Moms and Dads

Dr. Z Teo: On The Evolving Definitions of Parenting, Business, and Success

A successful career, a loving family, and juggling three kids—what is Dr. Z Teo’s secret to managing all this?

Being a working parent usually means handling a nine-hour desk job while also holding the fort. But for a doctor, businessman, and dad like Dr. Z Teo, his work hours are not constrained to the norm. From starting several business ventures in the middle of the pandemic to playing dad to different communities, Dr. Z finds fulfillment despite the stress through his faith, his principles, and lessons he picked up from his own father.

Fatherhood: An Evolving Approach

Dr. Z Teo is no stranger to the concept of evolution. With three kids and one entering adolescence, he knows that there is no manual or framework to successfully parenting a teen. “KenZ, being 15, he’s at this age where he goes to parties and does things with friends more. It’s stressful—to be at that crossroads since there’s no manual on what to do with your son when his approaches to school, his friends, and other things evolve. It’s kind of like a test for me. How I’ve brought him up for 15 years and now, how is he going to form and fare through the test of life.”

dr z teo
Dr. Z Teo with wife Dr. Aivee Teo and children KenZ, Kenzo, and Keli
(Photos courtesy of Lifestyle Asia)

It’s here where there is a shift from authoritarian to authoritative. “Before, we would be the ones telling them what is right, what is wrong. Now, it’s more ‘let’s talk about it’. What are the boundaries we can have? Is this right? Is this something you should do? It’s a more consultive thing. But he’s also at that age where he’s a bit more recluse. You kind of have to dig it out of them. You have to put a little more effort in trying to squeeze that information out of them. I was warned about this before but I wasn’t really prepared for it. There’s no given age when.”

As for Kenzo and Keli—aged 10 and 9, he’s still enjoying it. “We’re at the first phase which is we show them what is right and what is wrong.”

Just like fatherhood, the way of running a business also evolves

Unfortunately, the lines between right and wrong can blur especially when starting a business. Right idea, wrong time; or right time, wrong idea. Yet, Dr. Z Teo struck the balance—not just in being a dad to his three kids but also to some of the businesses he founded. From A Star Labs playing a huge role in getting rid of the COVID-19 testing backlogs, Luxuripets catering to every fur parents’ needs, and even finding homes for Giant Poodles through Z Giant Poodles Kennel. His secret lies in what he believes makes a good leader, which he also learned from his father.

“I think it’s knowing that you have 24 hours a day, 8 of which you spend sleeping,” he explains. “So, that leaves you with 16 hours which you can slice up and prioritize what you want to do. It’s really all about time management and priority management. For busy dads, working dads who don’t have the luxury of staying home keeping an eye on their kids, they’ll really need to cut away some stuff for what’s important.”

Besides prioritizing, he fondly recalls inheriting something from his own father: the love for building things that served as an inspiration and driving force for all his businesses.

“I’m just the type to like building things from scratch and watch things grow. It’s not even about the finance bit of it. There’s always this part of me that just wants to grow something. To see it become big, it makes me happy. But the passion came from when I was young, watching my dad. My dad was a doctor and a businessman and he would get big contracts and hire more people, extending his chain of clinics around Singapore. When I saw him open many branches, I guess subconsciously that’s where my inspiration came from.”

Besides his passion coming from his father, Dr. Z adapted his father’s way of creating a warm culture in the businesses he runs. “My father treated his employees as if they were part of the family. I remembered that even when I was young, there were a lot of outings. There were dinners and all sorts of outings. He kept it close-knit and warm. We try to do the same by keeping it personalized.”

When asked about his philosophy, Dr. Z said that’s the one thing he probably did differently. “Everything has good points and bad points. My philosophy is that take the good but if there’s bad, modify it.”

Being A Dad To Different Communities

Being a dad to his companies, his own family, and a big pack of Giant Poodles means that Dr. Z Teo just has a lot of stories to tell about how he had to change his methods on parenting and management on the fly. “People management—as the company gets bigger and bigger—is impossible to do per person. The key is really to identify leaders and have that close working relationship and infuse what you want to them. Then, they will be the ones to infuse it into their team. That way, you’ll be able to keep the culture and the virtues of the company.”

For dogs, however, it’s slightly different.

Dr. Z laughs and admits that there were just so many of them. “I actually kind of lost count. As a fur parent, I grew up with ten dogs in Singapore. Right now, I have four times that. So, I guess I’m still learning how to manage them. Currently, we’re doing it by shifts. But I think this is the part where I have to listen to my wife and kind of stop,” he says sheepishly. “My advice: if you want to be a good fur parent, don’t have too many. You can’t focus if they’re too many. But spend the morning with them. The morning is the happiest, it gives you a lot of good vibes because they’re [the dogs] always happy to see you in the morning. It gives you good vibes before starting the day.”

Dr. Aivee and Z Teo
(Photo courtesy of Lifestyle Asia)

The Ingredients To A Dad’s Chicken Soup

Good vibes are just one of the ingredients for this dad’s chicken soup. The next one is the virtue of faith. “The worst thing you can do is force them to memorize the Bible or force them to read it,” Dr. Z explains. “For me, faith is how you live your life. The kids will look at you and model themselves after you. So if you want them to learn, you have to live your life as a Christian. If you live a double life and then try to force them to do right just because you think they’re doing it wrong, no one’s going to listen to you.”

But faith is what brought Dr. Z Teo through the hard times like the pandemic. “The pandemic was a really big trough for everyone. But I think it all depends on what one’s core belief is. You can get swallowed up by the stress and uncertainty, showing how weak we actually are. If your hope and ability are totally on your own self, you’re stranded. The pandemic made me realize that we’re not very much in control. But what really pulls people through is one’s faith and hope in God.”

It’s this kind of hope and trust that makes people believe he has it all. But Dr. Z Teo has his own version of ‘having it all’. “People think, when they hear the words ‘having it all’, that this person has a house, a car. Like in Singapore, it’s the 5 C’s: Condo, Car, Cash, Credit, Country Club. I’m not sure what it is in the Philippines but it’s usually very material. But my definition is more than just financial. It also means spiritual and emotional. We know that our lives are just temporary, a finite number of years on earth. Having it all means having the now and after. All the while being emotionally happy, stable, and with a good family.”

Photography KIERAN PUNAY
Art Direction MARC YELLOW

Special thanks to ANN TIRONA

More nuggets of wisdom from dads? Here’s more!

Troy and KC Montero on Dad Life, Brotherhood, and Raising Their Children in the Philippines
Win that Split: Paeng Nepomuceno on Being a Dad and Celebrity Athlete
Chef Gene Gonzales: How Cooking Brings Family Together

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