The chief of Primabumi Group considers himself greatly blessed to have a thriving business and four sons to carry the torch for all his hard work over the years.
Fathers play a significant role in a child’s life, in so many ways one simply cannot imagine. He is more than a breadwinner and disciplinarian, he is a role model and First Superhero. The love and lessons that flow from a patriarch can make or break a being.
Tan Sri Ariffin Yusuf – the chief of Primabumi Group, the independent director of Caring Pharmacy Group and husband of Puan Sri Abedah Seman, a retired teacher – is the key figure in the lives of his four sons, who are all now following in his footsteps as the heads of different business outfits within the Group.
Azuan Ariffin, 40, heads the property and investment division of the Group while also assisting in the pharmaceutical department. Aznan Ariffin, 35, oversees the pharmaceutical outfit while Azad Ariffin, 38, heads the division that deals with medical supplies and is assisted by Aziq Ariffin, 29.
“I encouraged my children to first gain experience elsewhere before joining me in my business so they could be exposed to other working environments and be better disciplined,” he says when met at his office in Damansara Heights.
“In business, you have to earn respect and build a good reputation. We have to deliver what we have promised."
While he agrees that his children were prepared from young to take over the reigns in his company, he also reminded them the importance of getting their hands dirty in order to gain knowledge and learn the business from bottom up, so they can lead the family business successfully in time to come.
The children have big shoes to fill, given the company was built from scratch by Tan Sri himself.
In the beginning
“My journey in the pharmaceutical line is God planned. My first job was with a company supplying dry and wet provisions to the hospitals as well as hospital sundries. I became friends with the store superintendent of the Ministry of Health, who suggested that I should venture into pharmaceutical since very few Bumiputeras were in this business,” he recalls.
“I then discussed the idea with my boss and he suggested forming a company to start this new business. About three years later, I decided to venture on my own and set up my company, Primabumi Sdn Bhd in 1975.
The company has grown by leaps and bounds to be what it is today but Tan Sri Ariffin remains unperturbed. “I thank God for his endless blessings that this company is growing from strength to strength. I was invited to be an independent director of Caring Pharmacy Group Berhad when it was listed in 2013 because of my experience in this industry.”
In the face of challenges
Challenges are aplenty when you are at the helm of a company, be it in making the right decisions as well as external factors such as dealing with government, suppliers and financial institutions.
“Our biggest assets, the people, are one of the most challenging aspects of our business. We have to constantly monitor their works as our business requires a lot of compliance from government and suppliers. In the best interest of the company, it is important to ensure and remind them to adopt good working practice.”
“Our biggest assets, the people, are one of the most challenging aspects of our business."
Tan Sri Ariffin also agrees that the retention of talents is a constant challenge but he tries his best to ensure a good working environment, certain flexibility, competitive salary and incentive schemes and just show genuine concern about staff’s welfare.
“In business, you have to earn respect and build a good reputation. We have to deliver what we have promised. Other times, we must be prepared to make tough and unpopular decisions but we must communicate the decision rightly. We have to do what we have to do,” he states matter-of-factly.
Formula for success
As an entrepreneur, you need to have passion, an eye to identify opportunities and be hands on. “Being knowledgeable and passionate are key ingredients of success. All successful entrepreneurs do what they love and love what they do. You also need to be hardworking, reliable, trustworthy, prudent, patient, persistent and always be prepared to go the extra mile.”
“Real entrepreneurs make it happen and do not make excuses."
Having perseverance, taking calculated risks, being a good team player and adopting a positive attitude will help tremendously, he adds. One of his biggest pet peeves is procrastinating.
“Real entrepreneurs make it happen and do not make excuses. If one is committed, takes ownership and is proud of his/her work, it will be a good beginning for a successful career. Sometimes, being at the right place at the right time can be a huge factor in your success too.”
All about fatherhood
As he became a father at the age of 28, Tan Sri Ariffin’s priorities in life started to change. “I began to be more responsible as not only I have a wife but also my children to take care of. I had to work harder to earn more and when I worked harder, I had to be prepared to sacrifice family time.”
There were many days when his children were already asleep when he got home. “I felt sad that I was unable to spend enough time and give the attention that they needed. I heard from my wife that some days my children waited for me until they fell asleep.”
“I felt sad that I was unable to spend enough time and give the attention that they needed."
People say that you have to choose either family or career and draw a line. It is easier said than done. Different circumstances works differently and he can attest to that.
He began allocating quality time with his family on weekends and sometimes Friday nights. Tan Sri Ariffin also started learning to play golf but quickly realised that his weekends were being stolen from his family.
“I had a minor vertebra injury while learning a hit and the doctor advised me to rest for six months. After that I decided to stop playing golf altogether and reserved my time for my family during weekends,” he recalls.
While the family man believes in giving the best to his children, he also learned not to over pamper and spoil them. "I have passed on many teachings from my father to my children, like his advice to always live within our means, to be kind and helpful towards those in need and to never wash your dirty linen in public.
“He always reminded me to save for rainy day. His last words to me was: ‘Son, I have only RM2,000 in my bank account. I am writing a cheque to you and this is the only cash I have left for you. Spend it wisely.’ He gave the cheque to me in the morning after experiencing some chest pain and passed away in the afternoon at the hospital in my arms,” recalls Tan Sri with much sadness.
"I wished he lived longer, so he can see how far his family has come along."
“I was 17 and the seventh in my family, the youngest among the boys. My three elder brothers took over and supported the family after that. I wished he lived longer, so he can see how far his family has come along.”
Tan Sri’s father, during his lifetime, had raised funds for the refurbishment of the mosque behind their house in Penang and that has inspired him to do the same.
Jottings from the sons
“For the past 20 years, I have been working outside the company and only in the last seven months that I have joined my family’s business. I have always believed in learning from the University of Life the hard way and the various work experiences have allowed me to meet good friends and business associates.
Furthermore, I would like to create my own goodwill with the hope that my goodwill can add value to my family’s business. In all honesty, to achieve what my father has achieved is going to be tough but the best that I can do is to keep on trying, never give up and always remember his words of wisdom.” (swipe left for next page)
“Currently, I am heading one of my father’s businesses Alam Medik Sdn Bhd where we supply medical devices, consumables and reagent to the government hospitals and institutions.
In running the current business, I like to keep it simple and try to solve any problems at its infancy stage. I believe actions speak louder than words, hence strive to preserve a good and fulfilling work environment for our employees. In the sea of challenges that is our work, it takes much effort and a great team to steer the business through to make it to our destination.
Like any father, I believe he expects all his children to take the business he has built to the next level in which I am always striving to achieve.” (swipe left for next page)
"People’s expectations did bother me but now as I have gained more maturity in my life, it doesn’t matter anymore. It is natural for people to compare. Some thrive under pressure while some crumble but we all have different characters and paths in our life and often, people do not realise that.
My father and I are of different generations and it’s reflected in our views and approach. However, our objectives are the same. I set my own goals and direction and I work and pray that I will eventually achieve them. " (swipe left for next page)
"I manage the daily operations at the company alongside my brothers. My father has different expectations from each of his children. Being the youngest, I have more guidelines to follow, not just from my father but also from my brothers.
If there is one man who will always be a star in my eyes, it's my father. He taught us well and he did it with a smile on his face and love in his heart. From young, he always reminded us to admit our mistakes and work to fix it.
He also taught us to be open to criticism, practice generosity, be content with everything we have and always value family."
(Photos: Tan Sri Ariffin Yusuf and sons)
Also in keeping with the Father's Day celebration, Dato' Beh Chun Chuan and son Garvy Beh share their journey of taking the BP Healthcare group of companies into greater heights.