从建筑工人到咖啡店老板-第39届总务股长沈武平
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从建筑工人到咖啡店老板-第39届总务股长沈武平

沉默寡言,带点腼腆,是49岁的沈武平予人的最初印象。不过,曾经和他共事的人都知道,他话虽然不多,却是很肯做事,而且答应下来,就会做到。

记得一次同安会馆举办划船活动,武平和太太都报名参加。活动当天,只见他提了两个大桶,一路步履蹒跚从停车场走到蓄水池边。我约莫知道桶里有冷饮和冰块,但不知道有多重,我试提了其中一个桶,结果双手根本拿不起来。那两桶饮料,是武平自愿报效的。之前,我根本没有要求他携带饮料。

又有一次,理事们到民丹岛开会,回程时,副产业股长洪旭拉了一辆手推车放高尔夫球具,也让大伙儿放行李。武平肩上扛了重重的高尔夫球具,我们叫他卸下放到手推车上,他看了看手推车,像似担心我们的行李不够放,他摆了摆手,开心地扛着高尔夫球具离去。

第一批中国建筑工人

1985年,武平离开不舍的父母,只身前来新加坡当建筑工人。他也是第一批前来我国的中国外劳。抵达后,他被分派到四美一带建造政府组屋。签了两年合约的他,希望赚到钱后就回家盖房子。

1987年,武平合约期满,加上当时中国建筑工人和资方出现纠纷,沈武平也就没有续约,回到同安老家,除了成家,娶了贤慧的太太,他也开始在一家台湾人开的公司当业务员,跑遍中国南方各大城市。

业务员工作辛苦不在话下。1991年,武平和新加坡再续缘。他回到新加坡,在另一家建筑公司当劳工,这次,他负责建造巴西立的组屋。

两年后,机会来了,他当起副承包商,为建筑公司生产混凝土模板。他的工作准证,也从两年换成三年。不久后,他申请永久居民并且获批。

 成永久居民 赚第一桶金

1994年,他当起主承包商,生产预制混凝土模板,还成立了‘科艺建筑公司’。承包建筑材料,让他赚得了人生的第一桶金。

1998年,他承包国立大学学生宿舍的建造工程。 2003年,他也从中国入口运动鞋,不过,这一行赊帐情况严重,让他决定放弃这盘生意。不久,武平将中国产品如电池、轮胎、太阳能热水器,以及具有保安功能、装了遥控电波的皮箱,入口到南非的尼日利亚。以皮箱为例,皮箱厂价大约是850人民币,卖到尼日利亚可以赚上十倍的数目。不过,由于当地治安差,家人担心武平的安全,武平只待了两个月便回到新加坡。

2003年,武平在樟宜尾标得一个工程,建造污水处理厂。工程虽然顺利交货,不过,因为碰巧遇上经济危机,建筑业受到打击,武平在收钱方面却困难重重。

危机成转机 换跑道泡咖啡

2005年,饱尝建筑业难回本滋味的武平,决定转换跑道。恰巧这时他听说咖啡店生意似乎可以做。武平毅然租下宏茂桥五道的一家咖啡店,还花了5万元装修。当时,武平在外人眼中是疯子,因为之前咖啡店的生意并不好,武平本身也没有经营咖啡店的经验,冒冒然花大钱装修,难怪不被看好。后来,事实证明,武平的眼光是对的。

咖啡店生意好,其中一个原因和所售卖的食物有关。一开始,武平便和买西餐的Botak Jones合作参股,Botak Jones生意好,自然带动咖啡店的生意。双方在互惠互利的基础上合作,生意越做越好。不过,大约一年后,合约到期,店主眼见咖啡店生意好,要拿回来自己做,武平无奈被迫搬迁。这一搬,就搬到勿洛二道第412座组屋,也就是目前武平的其中一家咖啡店。

武平的另一家咖啡店,坐落在红山附近的德普路工业区。这家咖啡店之前相当老旧,武平于是砸下20多万元装修。和勿洛咖啡店能容纳60张桌子比起来,这里更是大了一倍。由于店里售卖的食物多样化,而且同样有Botak Jones西餐,加上附近上班族和居民常来光顾,和之前比较,咖啡店生意进步不少。

说起当初何以大胆投资咖啡店生意,武平说,他当时手上有几万元,虽然说钱也是辛苦赚回来的,不过,不需同银行贷款,胆子也就大了起来。反正他打着亏了也就是这些钱,最多重新再来的决心,便毅然做去。

武平坦承,当初自己也没把握。但事实证明,武平的眼光不错。如今他的生意都上了轨道。问武平他的经营秘诀,谦虚的他只是说,自己幸运。其实,除了幸运,胆量也少不了。再问一下武平,他说人缘也重要。如何同八方人流沟通,其实是一门大学问。当然,要运气找上自己,首先自己就得努力。这方面,扛起高尔夫球具的武平,一点也不缺。

撰稿:林丽平

From a Construction Worker to a Coffeeshop Boss

A man of little words and some shyness, this is the first impression one would have of 46-year-old, Mr Shen Wu Peng. And those who have worked with him would vouch for that this quite man would deliver what he has promised.

