WHEN a name card carries the designations chairman and managing director, you know you are not talking to the average 22-year-old.

Fresh out of the army and yet to enrol in university, Mr Marcus Ong has been tasked with running a family firm that is hoping to list in the next year or two.

It is not as though he has been thrown into the deep end. He has long been fascinated by his family's two firms, which sell construction and road-making machinery.

His father appointed him to the board while he was still a teenager and he has been active on the technical front, visiting factories and helping to design some of the heavy machinery stock.

His path was laid out in 2008 when his father Derrick split the then single company into two. PowerPlus became the one-stop shop for the construction industry while PowerPac dealt with road-making machinery.

Mr Marcus Ong chairs PowerPac with sister Louetta, 28, as managing director but their father has no share in it. He is also managing director of PowerPlus.

At 55, PowerPlus chairman Derrick Ong cannot wait to retire and believes his children are ready to take over the entire business.

He says he is ready to give up his chairman title to his son, who had helped to co-found the firm.

So Mr Marcus Ong has his hands full even as he prepares to start full-time studies in November at the local campus of Australia's Curtin University, pursuing a bachelor of commerce in international business.

"I've been away for so long. Now, I need to get up to speed. We are going for trade shows again," he said when we met at his Suntec office over a week ago. "The market is big enough. Everyone gets a piece of the cake; it's just that we are hungry for more."

His father says the family business spends at least US$1 million (S$1.25 million) a year to market its PowerPlus and PowerPac brands at Bauma, the leading trade show for construction equipment and machinery.

The firms are still small operations in the heavy-machinery industry, which is dominated by big names like Caterpillar and Komatsu, says Mr Derrick Ong.

That means there is a lot of room for growth. And PowerPac has so far done very well, going by its profit figures and a bumper contract it has just landed.

Increased orders drove its net profit in this year's first quarter to $1.8 million compared with a net profit of $638,000 for the whole of last year. The firms declined to reveal revenue figures.

Mr Derrick Ong says PowerPac has pulled in two mega deals after some hard work - a $56.9 million order for 588 units of road-making machinery and construction equipment from the government of an East African nation.

The same customer recently filed a similar order for 1,800 units of similar equipment.

Quite a coup for a firm that is more used to orders of $200,000 to $500,000, but Mr Derrick Ong says coordinating the big deals does not pose a problem.

PowerPlus and PowerPac employ only about 30 staff at their shared office in Singapore. The machines are all made in China, although the family has plans to soon make some in Brazil and Uzbekistan as well. PowerPlus has also just set up an assembly plant in Nigeria.

PowerPac is heading to the Singapore Exchange mainboard in the next two years. "Then, we don't have to use personal money to acquire factories in China," Mr Derrick Ong says of PowerPac, which has yet to own any factories.

Asked for his vision for PowerPac, son Marcus says: "Till now, I've not really thought about taking over the business. I just do my part to help out and make it more corporate, to grow it to a bigger company of international standards."

He likes cars and is into the technical aspects of the business, something that his father admits he has no flair for. Indeed, he has been involved in the design of the machines for several years. He started helping out at the age of 15 and became more involved after he finished secondary school.

"When I first started helping my dad, I started with the appearance of the machines," he says. "I went for courses and then I decided to improve the technical aspects of the machines and to change the components to improve our quality."

He attended the courses - they were technical in nature and included dismantling machines, troubleshooting and maintenance - while he was still in school, which meant missing up to a week of classes.

"For machines, the manufacturing process is very important so we have to control the quality," he says. "With good machines, you will get repeat orders."

Their advantage is selling their China-made machines at a fraction of top manufacturers' prices.

He says: "I also try to make it more aesthetically pleasing. It's almost like buying a car. When you first see something, you may be attracted to it. We even pay attention to the paint job. Every detail counts."

His eye is on the details but he will soon need to get a firm grip on the big picture as well.