5 Lessons From A Billionaire Boss, CEO of Property Developer Far East Organization
This week, I had the rare opportunity to attend a business breakfast with Billionaire and CEO of property developer Far East Organization, Mr. Philip Ng. According to Forbes, Philip and his brother, Robert, top Singapore’s rich list with a combined wealth of $11.5 Billion (as of Jan 2015).
He talked about his Christian faith and how it has impacted the way he conducts his business. Though I am not Christian, it was still a real privilege to listen and learn and it was like having a business mentor advising us on what to do and what not to do.
Other than his sharing, Philip also answered some questions from the floor and these are the 5 lessons I learned:
#1: Be Smart & Shrewd For What Is Right
Philip shared about The Parable of The Shrewd Manager, which can be a very confusing parable. (Google it and you will be even more confused!)
In summary, there was a dishonest manager who was looking at losing his job. He then went to his boss’ debtors and discounted what they owed his boss, so that even after he lost his job he would still be welcomed by other people around him i.e. he would still be able to find a job and/or favour with these other people. His boss commended him, this dishonest manager, because he had acted shrewdly and used his creativity and wits to survive. (Yes, I know. Confusing, right?)
In the Bible, Jesus points out that what the shrewd manager did was clearly wrong, even though the boss of this shrewd manager commended him.
In essence, the point of the parable was that we must be clear about what is right and what is wrong, even though the world may not be. Do what is right and apply your creativity in the light to really live.
#2: Integrity Is Important
Secondly, with regard to the master commending the dishonest manager for doing something dishonest and illegal, the learning point here was just because something is “the done thing to do” in business, it does not necessarily make it right.
Integrity is important and your anchor will determine your value system.
#3 If You Want To Be At The Top, You Have To Do More Than What Everyone Else Is Willing To Do
Philip mentioned that he used to work a 6-day week plus Sunday for half a day (7am to 1pm) for site visits. While he admitted that he did work his employees very hard, it was also obvious he worked extremely hard as well.
When I was a lawyer, we represented Far East Organization in some financing deals. I do remember their in-house counsel mentioning they had to work a lot, probably even more than some lawyers in private practice.
To Philip, it was important to work all day on Saturday because there would be no meetings and no phone calls to take, so it would be the best time to review what they had and what they needed to do.
I so understand this point but in relation to working late at night or early in the morning, whether it is the weekend or not. There are no kids to bother me and I have time to think, review and strategise.
#4 Management 101: Empathy
However, when Philip became Christian, he realised that he needed to be more empathetic towards his employees in regards to their need to have time with their families. He also felt he could have done better in considering the human aspect in management.
So now he has made changes to that effect, for example, he no longer has anymore Sunday site visits because he feels it’s the right thing to do.
#5 Don’t Be In A Hurry To Succeed
This really struck a chord in me and it was like someone was using a loud hailer to drive this home in me.
Philip mentioned that many of us are in too much of a hurry to succeed and we pursue very single-mindedly the material things, pushing aside the things that really matter. He would have also liked to spend more quality time with his 6 children.
If someone as successful as Philip can say that we should be mindful of the things that really matter and not be too in a hurry to succeed, then perhaps we should listen.
All in all, a very good morning!