In this interview we discuss TBI’s policy of removing expat managers little by little and ask where Luke and Ashley fit in with this policy.
Does TBI have a formal policy of phasing out bule (expat) managers?
I have never seen it written down, and it certainly isn’t something that is said to teachers- it might create a lot of resentment- but that has been the direction the company has been moving in for years.
Can you offer some examples to our readers of how this policy has been implemented over time?
It’s very obvious. When I joined the company in 2007, the School Managers of Bogor, Kelapa Gading, Fatmawati, Kuningan, Dago and Jalan Jawa were expats, but all of those schools now have Indonesian managers.
What is the current management set-up at Menara Kuningan?
The School Manager is Eny, the Academic Team Leader is Okeu and the Senior Teacher is Veronika. There was a second Senior Teacher, Minerva, but she has been fired without a reference by Luke Preece and, for some reason, she is trying to blame it all on Eny. (I feel sure it is because Luke is trying to pass the blame to anyone except himself.) Anyway, it is very much an Indonesian management structure now.
Would you say that the company now has a ‘no expat’ management policy?
Overall that’s true but exceptions have been made for Luke and Luke’s crony, Scott. Scott is no longer employed by USG itself but is working in a management position at TBI Pasar Kaliki. Also Ashley Platts is some sort of self-styled business consultant who really does management work- when he does anything.
How have Luke and Ashley managed to escape the cull of other expat managers?
I believe that they have schemed together to be the last bules standing. The whole idea of getting rid of expat managers comes from Ashley and he has been pushing this agenda for years. He has managed to convince Mariam and Ning it makes sense to have bules in the classroom shaking their money-makers. Management roles are best taken up by Indonesians because they are cheaper to employ. Some Indonesian students want Native Speakers, so it’s best to put them in the classroom where bule faces make money.
Where do Ashley and Luke fit in with this scheme? I mean, they aren’t Indonesian.
Like everything else in TBI, the policy is inconsistently enforced. Luke and Ashley have made an exception for themselves. Ashley claims to be a business consultant not a manager, so that’s his way of making an exception for himself.
Does he do any management work?
I don’t think he does very much of anything. But he occasionally does audits and other work which is clearly a manager’s role.
Is his salary less than a School Manager?
I have never heard the exact amount but I have heard it said that it’s so high that it’s regarded as a scandal over at USG. It’s the most blatant hypocrisy imaginable. He has got rid of other expat managers with the justification of saving money and then he lines his own pockets with over-the-top consultancy fees.
On what basis does he call himself an expert?
He was actually a failure as a school manager. Student numbers collapsed after he moved the school from Setiabudi to Kuningan. He only had a very poor take-up rate of 50% in 2007. He was so unpopular that several teachers left after he appointed Chris Needham as Academic Team Leader. He is just a complete phoney. After we started this blog we investigated his ‘business system’ and found out that the GROW Model, the KPIs and the leadership training were all stolen.
Do you believe he is a charlatan?
Was Wati a budget option as a school manager?
No she wasn’t. She got a salary of 20 million rupiah a month, which is more than most ex-pat managers ever got. At Idul Fitri she would get an extra month’s bonus salary, so she received 40 million rupiah in a single month.
How do you know this?
Luke told me. He told me lots of stuff and pretended that he was outraged by it. He pretended that he was opposed to corruption and nepotism in the company when in fact he was up to his neck in it.
How did Wati fit in with the ‘Indonesian managers are cheap’ rationale?
She was Ning’s crony, so no questions were asked. That’s how TBI works.
When did you first hear of the ‘Indonesianization’ policy?
When I was working with Chris Needham. He was Ashley Platts’s protégé and so he knew a lot about what Ashley thought. He told me that only Ashley, Luke and Chris had the knowhow to be Senior Managers and so I shouldn’t plan on ever being School Manager.
What was the basis of Chris’s ‘knowhow’?
He had been a driver of a garbage truck in the UK. He didn’t have a degree. He failed his DELTA the first time he sat for it. He thought very highly of himself considering his actual achievements.
So Chris told you that it was Ashley’s brainchild to get rid of all ex-pat managers besides himself, Luke and Chris?
He did. And after Chris was demoted, I heard Luke say pretty much the same thing. He said that Ashley was determined to get rid of other expat managers besides himself and Luke.
What was special about Luke?
He boasted that he had an excellent record as a School Manager in Bandung and was destined to be the Director of TBI. He said it was only Mariam’s connections on the board that had kept him out of the position until then. Ashley was going to stay on as ‘the brains’ of the operation. Luke said he would protect me for as long as he could but with the franchise schools it was up to the individual owners.
So he portrayed Ashley as a danger?
Ashley is a danger. He proudly announced one day in a meeting that he had succeeded in getting R** fired as School Manager of Bogor. Right at the end he told me that Ashley had been trying to get you fired too. David Bradbury always claimed he was a victim of Ashley’s internalized homophobia.
Do you think it’s possible they were trying to create a climate of fear and uncertainty?
It’s very possible.
Do you think that Ashley and Luke have some sort of arrangement between themselves?
Yes I do. But they’re a pair of vipers. I don’t doubt that either one would turn on the other given an opportunity.