A New Business Plan
by Chai Koh Pong
I worked as a civil engineer and corporate manager before I started my own business as a property developer in 1985. It was my dream to make it really big and rich in business, like some corporate players whom I took as my role models.
Every minute of my life was spent in getting more business and trying to maximize profits. It was a pressurized, selfish and greedy world of trying to win at all times. Exploiting others to the full was common practice--an apparent necessity. That was my idea of securing happiness in life.
Then, when the economy crashed, some of my role models got into serious financial trouble and some even landed in jail. This shattered my sense of security and gave me a feeling of emptiness. I felt a need to ponder on the direction of my life, the values I had adopted.
I started reading up on philosophy when an old classmate introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism in 1986. Nichiren's teachings seemed to coincide with what I learned from motivational books and courses. I began to practice, chanting "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."
Changes began to happen gradually, starting with my idea of happiness. Instead of finding joy in materialistic gains or one-sided victories, I came to believe in and experience a deeper sense of happiness coming from within me--a happiness fueled by altruism, a solid state of mind that revels in simply being alive.
I have seen that Nichiren Buddhism goes much deeper than the self-motivational work I have done. One can learn or improve many skills, such as public speaking, but the practice of a correct religious philosophy creates a positive transformation at the core of one's life, releasing unimagined potential. True communication skills, for example, are more than just respecting the speaker and listening sincerely. They rest on a spirit of compassion and an ability to open one's heart.
Change of Heart
These changes made me a more humble and approachable person. I began treating my associates and staff with greater respect, gratitude and sincere concern. Before practicing Buddhism, I used to evaluate a person's "importance" purely on the basis of what "profits" they could bring me, but through my involvement in Soka Gakkai Malaysia's activities, I can now appreciate each individual's respective role in contributing to the success of an enterprise.
Instead of squeezing every ounce of profit from others, I now prefer fairer deals. My judgments and decisions now include concern for others' satisfaction, thus winning the trust of my associates and partners. My staff is willing to put in hard work and extra time for me. The contractors that work with my company strive to raise the standard of their work, and buyers show their contentment by repeated purchases.
Improvement in my relationships with my staff, associates and contractors means less time wasted on conflict management. The result is greater productivity and faster completion of projects, which translates into less wastage and improved profitability.
Knowing for sure that more money does not always equal more happiness, I have become less calculating. I do not mind earning less money or spending extra time and putting more resources into building better houses.
The wisdom I gained from my Buddhist practice has also changed the way I handle funds. I see good cash flow as the key to maintaining the strength of the business. I have become more selective and cautious in the acquisition of projects. Less greedy, I do not bid for huge projects which require me to borrow heavily and thus put my company at unnecessarily high risk. Hence my company is able to proceed quite smoothly despite economic recessions or turmoil.
I believe that when more business owners subscribe to a positive philosophy and have the correct values, the business world will become a fairer place for all, with the distribution of wealth being more balanced. With less wastage of time and resources and greater productivity, the cost of goods can be lowered, enabling many more people to enjoy a better life.
[Courtesy, October 2006 SGI Quarterly]