Singapore-based RichLand Logistics opened up shop in the early 1990s and in its three decades of existence, the premier end-to-end logistics company has learned there’s no such thing as smooth sailing.
The CEO Magazine caught up with CEO Colin Moran while in Australia during the COVID travel restrictions in March this year, who explained that operating across the South-East Asia region, RichLand has navigated a shaky business climate rattled by tsunamis, earthquakes, the global financial crisis, SARS, H1N1 and, now, the pandemic.
And yet, the company still stands strong, meeting all the logistics demands of its customers without so much as a hitch.
“Crises are a lesson you’d probably rather not have to learn. But, look, they definitely help you navigate future challenges better,” Colin chuckles.
RichLand’s fearless leader, who is also CEO of Eneco Energy which owns RichLand Logistics, has been in the industry in Asia for roughly 20 years already and knows that it takes a certain amount of humour to get by. Where he used to be more authoritative, doling out orders and instructions, it seems the crises have somehow shaped him as well.
“I’m definitely more of a listener these days. I was probably stronger in the past saying, ‘This is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing it,’” he says. “Recently though, I have stepped more into the area where I give my management team the freedom to make decisions. I give them the chance to run. And, honestly, in an environment like this, you need to be more flexible.”
“A business is a living organism, so you have to take care of it.”
COVID-19 has all but obliterated the past notion of how a business works and thrives. It’s a completely different landscape with a steep growth curve. To merely survive, it takes being not only flexible but adaptable too, and having the foresight to anticipate what’s next.
“You need to think about the future and how the business will function in the long-term if the crisis persists. You need to make sure you get a handle on certain things. Because if everyone is rushing at the gate, you can’t be stuck at the back of the queue,” Colin stresses.
“As a leader, you can never panic. Instead, you have to use your calm leadership to rally your employees and help them pull through.”
To do this, a certain level of trust is necessary, especially when so much of the workforce is working remotely. In order to be successful, Colin says it’s imperative to have faith in your employees to make the decisions that will keep the business moving forward. It’s something he does and does well. And it’s all part of the RichLand culture.
“A business is a living organism, so you have to take care of it,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where you work, people want to be respected, treated fairly and appreciated for what they do. From how you onboard to how you treat them during the different cultural holidays, all the way to how you engage with them on a day-to-day basis, it all makes a difference. And, for us, it’s very much how we build our RichLand spirit.
“It may sound a bit tired, but in running an organisation, it really is about the people and how you treat them. If you’re bringing them on a journey with you, it’s those touchpoints that make a big difference as to whether they’re going to be there when the company needs them to be there.”
RichLand’s service excellence through its internal processing ability really stands as a testament to that. As an asset owner and operator, it’s key that the team works together as a solid unit aligned on a single mission to ensure customer satisfaction. “Our in-house capability is a major differentiator for us,” Colin explains. “If you give RichLand a job to deliver, it’s a RichLand truck, it’s a RichLand driver and we’re accountable every step of the way. So our service excellence through in-house capability has been an area that we’ve fought quite hard to retain over time, resisting the temptation to employ other suppliers based on cost.”
And its resistance has been a boon for the company. Thanks to doing everything in-house, RichLand has more control over every move and the technology to provide its customers something that can’t be bought off a shelf: peace of mind. “We have the technology in place to give our customers live visibility of where our trucks are during their deliveries. They understand what’s on those trucks and where the last deliveries were made. They can see what we’re doing in real time,” Colin points out.
Since many of the big multinationals tend to outsource to smaller vendors that don’t necessarily operate under the same data systems, they can’t offer that live visibility across the network. As a small to medium enterprise, it’s a big point of pride for RichLand to be a logistics services provider that can.
Looking forward, Colin says the focus is on innovating new ways to manage business development and growth. RichLand used to rely heavily on face-to-face engagement, but now that’s not always possible. “Typically, we’d always be in front of the customer,” he explains. “Now, we’re focused on finding a solution that will allow us to continue to grow in an environment where our business development executives are struggling to meet with customers. So we have to find a way to adapt our engagement model to work in this current climate.”
“The road ahead of us is very wide and very long, and now RichLand is well positioned for the long journey.”
But as surprising as it may seem, COVID-19 hasn’t all been negative. When Colin first came on as CEO two years ago, Eneco Energy had two business streams: oil and gas, and logistics. At the time, the oil and gas stream was floundering and dragged the company down. As such, it chose to exit that side of the business, but some challenges from the ordeal still persisted.
“We had some issues that were so big, they could have sunk the Titanic,” he admits. “But crises have a strange way of helping to resolve some issues. By escalating problems, it’s as if they get addressed in a different way. Somehow, we managed to resolve virtually all of those issues during COVID-19. Now, we’re back on solid footing for the future. The road ahead of us is very wide and very long, and RichLand is now well positioned for the long journey.”
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