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How He got started

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Born in 1943, he had been provided little else during his childhood by his parents other than basic necessities. Attending school was a luxury in the war-torn 40s when Singapore was then occupied by the Japanese. He was in no more than primary two when his parents decided that being equipped with a trade skill was far more practical and beneficial.

And so a nine-year old Ah Tee was withdrawn from an academic education to be “fast-tracked” for an education at the University of Hard Knocks under an auto repair apprenticeship. He was trained by a harsh master, beaten whenever he was slow got things wrong or whenever he was in a foul mood. “Ah Tee” as he then became nicknamed (and known even until today) for being a scrawny kid among the older and bigger-sized apprentices never fell into despair.

When he become his own boss

bossRelying on his iron will and, he bided his time patiently to learn the ropes of auto repair, trusting that he would one day emerge from the darkness to see light. The ESSO petrol kiosk with a small section for auto repair/ servicing at Frankel Avenue was to then become Ah Tee’s second home where he endured dirt and grime and a hard taskmaster, slogging for long hours. He had little, if any, recreation and leisure time. His work became his entire life. Indeed, it was the only thing he did all day and sometimes late into the night.

Ah Tee’s industry meant being ever-present at the auto repair workshop where he got acquainted with many towkays from all trades. They were satisfied with Ah Tee’s auto repair skills enough to entrust their cars in his hands. Happy with Ah Tee’s exemplary service attitude, many towkays were also happy to share their knowledge and advice with him. He learnt much about other areas from these towkays from their regular conversations.

Ah Tee had always believed in giving of the best he possibly could in all things he did, including going the extra mile to accommodate as many of his customers’ sometimes inconvenient requests, even if they sometimes involved costs and budgets. Ah Tee’s connections in high places and knowledge in many fields soon made him the favourite “Go-to” person among his circle of friends.

The days turned into weeks and the weeks, months. Nine years passed and Ah Tee was asked if he would like to take over the auto repair/ service workshop business by his master. Ah Tee turned to his mother for a loan of the required $28. Successfully negotiated, Ah Tee became his own boss of the auto repair business as a sole proprietor, Tan Min Tie Motors was borned.

Esso Skill Training

essco_skillsThe year was 1961. Then in 1978, ESSO informed that they would no longer allow car repairs/ servicing on their premises. This forced Ah Tee to source for his own place which he did in Eunos on 20 April, 1979. Besides enhancing his own mechanical skills , he too was forced to learn business management on his own from having his own car workshop . He actively got involved with an engine oil supplier, Esso, in cooperation in activities like training programmes for car workshop at Ang Mo Kio ITE ,car workshop cleanliness competition etc to consistently upgrade his car workshop and business skills .

Record Sales in Engine Oil with Esso

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In the late 90s’, he was awarded Top 10 car workshops in Singapore with record sales in engine oil. Even though Ah Tee had become a boss, he always had his feet firmly on the ground and had never forgotten his humble beginnings. Ah Tee employed youngsters desiring to learn auto repair to impart his skills and experience, offering them the hope to one day become independent in life. His sincerity and selflessness in grooming the younger generation was evidenced in the way he had always encouraged and counselled his workers to learn and develop their skills as much as they could, even with the knowledge that they could fly the roost to even become trade competitors one day.

New location opening ceremony

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So personal is Ah Tee’s service that his customers and even his customers’ children have become like an extended family and still continue to patronize Ah Tee due to the strong familial bonds built over the years. These second-generation customers include but are not limited to Commercial Industrial Services & Supplies Pte Ltd, YCH Global Logistics Pte Ltd, Ming Kee Umbrella Factory (P) Ltd and HiapSeng Press Pte Ltd and they all addressed him as Uncle Tan.

Among Ah Tee’s customers are but not limited to People’s Association, PSA, PSA Marine. Ah Tee’s pride is in 60 long years of selfless dedicated service. It is a shining example of how one can become successful despite the limited circumstances one may be provided with in life. The spirit of Ah Tee loving to challenge life’s adversity and never yielding to one’s circumstances are invaluable lessons in life everyone can all take a leaf from.