Dr. Hayden Kho Jr. gets real about running a business during a pandemic and keeping the faith
Our definition of safety and security varies over time. Before, this feeling of safety emerges every time we receive a warm, tight hug. Now, it’s quite the opposite–safety can be seen within a six-foot distance. Over the course of a video call, I have come to realize moments where this sense of safety and security can be felt. It’s the response of the person on the other end of a jittery call when you ask, “Are you still there?” It’s seeing your child peacefully asleep in their room and lying in bed with your spouse after a long night’s work. It’s knowing that whenever you close your eyes during times of need, there will be a God that listens. It’s the voice of grace whispering in your ear, telling you that your life is still worth living. Truly, these are the experiences that ease the weight of worries and the troubles of torment, even momentarily. In fact, all of the aforementioned scenes are taken straight out of my conversation with Dr. Hayden Kho Jr.
As the current Managing Director of the Belo Medical Group, a licensed medical practitioner for more than a decade, and serving as a devout Christian for seven years, nothing else could define Hayden’s present-day self more than the sense of security. It’s the assurance of having his wife, Dr. Vicki Belo, by his side while working from home; the comfort of guiding his daughter, Scarlet Snow, through her early years of schooling; and the confidence in directing a team of like-minded leaders to thrust Belo Medical Group into a new age of medical aesthetics. In fact, I felt that same sense of certainty through his cheerful demeanor, the personal turns our conversation led us, and those sparks of bliss from brief intermissions by a curious Scarlet rummaging through her playthings.
But arriving at this point in his life has not been without its hardships–the weeping and gnashing of teeth from the trials and tribulations of personal struggles, media sensationalism, and the watchful public eye. Yet through it all, he has managed to build a stronghold of principles, founded on the four cornerstones of life he continuously preaches, and illuminated by the industry’s bright future he oh-so desires.
And On This Rock
It’s surprising how a man who dedicates his craft to care for people’s external appearances undergoes a lot of internal renewals himself. Hayden’s most notable one just occurred at the onset of the last decade when he caught himself walking through the valley of darkness: “I didn’t know any more what was the purpose of my life. I had existential issues happening when I was 27 or 28, but the thing is, no one knew this because in front of the camera and in front of the people, I appeared stable and happy,” he recounts.
It was crucial for Hayden to determine a foundation from which to build himself back up again. After embarking on a spiritual journey with his late mentor Ravi Zacharias, and through his studies in Christian apologetics, he has managed to ground himself on four principal foundations of life. However, these aren’t commandments struck on stone, rather queries to answer for ourselves in order to gain a sense of reason: “The four most important questions that we have to answer are: where do we come from, what is the meaning of life, what is right and wrong, and where do we go from here,” he poses. Just as how Hayden has lived a life where family and business are inevitably intertwined with each other, these guiding principles direct him in a path towards integrity and virtue in work.
Business innately has an outward approach–you’re always working to be in service to others. This rings especially true in the field of medical aesthetics, as Hayden explains: “Some people say [beauty clinics are] all about vanity… but to us, that’s not true. I think we really have to change our definition of beauty and why it is important. Beauty brings delight to the other, not just for yourself.” For the Belo Medical Company, pinning down this outlook on beauty began by understanding the company’s history, ultimately finding out the answer to the first question: where do we come from?
“It’s funny, there’s a lot of discrimination movements now, but in reality, the number one act of discrimination is against those who are not beautiful. This physical problem gets in the way of one person knowing and seeing the other. That’s the history of Belo. Vicki wanted to clear that out so people will be appreciated for who they are, not how they look,” Hayden explains. “When people hear [the history], nagkakaroon ng paradigm shift… There’s a thin line between self-esteem and vanity. I guess it depends on where your heart is,” he adds.
Indeed, despite the company being rooted in the interest of transfiguration, the manifestation of change begins from within. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. “Change has to happen internally, then has to be reflected externally. It has to begin in the heart, and then translated into the work of the hands–from heart to hands.”
On Meaning And Morality
In the field of aesthetics, or of any business in fact, nothing could be more delicate than the discernment between right and wrong. When answering the questions of what is the meaning of life and what is right and wrong, one should set their feet firmly on the grounds which the company is built on. “The corporate version of [a moral compass] is the company’s core values. At Belo, some of our values include doing no harm to people, always being excellent in what you do, always believing in others, and pursuing continuous improvement. We set a very high standard for ourselves, and then we don’t adjust those standards to make us feel better,” Hayden mentions.
Alongside the continuous research and system improvements Hayden has been tirelessly developing to keep up with the rampant digitization of operations, the man of the hour has also been setting a certain standard in managerial duties without compromising integrity. It happens to a lot of leaders–lowering standards just to attain that ecstatic feeling of accomplishment. But as you tread on the founding grounds of your business, give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. “Stick to your ‘why’ and don’t lose sight of that. Why are you in this business, why are you doing what you’re doing, and why do you believe in what you’re doing? If you lose your why, then you lose your purpose and significance,” Hayden firmly states.
With the shifting perspectives on aesthetics, and conversations on essentials inevitably shaping consumers’ behaviors, what’s next for the business of beauty? Answering where do we go from here, especially in persevering through an unpredictable future, begins with determining what gives your work value. “When you have served your purpose as a company, how will the world change? Whenever we hear stories [of success] from our patients, na nagkaroon ulit sila ng life, nagkaroon sila ng better opportunities, jobs, or relationships, we feel validated and more impassioned to be excellent in what we do,” Hayden asserts.
“When you are done, you’ve only just begun.” Think about it–your vision leads you to new territories and unlocks greater possibilities ahead. And no, this isn’t a company motto, but rather a motto in Scarlet’s kindergarten. Yet whenever Hayden hears this, he can’t help but think how this applies to companies such as his own. “Somehow, we feel that way in Belo. We can continue working on [our projects] to make it even better, even more excellent.” This is why their employees undergo constant training in various fields of business outside of their specialization, whether that’s data analysis, systems digitalization, inventory management, and the like. As Hayden puts it, “You have to continue growing, and growing in the right direction, because the worst success that one can ever have is to be successful in the wrong thing–to put your ladder against the wrong wall and climb it.”
Renew The Face Of The Earth
Although these four cornerstones of existence have been firmly grounded, the winds of change may rage against your walls. It’s inevitable–product developments, organizational structures, and customer tastes shift with every new trend. But not everything that glitters is gold. “Not everything is a positive change. There are changes that are happening that are so dissociated from our histories and we don’t realize it’s not good for us,” Hayden warns. As technologies and media form a highly globalized frame of mind, a cultural dissonance occurs when we merely accept what’s popular. “In my personal life and also in business, I can’t just go with the flow–with the changes in culture,” Hayden rebelliously admits. “Only dead fish don’t swim against the tide. We have to be trendsetters in a counterculture.”
In this upstream endeavor, a focused mindset is vital. To not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind has been at the very core of Hayden and Belo, evident in the origin, meaning, morality, and vision of the business. In fact, it’s interesting how throughout our conversation, we barely touched on new products or promotions. That’s proof of the contentment he has with their operations today compared to the more profitable decade prior–focusing on the safety of customers and employees, while promoting the right values through integrity. Indeed, the Hayden Kho of today isn’t what people recall from before, and if this redemption arc is anything to go by, it can be said that to gain the riches of wisdom is far greater than gaining the wealth of the world.