In this interview we begin our investigation of why TBI will not act against Binsar, their worst ever School Manager.
In short, why do you believe TBI protects Binsar?
Since starting this blog, I have learned that Binsar is a part owner of the business. If that is the case, there is no way anything will happen to Binsar. TBI has a very weak franchise agreement with its franchisees. It is powerless to do anything if the owner does not cooperate.
How do you know about the Franchise System?
I have worked as a retail manager in the past, so I am interested in how franchise systems work. I spoke many times with Luke Preece about the TBI franchise system when he was my supervisor. I never actually saw the Franchise Agreement, but I talked a lot about it with Luke, especially after he became the Franchise Manager at the end of 2011. In particular we talked about the problems with the TBI franchise system.
And why, according to the Head of Franchise, is the TBI franchise system so poor?
He said it was a very weak agreement. There were no penalties at all if individual schools didn’t maintain standards. If they use the wrong books, run courses which aren’t prescribed or don’t hand in data or monthly reports, there is nothing TBI can do. In a normal franchise system, it is the franchisor who insists on certain standards and hands out penalties if the franchisee provides bad service to TBI customers. If a franchise owner gives terrible service in TBI, nothing ever happens.
Luke told me that he had been ordered out of the building by the SchoolManager of TBI Semarang. Have you ever heard of a franchise system that allows franchisees to order the franchisor off the premises before?
I heard that story too. And Semarang is by no means the only school which has been uncooperative in the past. In 2011 they held an Information Day at an expensive function centre for Franchise Owners, and only three owners out of ten turned up. The relationship between the franchise owners and TBI Head Office is particularly hostile. They wasted Rp50.000.000 on that event. No one should imagine that the TBI franchise system is at all functional.
So you are saying that TBI can do nothing if an individual franchise owner performs badly?
They could withdraw the right to use the TBI name but that has never happened or even been discussed. If they did this, they would lose the 4% royalty payment, and this is their only revenue stream from the franchise schools.
But if most of these franchise schools are under-reporting student numbers, the revenue stream must be fairly small anyway. Have you ever met Binsar personally?
He was present at three or four TBI events that I attended. He was also present at one TBI workshop we held.
Did you ever speak to Binsar one on one?
Once. He asked me to lend him some materials. Nothing more than that.
Had you ever heard that he was cheating and threatening teachers when you worked for TBI?
No I hadn’t.
Did you ever discuss Binsar and TBI Sun City (Bekasi) with Luke Preece? If so what did he say?
Yes I did. He said it was a terrible school. He said that Binsar had a whole family of people living in the ceiling.
Apparently that part is true! Did he ever mention school numbers to you?
Yes he did. He said that the school never had more than 200 students and was always a poor performer.
When I asked Binsar about student numbers at a TBI event he said that it only had 150 students because Bekasi was a very poor area. What do you make of that?
That’s roughly what I had heard. Two hundred students was the maximum, so 150 sounds about right. But I disagree with what Binsar said about Bekasi being a poor area. Sure the average income is lower than Jakarta, but is it really lower than Bogor or Bandung or Medan? You just have to adjust the percentage of Native Speaker classes to make it affordable for the local market anyway. Or you use Indonesian teachers. What he is saying really doesn’t make any sense to me. Also Bekasi has a lot of young families, so there should be loads of Children’s classes in that area. I don’t agree that Bekasi is a bad area for a language school at all.
I recall Luke Preece talking about Ibu Ning as a major reason why the franchise owners ‘get away with murder’. What did he have to say about her role?
He said that Ibu Ning regarded these franchise owners as her ‘business partners’.
That seems reasonable. Surely they are her business partners?
Let’s not forget that USG is supposed to be a yayasan. It is a charitable foundation supposedly run on a non-profit basis. It isn’t supposed to be a business at all. However, everyone knows it really is a business out to make profits. But even apart from that, there is something very strange about Ning’s attitude. Why does she prioritize protecting her business partners even when they are cheating and threatening teachers? She wants to protect franchise owners even when they are damaging TBI’s reputation, performing very poorly and cheating their teachers and staff. This is not good for a normal business. She has a loyalty to these owners which trumps everything else. That does not seem reasonable or even sensible.
I have heard that TBI Cengkareng stayed open with only a dozen students on the books. It seems that Ning would accept anything from these owners.