13 June 2013 by Adeline Lum CM-
From a losing business, Dato’ Sri Michael Chong turned the tables of Shogun and Saisaki to a profitable and God-glorifying business.
“There’s a thin line between serving God and serving money. But a lot of Christians use this as an excuse to become lazy, or their lack of greed per se as a reason for their business failing.”
“As for me, Saisaki and Shogun are my God-given business. So, I would go all out to glorify Him,” said Michael.
Founded by a Korean elderly man, Saisaki was deemed as the grandfather of Japanese buffet in Malaysia, famous amongst the businessmen. In fact, the business attracted so many patrons, that two sister-restaurants called Shogun were opened later –one was opened in One Utama in 2005 and the other was opened in Sunway Pyramid two years later.
“During the early days, people would once queue up at Shogun of One Utama all the way to the escalator,” said Michael.
However, the Japanese restaurant chain was curiously still losing money due to its poor management. Michael was then introduced to the Korean founder, whereby he took over the whole business in January 2011. His company is called the Grand Saisaki Sdn Bhd.
Using the Lord’s principles and the business wits he acquired in his car business of 28 years, Glory Wheels, Michael made several changes in the business which brought it to newer heights.
Principle 1: Sow the Seeds
When Michael first took over Saisaki and Shogun, the first thing he wanted to do was to replace the itemized menu tablemats with story telling.
“I told God: if it’s Your Will for me to share the stories, I will change the tablemats to glorify Your Name,” said Michael who lifted this prayer before he took over the business.
And interestingly, despite Michael’s very packed schedule of working, he personally wrote and selected the entourage of stories to print in four different tablemats every month.
“Over the 20 years, I have been keeping a lot of holy and fun jokes, especially jokes from the pastor. Whenever I hear a good word, I would record it down in my phone,” said Michael.
The tablemats were a huge hit, with people requesting for extra tablemats at the counter to bring home. People would also return every month to find out about the new tablemats.
“This is a way of how I can share with people a lot of inspirational and motivational stories. It is a really good marketplace ministry, sharing the gospel story about God,” said Michael.
Principle 2: Glorify The Lord!
In fact, the tablemats were so popular that they even caught the attention of the then editor-in-chief of Asian Beacon, Lim Poh Ann who came to dine with his wife at Shogun. They too requested for extra tablemats to bring home.
In fact, Dr Lim’s wife was so convinced that the owner of Shogun was a Christian, that Dr Lim could not help but asked a restaurant staff, the person who developed the table mats’ content.
“I was at the restaurant at that time too. And Dr Lim and me had a lovely chat. He told me that he was in love with the tablemats. And one month later, he wanted to interview me in Asian Beacon,” said Michael.
We often think that humility should come with lying low with our successes. But even young David proclaimed that he would kill Goliath in the name of the Lord. Not to mention Moses and the people of God would dance, sing and praise the Lord aloud after crossing the Red Sea.
“So, like me taking this interview, I am not blowing my own trumpet of my successes, but I am telling the world the goodness and prosperity that God brings, although there’s a thin line between glorifying self and glorifying God,” said Michael.
Principle 3: Honor your Parents
Apart from the tablemats, Michael was also one of the first restaurants to give a whopping 50 percent discount for seniors who are 55 years old and above. His outlet chefs did not agree in the beginning due to their role in optimizing profits for Shogun and Saisaki.
“I try to instill Christian values. I told them, the more you give, the more you will be given back (Luke 6:38),” said Michael who persuaded them to attempt the offer plan for three months.
In that three months, the response was so far-reaching that even his aunt would hear from other aunts in the park who talked about wanting their children to bring them to Shogun for the discounted price.
“This is free advertisement. Even my aunt asked my mother if the offer was real. I felt that God was telling me that I did not give in vain,” said Michael.
Although they did not make any loss and profited less, his staffs preferred to peel off the offer. But Michael persuaded them to continue the offer and withhold their decision for another three months.
Nearing the end of the six months, the majority of staffs were still convicted with the same decision. Hence, Michael also decided to stop the offer for good.
