Retrospect and Outlook for
2020 was nothing like the year we imagined in advance. The past year was the 5th year of our existence as a company. We planned the year in advance to be the big breakthrough year, we worked towards it carefully and the year was off to a good start. Everyone on our team started 2020 in a good mood, but everything changed in the first quarter. Of course, this applies to everyone, so we are not special about that.
Author: Y.S. Koen, Klaten, January 6, 2021
2020 in Retrospect
Here is a summary of what that year has been like for us, it won’t be a judgment that things have gone worse or better for us than others. For once, let’s not judge others, because no one has to walk in someone else’s shoes. We are responsible for ourselves and our environment. We are not undergoing this alone; no one is immune from the effects of this COVID-19 pandemic. Frustrations can arise in such situations, where at other times melancholy reigns supreme. Our mind plays tricks on us, as if it has a life of its own, where one moment empathy predominates and the next moment selfishness wants to tackle the previous. In any case, we cannot speak of a dull and aimless year. There was really no time when we did not feel that we had to pull out all the stops to keep the ship on course. We regularly changed the roles of helmsman and captain. It didn’t matter if you had just started the entrepreneurial journey or already had a dose of experience. What took place this year was new for everyone, a learning moment for everyone.
Insecurity and determination want to fight for precedence, but what is wisdom? Uncertainty would normally not belong in the lexicon of an entrepreneur, at least not outwardly communicated. Because that can be translated as uncertainty. But if this pandemic was new to everyone, then uncertainty is human, uncertainty also means that you don’t think you are flawless, because in this situation no one will be flawless. Determination is good, but can be dangerous in this situation, because determination can also cause short-sightedness, not being open to alternatives. That is exactly what was needed, to be open to alternatives in this time of the pandemic. We had no luxury to rule out any scenario, good or bad.
Now I cannot speak for everyone, because everyone within our team has experienced it in their own unique way. Although I know very well how our C.E.O, Warni, experienced all of this. We are the captain and helmsman of the ship and alternate those roles where necessary. We are partners in every way, P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama is both our creation. Where the future of the company lies entirely with Warni, she wants me to always be by her side for advice and experience. We all have had our difficult moments in the past year. We had to make decisions about issues that were previously crystal clear, but now seen in a different light. For example, salary; Where I often view salary from a Western perspective, Warni mainly has a local Indonesian perspective. This means that I would be more inclined to allocate more salary, where Warni steps on the brakes and suggests that we are already well in the allocation of salary, when is enough really enough? We are more than 27% above the industry average when it comes to entrance salaries. This average rises to 40% above what is customary in the sector the longer people stay with us. Then there was COVID-19 and more than 93% of the employees had to stay at home. If we then continue to pay the base salary in full, will that be too much, enough or never enough because employees miss out on allowances and bonuses? It must also be taken into account that the revenues of the companies in question had virtually dried up and that there were structural deficits in payments to us from customers, while they were demanding delivery of the products.
If we believed consultants, we shouldn’t be ashamed of firing employees. This has never been a topic of discussion for us. There is no social security here in Indonesia that workers can count on when they lose their job. Moreover, we desperately need everyone again if we can produce at full power again. Our view was that thanks to our employees, we have been able to expand the business to where we are today. Then it is very inappropriate to fire them when things go wrong through no fault of their own. We have had to take legal measures to separate participations from our company, P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama, to ensure that our main company would not be harmed by one or more holdings. This especially with a view to the future, as we are starting fundraising activities involving external parties who cannot accept any risk for past relationships with the company. This does not mean that we are no longer involved in these participations, in fact, in a personal capacity we have entered into deeper financial ties to guarantee the future of these operating companies.
These are decisions that have especially given me sleepless nights. We can take certain routes on our journey as an entrepreneur because we had secured the future financially, there was a retirement facility, so we didn’t have such pressure on our shoulders when we started P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama. However, all the events of 2020 forced us to break open that “safety net” and use that financial resources to cover the losses of the operating companies. This gave us the opportunity to bring a certain peace of mind to both the operating companies and our own company.
