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A Growth Mindset

In Focus
NAME:Sean Spencer
COMPANY:Afton Chemical Asia
POSITION:Vice President & Managing Director
For Afton Chemical Asia Vice President and Managing Director Sean Spencer, the company’s continued growth relies heavily on an approach of open collaboration.

Making the world a better place is no small task, but it’s one that Afton Chemical Asia is taking on with determination.

“As one of the global leaders in fuel and lubricant additive solutions, Afton helps keep critical equipment moving across mobility, transport, agriculture, construction, energy and manufacturing segments. The future of these segments is almost entirely shaped by emissions reduction, fuel economy and efficiency improvements,” Vice President and Managing Director Sean Spencer tells The CEO Magazine.

“For mobility and transport, we’re ensuring we have the products and capability to continue to improve internal combustion engines, and we are also ready to deliver reliable hybrid and electric vehicle additive solutions.”

The company is continuously investing in its leadership positions in additive technologies for wind turbines, and solutions for gas and hydro turbines, to support the growing renewable energy market.

“We’re very excited about the pipeline of new additive technologies we have in place. We’ve been bringing to the market a range of innovative hybrid additive solutions and first intent electrified transmission fluids that cater to the market’s needs for the next generation of vehicles,” he says.

Afton is also continuously working on manufacturing in a more sustainable way. Its manufacturing site initiatives include improving its equipment and systems by optimising hot oil heater and process chiller operations, as well as tank recirculation pumps.

In October, the company received an Honourable Mention in the Best Practices category of the Energy Efficiency National Partnership Awards 2021 for its plant air compressor energy reduction project – an important recognition of its efforts on the energy efficiency front.

“Afton is committed to enhancing its sustainability efforts in reducing emissions,” Sean says. “It’s motivating because it means continuous innovation of our supply chain while also working with our customers and our partners to enable ongoing improvement in product innovation and efficiencies around emissions and fuel economy.”


The environment of the past two years has heightened the importance of customer relationships for Afton, as it has for so many other companies. “I think it goes back to being open and collaborative,” he reflects. “A natural consequence of trying to work together to solve a problem is that you tend to build trust with someone willing to do that. And then your commitment to delivering the solution also builds credibility and loyalty.

We’re very excited about the pipeline of new additive technologies we have in place.

“We’ve definitely seen a step change in willingness and openness to talk about what our customers are trying to do to grow their business and how we can help them achieve it. And I think we’ve continued to reinforce our willingness to deliver on our promise to be open and collaborative as well.”

Afton is also better engaging with its customers through digital formats such as WeChat and LinkedIn. “Our industry has been very traditional in terms of face-to-face engagement, so digitalisation – especially how we share our insights and share information with customers – is going to be something that we will continue to invest in,” Sean shares. “And customers are certainly more receptive to it than they ever were in the past.”

This commitment also forms the backbone of Sean’s leadership style, with a growth mindset being central to it. “You’ve got to be willing to continuously improve, but that needs to be done within the framework of what we’re trying to do as a company and where we sit within a company,” he says. “And if everyone understands that and they’re working as a team in the same direction, then we will be successful.”

Just focusing on what you can control tends to mean you’re not distracted and not worrying about things you don’t need to worry about.

Professional success often comes with a price, however, and Sean is mindful not to succumb to the well-documented phenomenon of burnout. “Work–life balance to me means being fulfilled,” he shares. “That means you need to know what you value, what’s important to you, what’s stimulating – from work, from a community perspective and from family. Once you understand that, then it’s about being present and giving time to all those elements.”

It’s a learning process, he admits, with planning key to achieving that all-important balance and helping to maintain a sense of control. “Just focusing on what you can control tends to mean you’re not distracted and not worrying about things you don’t need to worry about. I think I’m getting better at it.”

Poh Tiong Choon Logistics

Sean is turning his attention to the future, with an energy which promises that big things lie ahead for Afton. “Our goal is overall to grow faster than the market,” he reveals. “We’re achieving that in our core markets of China, ASEAN and Korea, and our Australia and Japan positions are well established.”

This is where that growth mindset comes into play once again. “Growth has been key in developing the team, identifying where we can grow market share and then, of course, profits. We’ve succeeded in growing all three areas,” Sean says proudly. “We’ve also continued to invest in our ‘Made 4’ capabilities and ‘Made In’ infrastructure to enable long-term growth.

“We are all set to continue to grow!”

“Afton’s tremendous support and commitment to a long-term, collaborative relationship with PTC have often inspired us in our quest for logistics excellence. We are honoured by the partnership and look forward to being a part of Afton’s exciting expansion plans.” – Poh Khim Hong, Group CEO, Poh Tiong Choon Logistics Group
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