But three days before the expiry date of the six-months trial, his wife called Michael in his cell phone, which is a highly unusual practice.
“I was panicking because she was sobbing. I thought something happened to her. My heart dropped. My wife told me that while she had lunch in One Utama, an old lady came to hug her tightly.”
“This lady said to her; thank you very much, I know that you are the lady boss. If it was not for you in giving this 50 percent offer, I would have never had a chance to eat your buffet,” said Michael.
Why did he start the offer? Apart from applying God’s principle of giving and also honoring our parents, he did it firstly to honor and dedicate this business to his late father.
“I lost my dad in 2010. When he passed away, he didn’t even know that I was about to take over the business.”
“Every time when the family goes out to eat a buffet, my dad would ask us to go saying, you go lah. If I go, we rugi because I don’t eat much, just tapau the fukkien mee for me because that would be enough,” said Michael.
Michael desired that all senior citizens could come to enjoy a Japanese buffet, unlike his father.
“If my dad was still alive, I would surely go to a restaurant with this offer and my dad would definitely come! I want to bless the senior citizens, so that they would have a chance to enjoy Japanese food with their family,” said Michael.
In another scenario, young people today are also not inclined to bring their parents to buffets due to their perceived smaller appetites.
Also, for the benefit of all patrons, Michael also started a third promotion in 1st January 2011, where all birthday guest would dine in free of charge, in any day which fall three days before or three days after the birthday.
Principle 4: Give and You shall be Given
And even from his early days in business, God has taught Michael to tithe.
Coming from a Methodist background, he was not exposed to the value of tithing until he joined an AOG church with his wife. But how could he tithe during then? His car business, Glory Wheels, was insufficient to pay his house rent and also to provide for his parents who stayed with him.
“I still remember 20 years ago, my wife and I would pull out every drawer in our house to see if there were any changes or coins left. We would be so happy to find 20 cents as if it was a treasure.”
“But even in such tight situations, my wife encouraged me to tithe to God,” said Michael, who found tithing challenging, according to his business financial smarts.
He committed an oath to God that he would tithe for three months to ‘test the waters’, on whether God would truly prosper Him.
“I believe my wife was praying for me. After three months of tithing, the business was sufficient and we could pay our house rent. So, I decided to tithe for another three more months,” said Michael.
But although God has faithfully provided, Michael could not help but think that the ten percent he tithed could be used in other areas of his life. But three most curious things happened within one week before the six-month oath of tithing expired.
“My brother-in-law who was a young Christian during then busted through the door, excitedly proclaiming his success in closing a sale. He told me the car buyer bought it because he saw the cross hanging outside my office, which brought him confidence,” said Michael.
He thought that God was telling Peter that He provided Peter the sales, not specifically for him. But Peter was working for Michael as a car sales person at that time.
Two days later, another incident happened which reminded Michael about tithing but he quickly passed it off as a coincidence.
And the third incident was when God directed a Reverend who not only visited Michael, but also bought a car from him!
The night before the purchase, the Reverend’s son apparently had a dream of God telling him to buy the car he first laid his eyes on in the Malay Mail. Rising up early, he quickly bought and flipped the mail newspaper to the only classified for cars. And that was the Mercedes Benz sold in Michael’s car shop. This Reverend’s son just returned from overseas and was assisting his father in his church.
At first, the Reverend was skeptical of his son’s expensive taste but when he entered Michael’s office and saw the cross, he became certain in his Spirit that it was the car God wanted his son to buy.
“My tears came down and I told the Reverend about God trying to tell me to tithe. The Lord is telling me that I can never out give him because in that same week, I had three car sales brought by God,” said Michael.
Principle 5: Your Purpose Rests in Him
Recently, a pastor from a church in Klang also wanted to interview Michael on the meaning of life based on the Book of Ecclesiastes. Thinking that it was a heavy topic, Michael wanted to escape the interview in vain.
“I learned that God wanted me to learn from this pastor. So, I told him that every question he directed to me, I would like to hear from his perspective as well for the question.”
