Before returning to the lax supervision and tax-shy business dealings of Dr. Pauwsan Sutanto, we offer a short post on the incredible ignorance of the TBI Director.
How long were you the manager of TBI Kelapa Gading?
For two years and five months.
How many times did Mariam Kartikatresni contact you personally during that period to check how the school was going?
If you mean emailing or phoning me, I don’t believe she ever did. I wrote monthly reports every month on the school. I sent 29 of these off to Franchise office and Mariam never once made any comment about them. Retty phoned me a couple of times, but Mariam herself never did. After Helmy, Retty’s alleged relative, was fired for theft at Kelapa Gading, I was appointed manager and summonsed to Head Office for a couple of meetings. Student numbers quickly recovered by 20% within 6 weeks of my being in the position and Mariam told me she didn’t need to meet me again. That was around November 2009. Between that point and February 2012 she never once called me just to check how things were going or to make a comment on the monthly reports. Over a period of 26 months there was no contact by phone or email. I was included in some group emails to all managers, but she took no personal interest whatsoever.
Did she ever come out to the school and meet you in person?
That happened once in the 2 and a half years I was appointed manager. She came with Retty on something called a ‘marketing audit’.
What was your opinion of Retty?
Retty was much better than Luke at selling franchise schools. She sold twelve in the space of a few years and since Luke took over in January 2011 he hasn’t really sold one. Yes, one has opened at TBI Depok but that has the same owner as TBI Cibubur and the idea of opening TBI Depok pre-dates him. But as a a manager and supervisor, she was clueless. I’m not surprised Binsar got away with horrible abuses at Bekasi but all Retty and Mariam cared about was getting the money from selling the franchise. Once they had got the money, they couldn’t care less about the schools.
Was the marketing audit by Retty and Mariam- the only time Mariam ever visited your school- useful?
It really wasn’t. They told us that the signage on the school was old-fashioned and needed to be replaced. We did what she advised and it cost around Rp 10.000.000. Retty was infamous for telling schools that they were using the wrong shade of maroon on marketing materials and then leaving and not coming back for a year. Spotting the wrong hue of maroon was all she ever did on a visit. But there was one really instructive thing which came out of that meeting.
What was that?
Mariam rambled on in the most general of terms about the importance of marketing for a couple of hours. I thought, ‘Well why don’t you do some from Head Office for a change?’ And I also thought, ‘You try getting money out of Pauwsan,’ but I accepted the general point. However, what really interested me was one slip she made. She asked the question, “Are you thinking about going into the In-House market?”
Why was that instructive?
It was instructive because I had been in the job for over twelve months at that point, and I had focused on getting In-house clients from the very first month. By the time she appeared we had been running an In-House program for 12 months, and it had been very successful. We had done almost Rp200.000.000 of business with a famous motorbike manufacturer for instance. We had an ongoing IELTS project within a large university. I had included the details of these contracts in every single monthly report and they were also in the financial statements. I realized at that moment that Mariam didn’t even bother to read the reports sent to her by her franchise schools. If she had even read the one-paragraph summary at the start of the report she would have known. I had heard from Luke Preece that she was chronically lazy and didn’t even bother to read the reports of her managers. I now had proof.
So some things that Luke Preece told you were correct?
I believe most of what he says about how dysfunctional Head Office is. He is very dishonest about his own actions and his own broken promise, but he is perceptive of other people’s weaknesses and failings and often says interesting things about them. I’m sure he knows what a bad manager Mariam and uses it to his advantage.
What would you say were Mariam’s greatest failings as a Director?
She doesn’t read the reports from her managers or keep in touch with them. This means that she has no idea what is going on inside her own company. How can this be anything but a recipe for disaster? Her advice and opinions are uninformed and ignorant, because she doesn’t keep herself informed of what is going on inside her own franchise schools. Even the managers at group schools in the centre of Jakarta rarely hear from her. This means that her business decisions are uninformed and poorly researched. From everything I have heard, all her information and advice comes through Ashley or Luke, and these men have proven themselves to untrustworthy and under-handed. What happened at TBI Bekasi Sun City could never have happened if Mariam was a responsible and dutiful Director. Personally, I think she is a disgrace and nothing but an example of greed and corruption.