His education background is hardly sterling, but Syafiq Yussoff is a prime example of how high academic achievements are not an accurate measurement of success.
The 33-year-old had flunked his ‘O’ Levels with 39 points; and a second, private, attempt did not reap him particularly fantastic grades either.
He wasn’t discouraged however, and got himself enrolled in a Mass Communications Diploma in Informatics. But he soon dropped out halfway due to financial constraints.
Despite all this, he showed tenacious determination for his education, and even took up a diploma in business studies while serving in National Service.
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I’m an avid reader and I believe education is a life-long journey, so I’m always reading and learning on my own. I love doing that at my own daily disciplined, ritualistic pace.
A Self-Made Man
“During my career as a personal trainer, I saw a trend for buying and selling online.”
Despite e-commerce still being very “experimental” in 2010, Syafiq recognised the potential of the industry and “acted without hesitation”.
With established contenders like DHL and Fedex in the playing field, Syafiq’s four-man team and small fleet of two vans had a rocky start.
But as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
He persisted and utilised tech to optimise operations. This included building their own delivery management system (DMS) to manage orders, as well as investing in vehicle GPS tracking.
As a startup, they were also underestimated by their competitors, who were “uncomfortable with a bunch of young people entering a traditional industry.”
As such, it was important that he differentiated himself with his “high sense of responsibility, commitment and discipline in situations of service recovery”.
“I grew by being consistent [and] responsive despite being a newbie.” This sense of reliability was what kept the referrals coming, he added.
I began with no experience, [but] I believe in seeking knowledge and that experience can be earned.
Word-of-mouth marketing support from family and friends was also crucial in the startup’s growth. Syafiq said that he is very glad for his family’s continuous support, and his wife particularly, was his pillar of strength.
She is very understanding towards his lack of spending family time as he was busy dedicating himself to the business.
“She’s a great listener and is always there to push me to do my best and beyond. These are very important to my success.”
As for his tumultuous education, Syafiq reveals that he actually considers it a boon.
“I am not guarded by certain principles or running on theory, but an ongoing, insatiable lust for learning. The journey of life is a continuous journey of education.”
The RIVERWOOD Journey
The first three years were focused on balancing family and work.
“I had to juggle my family, supporting my parents and developing RIVERWOOD from my mother’s home. With no office and limited resources, it was a struggle to pitch the brand.”
The fourth year (2014) saw the highest costs due to company growth.
From hiring talented staff to growing wage expectations, troubles were compounded by competition (Ninja Van was launched in 2014). Having a good position in the market allowed them to find their niche however.
Each time I faced a challenge, I would recall my reasons for starting up. That kept my spirits high and [encouraged] me to move forward.
In 2016, RIVERWOOD raked in $3.3 million in revenue and the following year, they were appointed as Amazon’s official logistics partner. Their resources now consist of a 120-person team and 60 vehicles. During the National Day Rally 2017, RIVERWOOD was also highlighted by PM Lee for its forward-thinking strategies.
However, Syafiq refrains from claiming that he has ‘made it’.
“When we won the Amazon business, it was the epitome of our testament to what we believe in, [but] saying that [we have made it] closes doors of learning and growth.”
Rather, he emphases that they are en-route to “strengthening [their] core for continuous improvement.”
Currently, they are building a management system to be integrated with their technology. In addition, they are working on expanding to other regional markets such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
A Passion For Entrepreneurship
Running a business boils down to diligence, Syafiq reflects.
“Be truthful, honest and hardworking. It is not an easy journey, but the reward is the wisdom of delayed gratification.”
Ph.D or not, it’s all about your perseverance, tenacity and a never-say-die attitude. What you lack in education, [you] double it up with hard work.
“At the end of the day, what matters are your integrity, principles and purpose. The right mindset will set you up for a mentality of a warrior. Never give up, never say no [and you’ll] be (almost) limitless.”
“If we remain humble, stay hungry and foolish, our future will be set for an even more fantastic journey!”
Featured Image Credit: Syafiq Yussoff