Our expectations for 2021
Within P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama we have taken the necessary measures. All internal and external procedures have been revised and adjusted where necessary and the company is well positioned to make 2021 a successful year. The focus for the new year is on 3 fronts. The consultancy department continues its work for existing clients, as soon as there is room, we accept new assignments. These are assignments from clients from the Klaten region or clients belonging to the network of our subsidiaries or business partners such as buyers and suppliers of the operating companies. Our expectation for 2021 is that we do not yet have a complete practice where we can accept and carry out every assignment. But it will no longer be as rigid as it was during the 2nd and 3rd quarter of 2020, when we had to have to close practice for new assignments. For the consultancy department, 2020 was an extremely busy year in which we had to work a lot of overtime and put all our efforts to serve the existing clients.
The general activities of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama will be fully focused on producing and trading new products under our own label through our web shop. The emphasis will be on personalized fashion products and accessories. Of course, our associated companies will continue to carry out production for external clients, we will only carry out our own designs. We may purchase basic products from other makers, but the personalization will be made entirely in-house and at our own expense. This allows us to make a clearer mark on our own line of products. We will also use internal production to collect data for the innovation project.
In addition, we will continue to sell Health Wealth International’s health and care products, although it may be that we will split off the activities for this and transfer this into a subsidiary. We want to continue to sell these products because we fully support the products and strongly believe in them. All products are made from 100% natural ingredients. This applies to both nutritional supplements and vitamins, as well as personal care, skin care and cosmetic items. We want to continue to gain as much experience as possible with this, because it is expected that in the near future, we will expand our own product line with products within these categories, particularly in skin care and make-ups. Because we believe that this matches our fashion products and accessories.
Then of course the third focal point for 2021, something close to my heart, the innovation projects. 2021 must and will be the year that both projects will make great strides. For the first project, the Cobot for clothing production, this means that data collection will receive the greatest attention. In addition, we will focus on specific areas and we will report a lot about them during the year. However, we do not want to share information about the data we collect at this stage, as this is extremely crucial information where we want to take our advantage before someone else gets off with it. We are also looking at the possibilities of entering into a far-reaching cooperation in the development of the cobot on one specific part, namely the gripper. We keep a close eye on another developer and are very impressed with his approach. The developments that this person is doing are not in the same field as us, but we can still benefit greatly from them. In order to be able to make a final decision on this, we need the data from the data collection, and we will pay most attention to this.
For the second project, this year will be the year that a beta version will see the light of day. It will be a major challenge, but it is planned that the platform will be operational at the end of this year. That is why we want to expand the team of developers and in the first quarter we will focus on that by recruiting the right team members. The public will have to wait for the beta version before we share information on how to use the platform. Initially, the platform will be rolled out for one specific sector, development will take place entirely in Indonesia, but operational activities will be deployed simultaneously in Indonesia and the Netherlands. Then for 2022 new markets will be on the program and 2 new sectors will be added. Later this year we will provide more information on which sector will be the first to have the opportunity to use the platform.
In addition, in the first quarter of 2021, we will pay extra attention to fundraising for the innovation projects. The first goal is €250,000.00. This is more than enough to see both projects kick-off. But everyone will understand that more is needed to enable a successful product launch for both projects. All activities within P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama will aim to have the necessary funds available for the development.
A personal note from the author
The events of 2020 were also largely completely new to me. I have never consciously experienced a pandemic, at least not with such far-reaching consequences. Despite my 25th anniversary as an entrepreneur, I had to process quite a bit of new teaching material. I have used the word roller coaster before but after this experience I will not use it that soon. But let’s hope we’ve gotten through the low point. That low point does not refer to the economic situation, but to the experiences surrounding the pandemic.
The fear and despair I experienced in many of our employees was downright emotional. