Guiding Principles for Business Leaders in Uncertainty
Witness and discipleship should always be on the marketplace believer’s mind, even during COVID-19.
Randy Teo has served as a C-suite executive for various companies in Asia, Europe, and the United States for more than 25 years. He is still a significant investor who is also actively involved in startups around the world, focusing on projects in Artificial Intelligence, Edutech and HealthTech. These are three domains which he strongly envisions to be game-changers that will be transformed by innovative individuals to impact future businesses for the good of society.
He generously shares formative insights for the season we find ourselves in.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what drives you. I understand you have been prominent in the areas of business and education.
I’ve been blessed. I was in the marketplace, and still work as an investor. I also have a ministry – I help Christian families who want to homeschool.
I also help pastors start their own church schools or training ministries in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We [Randy and his wife] have been doing this for almost 20 years. We are now partnering with the largest Christian university in the United States – Liberty University, as well as Bob Jones University Press.
I believe the goal of a business leader is to really look at the Great Commission in Mark 16:15. My life mission, together with my wife, is about the three “GC’s” – the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and the Glorious Coming (the second coming of Christ).
Tell us a bit more about this goal of being a business leader – looking at the Great Commission. What does it practically mean for you?
We need to understand that the marketplace is not something separate from the rest of the believer’s life – we need to look at business as our mission. It doesn’t have to be compartmentalized.
I have been in business for about forty years now, and have a couple of rules I operate on:
First, the 10 Commandments are my guiding principles. It’s very important to have love as the key in all of our business dealings.
Second, Gospel witnessing is absolutely vital. I’ve run businesses all over the world – in Asia, Europe, and the United States, and I meet a lot of non-Christians. I remind myself that I am a light-bearer of Christ, the one who shares the Gospel to these people. This is what I do – I sow the seeds and spread the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone. And once again, the key is love.
“The primary responsibility of a business is to provide a financial supply…Making money is not ugly; it enables us to take care of many people!”
I see a lot of Christians hiding their identity in the marketplace. This is because they do not understand what being a disciple is all about. I have been blessed to have Christian mentors, particularly in the USA, who have helped me come to a right understanding of discipleship.
There have been times when CEOs I work for ask me for the secret of my success. I often invite them to church and make it clear to them – my walk with the Lord is at the core of my success in business. My faith and my work are inseparable.
Now, in this season where the world is dealing with COVID-19, how does this position play out? Do businesses have a primary responsibility in this season?
The primary responsibility of a business is to provide a financial supply. The way a business can be a blessing is to employ a lot of people and provide for their financial needs and their families. Making money is not ugly; it enables us to take care of many people!
I have talked to Christian small business owners that I helped fund and get started, and they are doing everything they can to keep paying their employees during this crisis. Even when COVID-19 has caused their revenues to drop by as much as 90%, they are finding sacrificial ways to keep their people employed.
This is how Christian businessmen can be different – they show the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 and put others first.
The Coronavirus has changed the way business and work is done. Many people are working from home now. Do you think these changes are for the better and are there potential challenges?
For the last several years, I have been working from a home office. I’m no longer in the corporate world but working as an investor, and I’m just as productive here as I ever was in an office. I’ve always worked kind of 24/7, so home-based work is no different for me. I think this pandemic is going to help businesses, especially here in Southeast Asia, realize they can be flexible with working arrangements. And I think it’s a good thing.
I know there are good things about offices – you can have chat sessions and face-to-face idea sharing, but these things don’t have to be done in a physical office – there are many ways we can do these things. Everything can be balanced. So I think in the long-term, COVID-19 will be a good reset for business practices. All the way up to governments, let’s relax the rules about working from home.
Even in the church environment – some senior pastors demand that church workers be in the office for long hours. Often, I hear from church staff about all the physical meetings they have to sit through, and these things are not productive at all. I think everybody has to think through this whole area of home and work life.
On a personal front, have there been any lessons you have learned so far from COVID-19? Have there been any changes to your personal priorities?
I count the days.
Everyday, I take one hour off and go to Bukit Timah hill. I go and climb the hill, asking God what I need to re-engineer in my mind. God has given me the acronym, BEST:
B is for Biblical worldview. It’s about getting back into God’s word, and asking God, “What do you want to show me?” First, I need to teach my mind to look at situations with a Biblical worldview. I want to retrain my mind to the Hebrew way of thinking, not the Greek way.
E is for Eating right. God has spoken to me during this pandemic to eat right and to be healthy. Functional medicine is all about getting to the root of diseases, and so much of that has to do with eating right. So, I adjust the way I eat, exercise, sleep, relax, and socialize.
S is for Soul patrol. I got this term from someone in Christian education, Dr. David Gifts. He has a friend, who is on “soul patrol” everyday. And every single day, he asks God for opportunities to share Christ and God shows him 10 different people he can witness to! I want to apply that in my life, too.
Finally, T is for Thankfulness. I have to be thankful to God for the things I have and the things I don’t have. It’s easy to be caught up in complaining when so many things are changing around us, but thankfulness is always the best response.
Remembering these things in this season have helped to anchor me, and I believe they will do the same for others as well.