One of the great assets of the exciting new THRIVE conference is how multi-faceted it is. From spiritual food, to relationships, to citizenship & national roles, to culture, and even to leadership in the marketplace, every speaker at the THRIVE2016 Conference shared accumulated wisdom deeply from their hearts. Dato CC Ngei was the plenary speaker for the topic of marketplace leadership and his sharing was a very practical one.
The name of Dato CC Ngei might not be as familiar as some of the other speakers such as Pr Julie Khoo or YB Hannah Yeoh. In his own area of influence, however, he is a renowned market leader. Dato CC is the managing director and co-founder of Feruni Ceramiche Sdn Bhd, a leading and world-class tile manufacturing company.
A visionary and innovative thinker, he has played a role of transforming an industry that has traditionally not has much appeal as a career or industry choice. He has won numerous awards in his career such as the SME Man of the Year Award at The BrandLaurete SMEs BestBrands Awards 2014 and Entrepeuner of the Year Award at the Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) 2015. He has also been selected as a member of the prestigious non-profit organisation: Endeavor and Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO).
How does one take a seemingly dull industry like tile manufacturing and transform it into one of the most attractive avenues for young entrepeuners? The question posed by Dato CC at the THRIVE2016 Conference was this; is a leader born or made? How do you get people to follow you not by force, but the willingness of their own hearts and their belief in you?
Using Feruni to illustrate business leadership principles, Dato CC shared that a company can only survive if it delivers values in multiple areas. Not just to customers or its employees, but to both, and then to extend further into the community.
Because of this, the company culture is of vital importance. At Feruni, for example, the working space is centered upon a shared identity. Potential employees (dubbed Ferunians to encourage the sense of belonging) get to showcase their unique skills and their gifts through Feruni’s Talent Centre.
The organisations’ Culture Centre is a platform where Ferunians get to learn, play, share and develop their skills with one another, and it covers such diverse arenas as the Literati Club, Fit Factory (gym), Gamer’s Den, Broadway (Singing and Dancing Club), Gourmet School and Goal Post (Futsal club). From their people-centric workspace to the unique Feruniversity syllabus, every element of the organisation is designed to bring out the best in every individual talent.
On the wider organisational front, Feruni is founded on 4 purposes which can be summed up as CCTV (to Cultivate talents in their employees; to have a holistic Community mindset and make a difference to the society; to Transform individuals through self-development and the industry through cutting-edge ideas; and to be a Value-based organisation).
These values are predicated upon 10 cores (deliver Wow; communicate with heart; demonstrate talents; care for everyone like a family; be innovative; emphasise on finer details; practise integrity, honesty, and transparency; eager to share; have fun at work; learn one thing a day).
Dato CC shared that a leader leads best by example. Every good organisation must first have a healthy internal culture. In order to have dedicated followers, the followers must have a sense of worth and significance. Good leaders give opportunities for their followers to develop unique gifts and do not lead by compulsion or merely through an attractive salary, but rather through the two-way care and devotion in relationship. They must have a sense of great purpose in joining the leader, and a confidence that they will be able to achieve something great by following this leader.
Good organisations also cannot exist in isolation. They must be of use to the community. Especially as Christian businessmen, Christian marketplace leaders cannot be governed solely by profit. The CEO of all Christians is Christ and we’re called to be the salt and light for His Kingdom. Good organisations must return something of meaning and significance to the society and community.
One of the pillars on which Feruni built itself therefore, is the community. Feruni has a two-prong mission; firstly, to have at least 3000 community hours annually among all Ferunians. The in-house Tiling Academy, for example, is a training programme to uplift the lives of the community, giving the less-advantaged an opportunity for education and career. The second mission of Feruni is to contribute 10% of their profits after tax to the community.
Dato CC conveyed that the culture at Feruni could be developed not because of his own smartness but because Christ has handed down good principles on which the organisation could be built. ‘All of the above can be traced back to guidance that you can obtain from the Bible.’
