“It’s not us against you. It’s us against the pandemic”: Philip Ng to worldwide business leaders on navigating COVID-19
Christine Leow // May 14, 2020, 5:43 pm
Far East Organization CEO Philip Ng (centre), at an Alpha Singapore meeting at the Changi Business Park in July 2019. Photo courtesy of Alpha Singapore.
What began as a threat to global health has spiralled into an economic nightmare that has paralysed industries and broken businesses. No one has been spared and there is uncertainty in every sphere of life, not least in the business world.
As part of their monthly Gatekeepers’ Gathering, inter-denominational organisation Gatekeepers Singapore invited Far East Organization CEO Philip Ng to share insights into how businesses can respond to the challenges that COVID-19 presents. Far East Organization is one of Asia’s largest property and hospitality groups.
Entitled Kingdom Business: Navigating the Pandemic and the Aftermath, the Zoom conference drew nearly 900 participants from across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.
A time to reset how we do business
Asked about a positive model for doing kingdom business in these trying times, Ng said: “We may have to reset the way we conduct our businesses.
“We have to have a personal relationship with Christ and we have to have a personal relationship with people we work with and who work for us.”
“Communication is very important. It makes people feel that they are important to the organisation.”
Ng noted that the pandemic has reduced everything to numbers and that has de-personalised and de-humanised people.
Sharing how his company remains personal, he said: “We already have layers of management. We require our managers to be in touch with their people and I am in touch with key people.
“We need to do this not just for the immediate layer below us but for at least two or three layers. We want to touch base with them and communicate. We have to do it as disciple-makers and as disciples.”
Advocating regular check-ins with employees, Ng said: “Communication is very important. It makes people feel that they are important to the organisation, and their roles and jobs are valued.”
A time to plan with prudence
For those who have to adapt to challenges and changes because of COVID-19, Ng encouraged: “There may be some businesses who can’t stay the course and it is painful. If you are right now under siege and you have to let go of people, you should pray about it and seek the peace of the Lord.
“It does not mean that just because we are running a Christian enterprise, we tell ourselves we have to keep our people whatever happens. Every situation is different. Everyone must find peace with the Lord through prayer.”
Through this journey, Ng reminded that the walk of a Christian businessperson, a marketplace Christian, is one where there is a personal touch and a personal relationship with our people, in the same way that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ.
A time to act as a community
As the business community rides out the storm, Ng shared about the necessity of banding together.
“Act as a community. It’s not us against you. It’s us against the pandemic.”
“Act as a community. It’s not us against you. It’s us against the pandemic.
“I see my tenants sharing customers because they can’t serve everyone. Instead of having crowds queueing, they get their neighbours to take on some of their customers.”
“In this way, everyone can still have some business.”
To help tenants, Far East Organization has adjusted the terms and conditions of their leases to charge a percentage of gross turnover rather than a set amount of rent.
“We all have to have this attitude of helping and loving one another and showing grace to one another,” he said.
A time to pause and reflect
Ng also noted that this season of near worldwide lockdowns should really be seen as a “pause for us to reflect”. While stopping can be painful, in God’s economy pauses are necessary.
“If you read the Old Testament, there are pauses in the calendar where people dedicate the day to God such as Sabbath Day.
While stopping can be painful, in God’s economy pauses are necessary.
“There are festivals where people make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to worship.”
He noted that in our busyness, we have forgotten that Jesus not only died and rose again but He has promised to return as well. In fact, He had talked about the global signs surrounding that return.
“Jesus has prophesied that there would be wars and rumours of wars, upheavals, plagues and earthquakes,” said Ng.
“We don’t know when He will return but we must be watchful and alert to this. This is a time for us to pause, reflect and turn our hearts firmly back to God and to think more about doing things for God.”
A time to learn from the Tower of Babel
The reason for the re-thinking is the urgency of the times. He likened the current situation to the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 which was also a “global phenomenon that impacted everyone”.
“The quest of mankind then was to make a name for himself and displace God. That has not abated since.”
“The quest of mankind then was to make a name for himself and to displace God,” said Ng.
That quest has not abated in the generations since.
“This is the story of mankind. We believe that through learning, technology, hard work and being more prosperous, we can be in control and God can be made secondary.
“The Tower of Babel was destroyed and the Lord scattered the people. He can do it again.”
For Ng, there is only, then, one question Christians must ask: “We are once again placing ourselves in many places above God – our interest comes first not God’s; our thoughts are about our needs and our prosperity.
“We must ask ourselves: ‘Are we contributing to this new Tower of Babel?’ As marketplace Christians, we can’t sit on the fence.”