial period, we proved to our workers that we mean business, our workers know that we care and we really, almost fully understand the problems they face, and that we understand the nature and requirement of each and every job function.
“Today after three years, I must say we understand the industry. And we have no regrets getting involved in it. Yes, the going has been tough, but still we have no regrets,” Teong says.
The company has many success stories, a driver who clawed his way up rank and file, and is now a manager, contributing to the strength of the management team, among others.
“In this industry, what we have learnt is that an education is not essential, what is essential is, hands-on experience, and the will to perform, to see to it that the clients' needs are met,” Leong says.
“This business revolves around efficiency, if you can send cargo at an express speed, and at a cost efficient price, companies which traditionally don’t use couriers will begin to realise that it is convenient to use the service and all this, while you maintain the existing clients, so you experience growth,” Teong adds.
GD Express rates, Teong says, are about 30 per cent cheaper than those charged by international courier companies.
“There are many, many things we had to look at and change, but to put it simply, we looked at the needs of the user and started to look into providing the best service at the most affordable price.
“Today we have big clients like DiGi. Com Bhd, MAA Holdings Bhd, Measat Broadcast Network Systems, Gribbles Pathlogy (M) Sdn Bhd, and Pathology and Clinical Laboratory or better known as Pathlab, all companies which have stringent quality requirements, stringent quality control systems,” Teong adds.
Surprisingly, both the partners are not exactly keen on expansion just as yet, but are more inclined to maintaining the high levels of service and efficiency.
“There is still a lot for us to get right here in Malaysia. It does not matter if we are the biggest, the second biggest or the third biggest. It is not the size of our fleet of lorries that matters; we want to provide the most professional and best courier service in Malaysia.
“We always bench mark ourselves against the best in the world. We look at our partners Fed Ex (FedEx Corp), we meet up with them every month and discuss our failures and successes, we are learning a lot from them. We want to benchmark ourselves to international standards before we think of any expansion,” Teong adds.
As for long-term goals, after taking pole position in Malaysia, that is, Leong says that the company may decide to expand regionally and China. However, both are quick to explain that the regional expansion will only ever take place after GD Express makes it as the top local courier company.
“If we cannot be the best (courier) in Malaysia, I don't think we should go anywhere else, to any other country. The vision is such that we will expand regionally, maybe to China if there is a chance, but it is not the main objective of our company, we are more focused on providing excellent service,” Leong says.
The duo's strategy is working as the company, starting six months ago, has started to churn profits. In his modest manner, Teong says, “Not very big numbers, but we are very happy with the returns. The efficiencies are in place, now it is about improving the systems.
“We will, however, not be having a jolly good time as yet, we have to reinvest the profits into the company, to improve the IT (information technology) systems, enhance our 60 branches, do up the trucks, its not easy to manage a network that spans across the whole of Malaysia,” Teong says in conclusion.
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