Purpose is important to leaders because they’re the GPS that provides the direction to every decision. Every decision that a leader takes must go towards a purpose. ‘When God created us, at the same time, God has given all of us a very unique and special talent. Each of us has our own unique talents and we must identify our talents. Those talents are not given to us by chance or coincidence. We must learn how to develop and use those talents,’ encouraged Dato CC.
Secondly, a leader must possess persistence, for no great enterprise go without challenges. ‘In every undertaking, you can do all the data analysis but there is always a risk involved. But if you don’t take the risks, you’ll always sit in the same spot and nothing will happen. Initially, people may mock or scoff at your dreams. But you must not let those ridicules kill your dream. If you have a great dream or vision, you must hold on to them in persistence.’
Furthermore, it is very common for organisations to struggle with finance and slow results when first starting out. ‘This can be very scary but it is where you learn to have faith. Always remember that if you want to go from this mountain to the other mountain, you always must travel through the valley first. You must go down from the first mountain to get to the other mountain. This is something you must tell yourself; if you want to do great things, persistence is very very important.’
‘Finally, the thing that is going to drive the changes and transformation in your organisation is your faith.’ Dato CC expressed that he got to know Jesus through the persistent prayer and sharing of his wife. ‘When I got to know Jesus, He changed my whole perspective on life, and also my whole perspective on how I should run my organisation. In the past, I used to follow the conventional perspective not to teach the staff so well because they will one day climb over your head and become your competitor.
‘There was also the conventional perception that you must cut expenses as much as you can. In that kind of understanding, I would never have spent the amount of money that went into Feruni in creating the kind of good working environment it has today, because those were expenses.’
Dato CC shared that when he first gave his tithe and obeyed the Lord in financial matters, it was tough for him. ‘Because like every young man, I felt those were money I could use to get a better car or house. But now as I look back and see the impact it has brought to people by being obedient, I myself become happy. Because I remember in the past, when you buy your first car, maybe it will bring you happiness for 6 months. By the second time you buy a car, maybe it will bring happiness for 4 months, the third time maybe 3 months.. You keep buying things but never end up being happy.
‘Not only did Christ free me from this and give me a deeper happiness, as I grow deeper in Him, He has also led me to see how I can further impact the lives of people in the community. This is where the 3000 community-hour dedication from Feruni was born. Christ has taught me that it is not just about me, but how through the organisation, it can be used to impact the lives of people around me.’
Giving glory to Christ, Dato CC expressed that if it’s not because of Christ, Feruni would not exist and he would not be standing there sharing about his experience. ‘I believe this, because in the beginning Feruni had to go through so many challenges that without God, we would not be able to make it. I believe that Faith is so important. I believe that without God, there would be no right purpose.’
‘These are the three things I have learned. With the right purpose, you can get the right people to join you. With persistence and prayer, God will take you to the next level. With faith, you will see the power of God and start see things through His perspective and things transform around you according to His glory. It is so important that we always open the door, to let God be our guide and teach us.’
So is a leader born or made? Dato CC shared that through his experience he believes that it is neither, but that a leader becomes one by learning. ‘If you really spent the time to learn, you will become a good leader. We see this truth in the lives of the 12 disciples. The Bible tells us that we need to love our enemies but this is very difficult. So we start, we must love our families, we must love our colleagues. This is how you learn how to contribute back to the people around you. When you allow God to transform your lives and change your perspectives, this is what it means to be born-again.’
NOTE: Because of the nature of this article, the information on the cultural and organisational aspects of Feruni is of necessity limited. Feruni is an organisation that was built from the ground up through Biblical principles and guidance. You may find out more about Feruni’s culture on their ‘About Us’ page.
The THRIVE Conference was envisioned to empower the young Christians in this nation to go beyond the ordinary, into becoming THRIVING overcomers. This is the first year the conference was held. You can find out more about the conference on their FaceBook page.
This article has been published with the permission of the organiser of the event and all photos from the event were kindly given permission for usage by the organisers. Photos credited to Caleb Lim.
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