22 May 2007, Tuesday

Mr Low Wong Fook, Principal, Singapore Polytechnic, Distinguished Guests, Teachers, Parents and Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for inviting me to address you on this happy occasion. Graduands, I congratulate you on completing your 3-year studies at this wonderful Polytechnic institution. Well done!

On such occasion, it is also appropriate for us to honour all those people who have been giving you guidance and support in the course of your studies for academic excellence. They are your parents, your lecturers, your friends and classmates who have, in one way or another, contribute to your graduation today.

When I was invited to speak on this occasion, I must say I was a bit apprehensive. One, I have graduated many many years back and I have no knowledge of what is to be said to all of you. Second, I am not very good in public speaking compared to doing business.

Anyway, I accept the invitation and honour to be here to share your happiness on this important day of your life.

I don't think I can give you a road map to enable you to navigate your life or career successfully. They have to be your own personal vision and motivation. Nevertheless, I can share with you a bit of my success story.

I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life, i.e. to do business and be my own boss. In those days, business was not that competitive as compared today and also offer more opportunities. In other words, making money was easier.

I founded C&P Holdings in my early days in the '70s and under my leadership, the Company became a leader in the logistics industry. The major breakthrough was in 2004. After 30 years in business, I acquired a public listed Company from PSA, a Singapore Temasek Company, i.e. CWT for a price of S$65 million, giving me a controlling interest of 74%, the rest of the shares are in the hands of the public.

CWT, with its parent, C&P, offers integrated logistics solutions to some of the world's best known brands in the chemical, commodities, automotive, marine, oil & gas and industrial sectors.

Today, my Company is the largest logistics player in Singapore and one of the top five in Asia.

We have a global presence in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Spain, the Netherlands and Middle East and now we are moving to Russia, Ukraine and other CIS States. Our global network and advance systems connect customers to 120 ports and 1,200 destinations seamlessly around the world.

Today, CWT market capitalization is close to S$500 million and with its parent company's assets, worth over a billion Singapore dollars. We are the largest warehouse provider in this region with more than 10 million sq ft of covered warehouse space.

Some friends told me that with all the money I should retire and enjoy my life. However, I tell them I am enjoying my life. I enjoy working. Success gives me some form of satisfaction. I like meeting and interacting with people and most important, I create employment. Today more than 4,000 employees are working for my Group of Companies and we are still expanding globally.

Looking at what I've done, what advice can I share with you? Well, Abraham Lincoln once said:

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing."

Let me explain what I mean by this - How do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you want? The honest answer is -- You won't. And accepting that answer will greatly ease the anxiety of your life experience. Over time, you will find your bearing and with dedication and commitment you will find success.

As many of you walk out of this auditorium this afternoon, your next stage of life may have already been set. Some of you will be going for National Service, some of you will pursue further education locally or overseas, while some of you will be joining the workforce. You have acquired wonderful skill sets during the past three years. Polytechnic is a great Institution for higher learning and I have certainly benefited from it. I am in no position to offer you any more academic skills than Polytechnic. However, what I would like to share with you as you step into the real world is :-

You have to be yourself, you have to love what you do and you have to do your best - success will follow.

When I go into business dealings, investments or partnerships, or employing management staff, I look for the 5 "Cs", i.e.

Character; Commitment ; Competence; Compassion and Courage

Character. Commitment and Competence is what I quote from Warren Buffett.

While the last two, "Compassion" and "Courage", are added on by me:-

I have always admired Warren Buffett, the famous American investment guru and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. He believes one of the fundamental principles about good and sound investment is not to be swayed by investment trends and market flows. Let me share with you a piece of advice from him: "Stocks are simple. All you do is buy shares in a company with top management of the highest integrity, then the shares will make money for you forever."

What I would draw from this is: don't simply go into a job or a company that seems to be paying the best, is the most fashionable to join or highly regarded because all your friends want to join it and your aunts and uncles tell you prospects there are fantastic.

Before you join a Company, look at the business, check its top management, these are the tell-tale signs whether the Company will prosper and your career is guaranteed and have the opportunity for advancement.

You should KNOW yourself, your INTERESTS, and have a good CHARACTER and always hold on to your integrity and ethics, and act on it: choose a line of work that YOU enjoy.

I have come across many capable people or managers who have the technical knowledge and talents. But some fell along the way as they found it too tough to stick to what they love to do. They went on to take up jobs that did not suit them. Eventually, they derived little satisfaction from them.

Others have taken knocks along the way but they persevered on, surviving on their passion and love for what they do. In the end, they achieved their own success and most importantly, they are happy with what they are doing So HAVE COMMITMENT TO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.

Along with this commitment will naturally come COMPETENCE. Warren Buffett once quipped: "there are a lot of profitable things you can do but you have to stick to what you can do best. If you cannot find a way to knock out Mike Tyson, don't do it, or you will be knocked out by him!" (I am sure you know Mike Tyson was the toughest absolutely unbeatable world heavyweight boxing champion in the '80s).

With a good academic background, competence will gradually follow as you pick up experiences along the way.


What else do I think important amidst all the dynamics of the real world? - Compassion.

Have COMPASSION. That's what comes naturally to everyone at a young age but the real world steels us to that. Yes, be yourself, have integrity, have commitment, be competent and professional, but also be compassionate. Don't lose touch with that important human aspect of yourself because it is that virtue that makes you understand, develop, and share the true richness of life!

Lastly, COURAGE.

In the real business world, you must have COURAGE. When you make mistake, never be afraid to admit it, and learn from it. This is COURAGE.

Likewise, if you are a Senior Manager you have to make nasty and unpopular decision, such as cost cutting because the company is not doing well. This is courage because no one is going to love you for cost cutting, except your boss.

On the same note, courage and stupidity or recklessness, is only divided by a fine line. For example, you have a million dollars, you want to venture into a 50150 chance project that cost millions.. . . . ..that is not courage but stupidity. It is like going deep sea fishing on an old- fashioned sampan.

Believe me, the 5 "Cs" has served me well over the years. The 5 "Cs" are my road map to success and has made me what I am today. I am confident that you will do well too if you hold steadfast to them.

If you stick to my 5 "Cs", with ambition, dedication and hard work and a little bit of luck, the other 5 "Cs" will follow you, i.e. credit cards, cars condominiums, country club memberships and plenty of cash.. .

Be always happy. Never let stress defeat you. Even in your moment of despair, always remember : Every Cloud has a Silver Lining. This is always my philosophy of life.

Let me end here by saying it is indeed a pleasure to be sharing a few words with all of you. Thank you for giving me this honour to be here this afternoon.

I wish you ALL a future full of personal achievement, great fun and most important.. ... true happiness!

Thank you.

Last updated/checked on 24 May, 2007