Healthcare buff and polo aficionado Dato’ Chevy Beh talks about the family business that has shaped his life
by Sandra Foo
The youth of our team never cease to amaze us. In a world where we have so often associated great success with old, established names in their respective industries, it comes as a refreshing surprise to see how far the younger, but by no means less talented, names have come in their fields. One such example is Dato’ Chevy Beh, who, though not yet 30, has already made great inroads into the field of medicine and healthcare under the proud banner of his family’s business, the BP Healthcare Group.
Few people whose first correspondence with Chevy via phone would be surprised, upon meeting him, to realize how young he is for someone who has achieved so much. Formerly a financial analyst, Chevy is now the Group Managing Director of the BP Healthcare Group, the pioneer in integrated healthcare services which was founded by his father, Dato’ Beh Chun Chuan. And with the voice and mannerisms of someone far beyond his years, Chevy is the archetypical personification of a man who has been groomed to succeed, and whose single-minded vision of taking healthcare in Malaysia to new heights drives him to work as hard as he does.
“I was an investment banker before, and I went to New York with the intention of learning as much as I could and making the right contacts, which I did. Asia is still one of the most rapidly-growing regions in the world, so I decided to come back and get into the healthcare industry. It’s been good so far; I mean, we are in the business of helping people, so I wanted to play my part in helping too,” he says.
He concedes that it hasn’t always been easy, given the fact that the healthcare industry is one that sees new developments and innovations at an alarming speed. But Chevy rose to the challenge to overcome that learning curve: “I read a lot. Of course, I come from a non-medical background, but I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are wiser and more experienced and who can advise me in what to do. They have been able to point me in the right direction when it comes to taking the right course of action in adopting whatever new technologies that we should.
“The developments in this field have never really been a problem. The biggest hurdle has always been the regulations, because this is a sector that is extremely regulated,” he reveals. “For example, in the consumer-driven industries such as retail and food, if it’s something that doesn’t work out, you have the option of shutting it down. But in medicine, getting the necessary licensing can take anywhere between six months to two years; dismantling equipment or even shutting down requires giving the relevant authorities notice, and they will come and inspect your premises before you can shut down.”
In spite of such challenges, Chevy’s resolve is and always has been to help people. “We help people transform their lives, in a good way,” he says firmly. “Healthcare has always been seen as taking care of the sick, but that’s not the nature of our business. If you walk into any of our centers, you will see that our patients are not sick, but they are just health-conscious individuals. So we do a lot of preventive care; before they become sick – or worse, terminally ill – we are there for them, to tell them if they might have or are at risk of any illnesses or diseases so that they can receive early treatment or take steps to lower that risk.”
This pivotal role in the health and wellbeing of BP’s patients is clearly one that Chevy takes great pride in. “What sets us apart from other players in this industry is our network of centers nationwide, from the first- to fourth-tier cities which many people would not even think to go to,” he says. “Another distinguishing factor is also our pricing. Whatever we do, such as comprehensive health screenings, is easily 30 to 40 percent cheaper than it would be in a hospital. In that way, we have made healthcare more affordable. However, it is human nature to question the quality of services if the prices are so low, so we have also ensured the highest quality in healthcare by becoming the first and only Joint Commission International (JCI)-accredited laboratory in all of Asia.
“All of this has transformed our positioning in the market. The BP Healthcare Group got its name from my parents’ initials, Beh and Poh. People always knew us as ‘BP Lab’, but we have progressed and developed ourselves so much that I now joke about how ‘BP Lab’ now stands for ‘Beyond Pathological Lab’! We have become the one-stop center for all healthcare needs, whether people want dental care, a pharmacy, hearing aids, blood testing or diagnostic imaging. The goal is to create an environment where people who come to us for anything medical-related will be able to get what they want.”
Of course, working for the family business also means Chevy clocks in more time with the family than he would in any other job. “Working with the family can be both good and bad,” he admits. “It can get frustrating because they are your family, so you have to be very diplomatic, but you can also trust them more. You know one another inside and out, all your strengths and weaknesses, and you can support one another.”
Naturally, Chevy credits his parents for his success. “Everyone has their own measure of defining a successful person,” he muses. “For some it might be the Pope, for others it might be Martin Luther King Jr., individuals who were known for doing well in one thing in their lives. But for me, success encompasses everything – business and family – and my parents have achieved that. My father is always there for my siblings and me, and in the business, he has been a great help too. It’s all about striking a balance.”
How does Chevy strike a balance in his own life then? “At this stage of my life, I spend most of my time working,” he says. “I’m young, and I have a lot of senior colleagues who can guide me, so I might as well work as much as I can to learn everything I can. That way, if I make a mistake now, it would probably be cheaper than if I make it when I’m in my 50’s!”
Nevertheless, Chevy does make time for his personal interests, namely polo. Hailing from one of Malaysia’s premiere polo families – his father established the BP Polo Team to compete globally with some of the world’s biggest names in polo (cue one Prince William and one Prince Harry) – Chevy regards polo as the one thing outside of work that binds his family together in every aspect of their lives.
“My entire family plays polo,” he says proudly. “We don’t play professionally, but we travel a lot to play, to countries like Mongolia and England. We also play in a lot of competitions for charity, such as the Tusk Trust and Sentebale. So polo is more than just a sport for us; it’s a lifestyle. My family is my team is my family.”
So great is Chevy’s affinity for polo that he even applies the principles of the sport to his work.
“Polo is a very competitive sport, and like any equestrian sport, it requires teamwork, with and among the players and their horses,” he allegorizes. “I always say it’s like running a business; if you have finite resources, you have to pick which ones would work for you and then work with them. Working a team is like getting all your players or your colleagues to form a single cohesive unit that moves smoothly. Having the financial resources is like having the horses, and participating in a polo competition is like executing the business: you play to win, and not just in the initial stages only to lose badly in the end because you’ve run out of resources.”
Given his age at this point of his career, Chevy is aware that he still has much to do in order to make his mark as a prominent figure in the business. “You really have to show people – both your employees and your patients – that you care for them. You are dealing with people’s lives and you want to give them the best, and you don’t want to appear fake doing it. You have to show that you mean what you say and care for them, and not just say it from a business perspective.
“Persistence is also very important. I am very young to be doing what I do, and there will always be older and more experienced people who will ask me, ‘Look here, what do you know about business?’ So I have to be very persistent in relaying my ideas and working hard to prove myself by thinking outside the box and push the boundaries that the traditional players in the market have yet to push. I mean, the healthcare industry is what it is, you can’t play around with it, but looking at how BP Healthcare has changed over the years, I would say we have gone through quite a sexy transformation!”