Family first: Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant’s third generation quit their high-paying jobs to save their family business

family business
Source: Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant

The pandemic certainly taught us the value of time. Left to our own devices for months on end, we treasured our limited social interactions and understood how damaging high-stress and fast-paced lifestyles really were. 

It was the same for those who have a family business or working in a conglomerate. 

Early 2021 was dubbed the Great Resignation — also known as the Big Quit and the Great Reshuffle — as there was a large trend of resignations across the globe. 

Even in 2022, PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey reports that “one in five said they are extremely or very likely to switch employers.” 

Pay was cited to be one of the main reasons people decide to leave their job (71% to be exact).

When asked about the most important factors when considering a change in the work environment, the next top three were related to meaning: job fulfillment, being true to oneself and having a team that cares about your wellbeing. 

For the family business

In the case of 55-year-old Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant in Singapore, heartfelt meaning was certainly the main reason the three sons of owner Chew Tee Heang quit their high-paying jobs to take over the family business

While some leave their family business to get work experience elsewhere (often from rich families who have successful businesses and wealth to fall back on) many return to help a struggling business or, like the Chews, to ensure the family legacy lives on. 

Chew took over the restaurant from his father in the 1980s, and before that recalls working at the shop while still in primary school with his three older brothers.

Lincoln, Dave and Ken — his three sons — were all in the sales department of the same bank, earning an impressive 10,000 Singapore dollars a month

When the brothers heard that their father was going to sell Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant, they quit en masse to take over the family business. 

“This restaurant harbours all the memories of our childhood,” says Dave.

They left the security of a well-paying job — one that requires a great deal of skill — to rescue the family business. 

Could you imagine doing the same thing? 

The Chew brothers are not the first, nor will they be the last, to give up lucrative careers in favour of nostalgia, work-life balance or general happiness. 

For some, leaving the family business is what gave them that peace of mind (If you’re in this boat, Forbes lists out how to know when it’s time to leave your family business). 

The Washington Post did a story on six individuals who left their corporate jobs in favour of following their dreams

Mercury Stardust, maintenance technician turned content creator, was one of them. Today her TikToks are home repair guides made to help LGBTQ people who are fearful of asking for help from maintenance professionals. 

Not only does Stardust have 278,000 followers, but her book “Safe and Sound” is out for preorder

We have all read headlines such as these:

As you can see from the above, not all of these drastic career changes end up favourable. Changing your mind is a human right, but are unhappy endings preventable?

Family business

Carefully deciding what you want to do with your future can prevent future heartache. Source: Getty Images via AFP

Should university students learn from the Chew brothers and focus on the family business?

The simple answer: follow your heart.

Money will come and go, but knowing and striving for what makes you truly happy is important.

When you are embarking on your university journey, let it be for something you are passionate about or, at the very least, in an area you can actually see yourself doing long-term.

That is not to say you should stay in the same job forever with no change ever (if only the economy allowed for all jobs to be that secure) but having a vision can prevent you from choosing something you hate because of the pressure you get from family or society.

Perhaps as a preventive measure ask yourself some serious questions, like what do you want your legacy to be and what makes you truly happy?

Ask yourself what you want your days to look like. Is a nine-to-five going to be gratifying for you or would you thrive better in a flexible arrangement with hours that change?

When planning your future try working backwards. The Guardian has a list of 17 questions to ask yourself before leaving a job, which might be good to read even before picking your chosen degree. It could give you perspective. 

At the end of the day, it’s your life and your only obligation is to live it.