Ashley Platts directly intervened at TBI Kelapa Gading just as he did at TBI Bogor, arguing that expat managers were too expensive and that I ought to be replaced by an Indonesian. (By late 2011 I was the last expat franchise school manager in the entire company. According to Platts, it was such an outrage that anyone expat but himself and Luke should be in a position of power that all the competition had to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.) The Indonesianization of management at TBI was the brainchild at Ashley Platts, a tall, bald Englishman known for his socially awkward behavior and close association with Mariam Sukalaksana, the incompetent and disgraced former TBI Director.
Early in 2011 he had pulled the same trick at TBI Bogor. He had made a power-point presentation about why RD, the long-serving and very successful expat manager, should be fired. He promised the Chinese-Indonesian manager at TBI Bogor (long rumored by Luke Preece to be Chinese Mafia) that he could make a lot more money if he got rid of RD and replace him with a “low-cost” Indonesian. C**** heard about this in a meeting 2 or 3 weeks after RD had been disposed of, thanks to Ashley. Ashley had boasted in a coordination meeting that he had finally succeeded in getting rid of RD and an Indonesian replacement was now on the way. At that point I was the last expat “franchise manager” and I knew that Ashley would have loved to get rid of me too. I had long thought it was just a matter of time before Mariam and Ashley managed to oust me as well, though at this point Luke Preece was still claiming to our friend and said he would do what he could to stop it.
In October 2011 Ashley Platts approached the owners of TBI Kelapa Gading with a power-presentation about me and why I should be fired and replaced by a “cheaper” Indonesian. (I will write more about the mindset of “budget cheapness” that pervades this company and how it is contributing to their decline in a later post). For whatever reason Luke Preece told C***** about this secret meeting. He basically said, “Ashley Platts is going to the owners to try and get them to fire Sean.” Perhaps he thought he could make us believe that he was our friend by giving us a “heads up”. He is extremely cunning and it is “wheels within wheels” in terms of the games this man is playing. He was trying to appear as our friend so that we wouldn’t blame him when they finally did the old Platts-Preece hatchet job on us as well. (It was a dangerous game he was playing clearly, and it is hardly surprising we worked out that he was in on it as well, but Preece drastically over-estimates his own intelligence in my experience).
A few days after I asked Pauwsan (the owner) to come in for a meeting and he stopped by after work. I told him that Luke Preece had told me that Ashley had arranged a meeting with the owner to try and get rid of me and asked him about it. He admitted that the meeting had happened and said that Ashley’s main point was that 60% of revenue at our school was getting eaten up by teachers’ wages. He said that at Kuningan the figure was more like 37%. I asked to see the figure from Platts and I saw that Platts had, in a typical under-handed move, included both the manager’s salary and the admin staff’s salary.
The figure from Kuningan did NOT and had NEVER included admin and office staff salaries at all. It also did not include the school manager’s salary, which at TBI Kuningan was paid by USG. Once we took these out, we saw that, for the sample month, teachers’ salaries were 40% not 60%.
Pauwsan said to me, “So basically Ashley has been comparing apples and oranges.”
“Exactly,” I said, “His real agenda is to be the ‘last bule standing’. He got rid of RD at Bogor using the same under-handed techniques earlier this year.”
I also pointed out that while teacher salaries were high at KG (we employed 4 full-time expats and several casuals for a total of around Rp 70 million a month), I had more than doubled revenue to around Rp 170 million from Rp 80 million when I started. (It went even higher to around Rp 220-230 million per month in early 2012). When I had started salaries had been around 75% of revenue, so bringing them down to around 40% was actual a hard-won victory. I also pointed out that it was Pauwsan himself who had ordered me only to employ Native Speaker teachers after the Helmy V. debacle of 2009 where closing the school had been on the cards. Surely it was inevitable that teacher costs would be higher in a Native Speaker only school. I also pointed out that it was me who had argued with him in favor of re-introducing Combo classes at KG after more than 12 months of Native Speaker only. I pointed out that it was actually me who had hired Nunu and Mathilda in an attempt to cut costs! He also begrudgingly admitted this point, though I could tell he didn’t like it.
At this point the conversation turned to Platts himself. I pointed out that it was Ashley Platts who had hand-picked Chris Needham- a former garbage-truck driver from the Netherlands, without any academic qualifications at all- to lead every single Group school in Jakarta. The two men were viewed as thick as thieves and were regularly seen together at Aphrodite bar. In a classic bit of Platts hypocrisy, he had not even advertised the positions of School Manager for TBI Kuningan, Sudirman and Fatmawati. The man who now styled himself as “Indonesian managers only” had actually appointed his own expat protege, the truck driver Chris Needham, to lead all 3 of their Jakarta schools, as recently as 2008-2009.
I told Pauwsan that Chris, under Ashley’s tutelage, had so badly failed at Fatmawati that the school had only 100 students one year after it opened. He only spent a couple of hours a week down there and the staff were known to take long naps inside the school. The front desk was often left unattended for 20 minutes at a time. TBI Fatmawati was such a “financial black hole” that it was said that it would take 5 years of profit to recoup the deep losses which Platt’s buddy Needham incurred in 2009 at that school.
Platts actually has an appalling record as a recruiter and mentor. Needham is only the most spectacular of his many failures. He had appointed his own friend to lead 3 schools without an interview and when Needham had crashed and burned, being fired from all 3 manager positions simultaneously, he just washed his hands of Needham and said, “Nothing to do with me. If Chris had followed my advice better this would never have happened.” I guess he will be saying the same about Nunu now. But the truth is, Platts is a true management quack who advocated hiring expats one minute and firing them the next and who has never taken responsibility when his advice proves to be disastrous for TBI. The Nunu fiasco is more his fault than anyone else’s.