Chek Hup World Vision concert

Joseph Tan (in yellow) with The Blue Sky Choir. The choir was performing at a concert that Chek Hup sponsored in support of World Vision Malaysia. Photo courtesy of World Vision, Malaysia.

Joseph Tan’s faith saturates his life.

He heads Chek Hup, a company famous for its instant coffee. To Tan, the acronym c.o.f.f.e.e. stands for – “Christ Offers Forgiveness For Everyone Everywhere”.

“I want the aroma of Christ in the coffee we sell,” quips the youthful looking Managing Director.

The verse, Matthew 6:33, is also a  compelling motivation that drives him to always put God first, knowing that He will take care of the rest.

Chek Hup was awarded The Brand Laureate SMEs Best Brands Signature Award 2014.

Chek Hup was awarded The Brand Laureate SMEs Best Brands Signature Award 2014. Picture from company’s website.

Beyond 7,200 tonnes

Today, Chek Hup, the Malaysian home brand established by Tan’s dad in the mid 1900s has a yearly turnover of about RM100 million. The award winning company produces 7,200 tonnes of instant beverages and rock sugar annually. Its products are stocked in supermarket shelves all across Southeast Asia and Greater China.

Despite the company’s success, Tan is mindful of the debt of gratitude to God for the “blessing that has exceeded our wildest dream.” As the family business grew, so did his realisation that God’s blessings are not meant for selfish pleasure but as a resource for His kingdom.

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We value lives of our staff, we look for their strengths and put them where they can flourish.

This revelation became a conviction in 2014.

While he was preparing his eulogy for his father’s funeral, Tan came across the verse, Matthew 5:16. It impressed on him to let God’s light shine through the company’s good deeds and to glorify Father God in heaven.

The following year, at the company’s 50th anniversary, he announced that the company would start contributing 1% of its annual profit to charitable and Kingdom work, and to increase the contribution by 1% every year until it hits 10%.

Since then, the company has tied up with Christian organisations such as World Vision to help the needy and build God’s kingdom.

People driven

Joseph Tan (right) next to Malaysian singer Adira at Chek Hup's launch in KL in 2015.

Joseph Tan, on the extreme right, next to Malaysian singer Adira at Chek Hup’s launch in Kuala Lumpur in 2015.

At Chek Hup, the staff’s personal development and well-being are big on the company’s agenda, and this is spelled out in the company’s core value, “We value lives.”

“Sometimes, we have staff who do not perform well in their work due to a mismatch in their skills and responsibilities. Instead of letting them go, we identify their strengths and put them where they can flourish with their skills,” Tan reveals.

“We don’t mind spending more to retrain the staff because when we value life, there’s trust, respect and security in the company.” 

The Managing Director went on to explain that when the staff felt valued and secure, they would be inspired to work harder, this in turn drives up profit.

Chek Hup Coffee had a special mention in local media. Picture from company's website.

Chek Hup Coffee had a special mention in local media. Picture from company’s website.

Ministry at work

Tan is open about the fact that most of his senior management team are Christians. Therefore, regular prayer meetings in the office are important as Tan and his team commit the business to God. He also intends for the staff to witness the difference when God’s presence is in the company.

The senior management team regularly prays and commit the business to God.

As a coffee manufacturer, Chek Hup employs many foreign workers from Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Tan makes sure he does not let up on the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

“We partner with pastors from the various churches. They are involved in our sports ministry on Sunday evenings when we take our migrant workers out for games. During their sports activities, the pastors will connect with them.” 

Wisdom for challenges 

When asked what challenges he face in the coffee business, Tan admitted that it is hard to balance profit and quality. A good bottom line is necessary to remunerate his staff well and yet, the quality of his products is something he cannot compromise on.

It is a fine line to toe and Tan daily turns to God for wisdom to make decisions that have repercussions on his staff.

Chek Hup’s Managing Director, Joseph Tan with his wife and two sons on a recent holiday. Photo courtesy of Joseph Tan.

The most important legacy I can leave for my sons is God’s Word.

Meanwhile, he is also working on plans to develop a coffee tourism showcase in his factory in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Family first

Despite his hectic work life, Tan makes it a priority to spend time with his wife and two sons, aged 9 and 12. “You know, the most important legacy I can leave to my sons is God’s Word. When they know God’s Word, they can stand firmly and seek His path for themselves.

“We try to have family devotions several times a week, where we read the Bible and I share with them my experiences based on the Scripture.

“We need God’s Word to guide us on the path that pleases him.” 

About the author

Ong Juat Heng

Ong Juat Heng was a journalist in The Star before branching out to public relations consultancy and advertising copywriting. As a mother to three adult boys, her chief prayer has always been that they know God intimately but in her vain moments, she's always prayed fruitlessly to be 2 inches taller. To de-stress, she does Zumba and makes soaps.