No job too lowly for high-flier

No job too lowly for high-flier

Not too long ago, Philip Wee picked up a box of golf balls in a sports shop along Orchard Road.

The smartly dressed salesman got up and went to the cash register to ring up the sale. As he was doing that, Mr Wee decided to pick up a second box.

The salesman was congenial enough but in Mr Wee's books, he was no different from a robot.

"I increased sales for him by 100 per cent. If he were professional enough, he could have said, 'These are good prices, sir. Are you sure you wouldn't like another box?' "

He adds with a laugh: "And if he dared, he could have also said, 'You are going to lose them anyway.' After all, balls go all over the place when golfers play."

Service and professionalism, says Mr Wee, drive sales and this is something every business would do well to remember.

He should know. He has spent most of his professional life practising or preaching service. It has also taken him places; he went from a lowly porter at the Selfridges department store in London in the 1970s to country manager for Ikea in Singapore, a position he left five years ago.

Today, the tall, trim 66-year-old with a penchant for trendy glasses runs Claymore Training and Consultancy, which provides retail advice and training services. His clients include Far East Flora, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and his former employer, Ikea.

"I only take on jobs which I enjoy," he says with a laugh.

It's a philosophy which has guided him all his life, and one he believes job seekers, especially the young, should heed.

"Don't just go for money and title," he says. "Enjoying what you do is more important. And work for a company which can give you training. When you are good, the title and the money will come."

His life certainly bears that out.

He is the younger of two children of a manager and a dressmaker. His late father started out working for the colonial government. However, the Raffles Institution alumnus' impeccable command of English so impressed the late tycoon and philanthropist Lien Ying Chow that the latter employed him to write letters, and run Wah Hin, a ship-chandling company.

The family lived in a semi-detached house on Claymore Road. Next to the house was a field separated by a hedge.

"That's where I practised high jumping. As the hedge grew higher, I had to jump higher too," says the 1.82m Mr Wee, a high jump champion at St Joseph's Institution.

Although he and his sister were chauffeured to school, their parents saw to it that they were not so privileged that they "lost the plot".

Mr Wee had to iron his own clothes and, once a week, clean up the mess made by the eight Alsatians his father kept.

From a young age, he also had to learn to care for his parents, both of whom suffered from ill health. His father had chronic diabetes; his mother suffered a couple of strokes in her early 30s which led her to lose her hearing and ability to speak.

Mr Wee acquitted himself better in sports than in studies but managed to pass his Senior Cambridge examinations, the equivalent of today's O levels.

"My father probably hoped that I could have done better but he was not devastated. He suggested that I go into teaching."

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