“After the interview, I was told that I have found my meaning of life because I find meaning in what I do in my job and I am happy with it. But surprisingly, he (the pastor) asked me if I would continue doing what I am doing currently if I only had one more month to live,” said Michael.
He realized that he would do something different if it was his last month to live.
Also, he discovered that the meaning derived from his purpose of life would change accordingly in different seasons and times.
For example, many years ago, God asked him to run a Christian gift and apparel shop and later on he was asked to be a cell group leader. In one particular season, he was also called by the Lord to produce mineral waters printed with John 3:16.
“Our purpose in life would change. Now, I am working in this job. I have 300 staffs, a lot of suppliers and friends who would consider what I say because it carries command and weight.”
“I think God has brought me from the car business, into the Shogun or Saisaki restaurant to honor Him,” said Michael.
Principle 6: Set your Priorities Right
So, what are Michael’s priorities given the option of God, church, friends, family and work? What would you deem as most important to least important?
The most important thing in our life is our relationship with God, followed by family, workplace, friends and lastly, church. We should be in constant contact with The Lord through prayer, worship or just chatting with Him. We must also not forsake our family.
“If your family is not right, nothing is right. If you can’t take care of your children, how can you take care of your company?” said Michael who has a son and a daughter in their early 20’s.
“Also for work, you must also be an example in your workplace by being punctual, not taking too many medical leaves, and not being lazy,” he added.
Today, many Christian mix God and church together, frequently compromising the quality of their work to serve in the ministry.
But the truth is that besides church, we must also be a good testimony for God in the workplace. And that includes doing your job well, at least within the company hours. Also, the hours for work should be given to the company, and not used to talk to Christian friends on Facebook, albeit the topic is about God.
“If one needs to take leave or leave early from work for church camp or conferences, then if anything, the quality of your work should be higher than normal people.”
“We cannot lose to the people of the world in our work quality, standards and ethics, because what does that say about our God? Is He not the Sovereign God?” said Michael.
Principle 7: Rule Money with the Right Attitude
Rule money and not let money rule you.
One of the rules to rule money in business is to not overtrade. For example, if you have a starting capital of RM50000, do not be greedy and loan to start a business costing three times your starting capital.
“You must always think of the what-if’s? That’s why a lot of young entrepreneurs go bankrupt because they apply for credit card when they don’t have enough money.”
“In business as well, faith without action is dead. There’s no such thing like I will sign the credit card and God will clean my debt. Don’t blame God for your failure and recklessness in spending,” said Michael.
He also believes in the servants of God living a blessed life in the Lord. Indeed, some pastors are paid with a very low salary.
Also, it’s important to note that serving God and serving money is a very thin line, though this fact is again not a legitimate reason to be lazy.
“I do agree that I chase money, but not money that is illegal. What I have achieved for Shogun and Saisaki really glorifies God due to its good governance and a lot of people are talking about it,” said Michael.
Many people say that money is evil and rich businessmen are evil. But if he manages his business well, at least he can speak about what God has entrusted Him with. At the end of the day, Michael reports to God for his business.
Principle 8: Respect your staffs
Now, with 300 staffs under him, his staffs occasionally teased him as ‘Pastor Michael.’
“We would have a whassap group with the head office management staffs of the company. And one day, the Operation Manager reported about an outlet doing very well, which I reported PTL.”
“My CEO thought PTL meant please tell Loke. But this staff of mine, Loke, could even explain that it actually meant Praise the Lord,” chuckled Michael.
Indeed, in life, there are two things no one can force one to do, including religion and political stand. Michael has a high respect for his staffs.
With these eight godly principles, one would be in position to glorify The Lord in everything he or she does in the marketplace. Remember that every job or occupation has a creative room to glorify Him; just doing your job excellently already glorifies The Lord. People are watching. You are a living testimony to your boss, colleagues and everyone you come to contact with in business.
Let’s apply these eight godly principles of Dato’ Sri Michael Chong into our work!
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