Recalling those uncertain and hectic days, the 49-year-old tells Frontline that it was a never-give-up attitude that helped the company pull through those turbulent times. “We pulled in 14-hour work days, seven days a week out of our office at Changi Airfreight Centre,” DAC (NS) Teo says. “It was go, go, go. Looking back, I realise I had a lot of energy to keep moving — and it was because I love the work so much.”
His hard work paid off and ASL Solutions survived the economic crisis. The company began to grow rapidly, thanks to an increasing customer base. When he started the firm, it had just two employees. Within a few years, that number expanded to 12. ASL Solutions also shored up its capabilities by purchasing a second office at Gul Circle.
The firm’s success has been driven by DAC (NS) Teo’s keen eye for business trends, which helped it stay nimble and adapt to changes in the industry. For example, in the early days, going through middlemen to secure contracts was the norm. But over the years, shipowners prefer dealing directly with logistics companies like ASL Solutions. “We had to change the way we operate to meet this trend,” explains DAC (NS) Teo.
Ever the pragmatist, DAC (NS) Teo is also using this period to encourage his staff to focus on skills development so that they can be ready for recovery when it comes. He allows his staff to chart their own professional development by giving them the flexibility to pursue the skills they want to. “Our approach to skills is quite holistic,” he shares. “It’s not just about hard skills and knowledge. These are important but just as valuable are soft skills like effective communication and interpersonal skills.”
DAC (NS) Teo’s trust in his employees is also evident in his active support of the Yellow Ribbon Fund (YRF). “During my NS days, I served as an investigation officer with the Singapore Police Force. That experience opened my eyes to the good work that the YRF does and I was eager to lend my support. I have hired two ex-offenders who have both gone on to do very well in ASL Solutions and remain valuable teammates.”
But his focus changed eight years ago with the arrival of his son. “I’m more mindful of spending time with him so I’m always looking to do things better and faster. The more efficient I am, the more I can be with him.” Their favourite family activity is a stroll around the neighbourhood after a long day at work. “It’s good to get a breath of fresh air and end the day with your loved ones.”