James Ling – real-life rags to riches story

MIRI: Coming from a poor family that tapped rubber and tending to pepper vines for a living, Datuk James Ling Suk Kiong never had the chance to pursue tertiary education.

But he was born with nerves of steel and always had the courage to overcome all challenges that came his way and rose to become a respected leader in the regions oil and gas industry.

Ling celebrated his 69th birthday on Sunday with a sense of thankfulness.

He thanked his family for standing behind him, well-meaning friends for supporting him when he was down, and good competitors for bringing out the best in him.

Trust in God and plan your life. Whatever little achievements I have is a gift from God, he said.

At the birthday bash, attended by about 1,000 relatives, business associates, friends, company employees, and church members, the very private Ling shared his remarkable life story with a moving narrative via a short film.

Deputy executive chairman Ling founded Dayang Enterprise Sdn Bhd (DESB) in 1980 despite the lack of financial capital and experience.

He was armed only with a single-minded determination and vision that this was the future, not timber.

With a RM10,000 loan from the bank and four staff on Day One, he waded through many trials and tribulations, including economic downturns, to get Dayang listed on Bursa Malaysia in 2008.

Dayang is poised to achieve record earnings for financial year 2014 (FY14), ending December. There is confidence that earnings in the last quarter would be at an all time high.

Conservatively, the company expects about RM170 million in net profit for FY14, supported by the Pan Malaysia job.

The companys strong earnings momentum is expected to continue due to progress in the Pan Malaysias hook-up commissioning (HUC) projects with Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd and Sarawak Shell Bhd/Sabah Petroleum Company Ltd and also its strong order book of RM4 billion, which can sustain its earnings until 2018.

A devout Christian, Ling attributed his strength and resilience to his faith in God and a few good friends, who encouraged him to shoulder on in his venture when the chips were down.

Fittingly, he paid a glowing tribute to his wife, Datin Doris Wang Siew Hong, who stood by him through thick and thin in their long journey without compromising on family and religious values.

Born in 1946 in Bintangor, Ling completed his Form Five Senior Cambridge Examinations at Catholic High School, Sibu in 1967 before landing his first job in Kong Thai Sawmill in Batu Niah, Miri, the following year.

His good ethics, integrity and diligence saw him rose to chief clerk to manage the timber camp within 18 months.

He was later transferred to Nunukan Island, Indonesia, where he work for two years before returning to Miri in 1972.

With another looming prospect of being transferred to Indonesia, he resigned to settle down and started a family.

His personal belief that hard work, ethics, and integrity always succeed in the long run in both business and at the personal level has been proven right by his impeccable track record in the industry.

Despite the success of Dayang, Ling continued to put his family first, with emphasis on good education for his children.

Blessed with two sons Joe and Jason and a daughter, Joyce, he makes sure that they were imbued with sound religious values and the best education.

His children are all graduates from the University of Western Australia. Joe has a degree in mechanical engineering. Joyce (medicine), and Jason (architecture).

Joe is being groomed to take over from his father. He joined the company in 1988 and is now the deputy managing director. Joyce is a consultant doctor at Sydney General Hospital, while Jason works as an architect.

On his philosophy in life, Ling always tells people to live a simple life, stay honest, and never to cheat.

Joe said his fathers business integrity was reflected in his past difficulties in collecting debts, where nerves of steel carried the company through turbulent times.

He has nerves of steel to overcome odds staked against him. It is a Herculean task in an ulta-competitive oil and gas business, solving the unsolvable, and managing unknowns, he said of his experience as his fathers understudy.

He is a family man true and true, strong and yet gentle. He is always thinking ahead of his time, but family remains his highest priority.

The Dayang founders numerous contributions to schools, churches, mosques, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and other worthy causes spanning the state speaks of his benevolence.

In conjunction with his birthday, he donated RM100,000 each to SM Pei Min and Riam Road Secondary School and RM10,000 each to Kong Ming Secondary School and Catholic High School.