"I want to sue Dr ...!" the employment agent who could never control her demons in her brain shouted over the phone. I had her to get a replacement for Mr Saw who left at the expiry of his lease on amicable terms last week. Mr Min started work for less than a week and here I had this threat to sue my associate vet because Mr Min could not get his regular break for dinner during some busy days.
I had known her for more than 15 years and know that she bears grudges and will tell me off whenever the anger demons dominate her brain. She would rattle off her anger over the handphone though I had told her to call me back later. Her loud voice could be heard distinctly by my friends in a car in Penang and during other inappropriate occasions when she aired her complaints about work-related problems. I could switch off the handphone as she would not let me speak but I consider it better that her demons get out of her brain through her big mouth and cool down.
However a threat to sue any my associate vets is not tolerated by me at all. I said to Mr Min and the associate vet at a meeting I convened: "When Khin Khin wants to sue Dr ..., she is suing me as I own the practice. Dr ...has no share in this practice. I will engage a lawyer to defend any associate vet who is sued. Has she got a lot of money to sue? Don't threaten to sue. Just sue."
I had advised my vet to ensure that Mr Min, the vet assistant get his meal breaks. I said to Mr Min: "Khin Khin does not respect older people. Maybe she thinks I am old and stupid and therefore can shout at me. You have to think for yourself as to what is good for you. If you don't want to work at Toa Payoh Vets, have you got another offer from another vet?
"Old people have gone through the life of war, meeting all sort of nonsenses and people and suffering losses while gaining experiences and wisdom," I said to both parties who are at least 30 years younger than me. "They are a valuable source of knowledge and I always respect people older than me so that they can share their experiences with me. Obviously if you have no respect for the seniors, you can't expect them to share their experiences with you so that you don't suffer losses.
"You will have to think for yourself as regards your need to respect your employment agent. You had paid her the money for her services. Do you want this job or not? Do you have another employer waiting for you now? I have many applicants from the Philippines asking for your job."
Mr Min wanted this job as he was practically unemployed in Myanmar and earned very little. In Myanmar, the vets don't earn more than S$500 a month, I believe.
I told Mr Min and my associate vet a bit of my philosophy and why I employ Myanmar vets as vet technicians.
"I employed my first Vet Technician many years ago. She was a Myanmar Vet working for Dr XXX. Dr... did not want to continue employing her because she was slow in her work. She also could not speak English well, just like you now. So, it was very difficult for her.
"I employed her and she completed her year of employment and wanted to go home to see her sick father. An army officer, I believe. Around 2 years later, she visited me and gave me a present. I was much surprised. You can check her out as she is in Yangon and Khin Khin knows her.
"In your first week here, I have complaints from a pet shop owner that her referred customers cannot understand what you are talking about over the phone. This is a common complaint of Myanmar vet technicians as their standard of conversational English is not good. You just start your job in Singapore. Over time, like your friend, Mr Saw, your English will be good. This is one reason why most vet technicians employed in Singapore are Filipinos as they speak very good English and can start work without the employer worrying about client services being downgraded.
"You may be able to get a job at one of the 45 vet clinics in Singapore, but do you want to work in a clinic where there are no cases during some days? Just sit and go for your scheduled lunch and dinner times waiting for cases? You learn nothing because there are no cases over the year of employment. Or you work in a very big practice in a small area like Haematology. You can't do other aspects of vet medicine as there are other vet technicians assigned.
"So you can't start your own practice confidently because you have no cases in the new clinics. Do you want that?
Mr Min did not want to work in such a situation. All employees have this "what's in it for me" attitude and I accept that they are in a job for themselves. Times have changed.
I can easily employ a Filipino vet and grow my practice very fast due to good service as Filipinos are culturally excellent in English language communications and services.
However, making a small difference to the disadvantaged and the underdog have always been my philosophy as others had made a difference to me by awarding my a scholarship to study vet medicine in Glasgow in 1969.
It is very difficult for most of the younger vets in Singapore to understand my philosophy when their parents pay and pay for their vet studies. Pay and Pay? PAP? Elections in May 2011? Some distraction here.
In any case, I had instructed the associates to ensure that Mr Min get his meal breaks and I am personally checking on this. Time management is important for a vet and also for the employee.
I don't want the demons to re-appear again in Khin Khin's brains and there have been so many incidents from her such that I can write a novel of some interest to human relationship readers.
This incident is just one of the chapters of this novel. I said to Mr Min: "If you want to sue, don't threaten. Just do it. Pay the lawyer and sue the pants off the vet!"
I told Mr Min and the vet: "When I started Toa Payoh Vets, there were around 4 competitors. During the first few years, there were few customers. Just sit down and wait as vets cannot advertise. Now that Toa Payoh Vets is busier, I cannot be taking it easy. There are now at least 45 competitors and I know some of them have not sufficient number of customers to make ends meet."
Mr Min is a gentle person in his early 30s. He does not lose his cool and that is a good trait. I also advised Mr Min to buy some food during busy times when he can't go for the break as scheduled. In the end, he has to decide. Does he want the job or not? He is slow in his work but this will change with my training. He is not indispensible and there are so many stronger and better qualified Filipino vet technicians. Hire the best talent if you want your business to grow in this competitive world, the business management books will teach us. Why care about the disadvantaged with no experience or a good command of the English language. Why care for the underdog in this world? Why bother with employment agents who can't exorcise their demons? Why patronise a small businessman in a niche in veterinary anaesthesia when you can get business from an established corporation? All these encounters make life stressful. However, make a small difference to change the world if you are blessed with health and can do it. That is my philosophy.