Once, during a kayaking event which Mr and Mrs Shen participated, Mr Shen carried with some difficulties two loaded buckets from the carpark to the reservoir. Although Mr Shen did not mention what was inside the buckets, I was more or less aware of the content. I tried lifting up one of the buckets with both hands but failed. It was too heavy. The two buckets filled with cold drinks and ice were donated voluntarily by Mr Shen without any prior request.

Another occasion was at Bintan Island jetty when we were on our way back from a trip. Our Deputy Head of Property, Mr Ang Shiuh got a trolley to place his golf equipment and our luggage. Upon seeing Mr Shen carrying his golf equipment, we asked Mr Shen to put it down. However, Mr Shen rejected our offer, chose to carry his equipment as he was worried he would deprive us of placing our luggage on the trolley.

First group of mainland Chinese construction workers

Mr Shen left his parents in China to travel to Singapore in 1985 to work as a construction worker. He was among the first batch of Chinese construction workers. He was assigned to construct Simei flats after he arrived. Mr Shen, who was on a 2-year contract, had hoped to make enough money to return home to build houses.

Mr Shen’s contract expired in 1987. Back then, the relations between Chinese workers and their employers were not on good terms. Mr Shen thus decided to return to Tung Ann. Besides getting married, Mr Shen also started his work as a salesman for a firm based in Taiwan. His job required him to travel to the various places in the southern cities of China.

It was hard work. After working for three years, Mr Shen returned to Singapore in 1991. This time, he worked for another construction firm building Pasir Ris flats.

It was only until two years later that Mr Shen chanced on an opportunity to become a sub-contractor, producing concrete blocks. He was able to then convert his work permit from 2-year term to 3-year term. Soon after, Mr Shen was approved in his application as a Permanent Resident in Singapore.

Earning his first pot of gold as a PR

In 1994, Mr Shen became a main contractor producing pre-fabricated concrete blocks and other construction materials. His company Keyi Construction helped him earned his first pot of gold.

Mr Shen tried his hands in construction in 1998. He earned the contract to build student hostels for the National University of Singapore. In 2003, he also ventured into trading. He started importing sports shoes from China. However, he faced a credit crunch as most of his retailers did not pay up quick enough. Mr Shen soon decided to terminate his shoe business.

Not long after, Mr Shen tried out another trading business. This time, he imported leather bags each with a remote safety gadget from China and sold them in South Africa’s Nigeria. It was good business as every bag could fetch Mr Shen a profit 10 times of his cost. Besides luggage, batteries, tyres and solar heaters were among the items he traded. However, Mr Shen did not enjoy his profitable days for too long. After spending two months in Nigeria, Mr Shen decided to give it up as his safety in Nigeria posed a concern to his family.

Back in Singapore, Mr Shen continued with this construction business. He secured a contract to build a water recycling plant in Changi in 2003. Although Mr Shen delivered the plant without fail, he was unable to collect money owed as the construction sector fell into a crisis.

Having fought enough battle from the construction sector, Mr Shen decided to change path in 2005. On hearing that coffee shop business may be something worth doing, Mr Shen seized upon a chance to rent a coffee shop in Ang Mo Kio Ave 5, spending another S$50,000 in renovation. To many people, Mr Shen was mad. As all would have guessed that business at the coffee shop was never good. Besides, Mr Shen have not had any experience running a coffee shop. But Mr Shen proved them wrong.

To ensure brisk business, intuition tells Mr Shen that he has to offer not only delicious but food that is value for money. So for a start, Mr Shen co-operated with western food venture Botak Jones by investing in the business. Without a doubt, Botak Jones attracted many customers to the coffee shop. The good business lasted a year or so before the tenure expired. The landlord wanted to run the coffee shop on his own and ordered Mr Shen to move. Mr Shen had no choice but to move to one of its current location at Blk 412, Bedok Ave 2.

The other coffee shop runs by Mr Shen is at Depot Road industrial park. It has a capacity of 120 tables and it is one time larger than its Bedok counterpart. Its premises used to look old and deserted. Mr Shen then decided to invest S$200,000 to give it a facelift. As it offers a variety of food, not lacking Botak Jones, it is able to lure many customers as compared to its previous days.

Mr Shen admitted that he had no idea if his coffee shop business would pick up. All he had known was that he had some hard earned cash which he could invest without resorting to taking up loans from banks.

Mr Shen’s business acumen has been proven through time. When asked what business tips he could have shared, a humble Mr Shen only said he was lucky. When prompted further, he said interpersonal relation was important. So is it emotional quotient or EQ together with luck that makes a business shine? How about the good old virtue of diligence? I am sure Mr Shen does not lack this, not forgetting that he prefers to carry his golf equipment.

Written by : Lim Li Peng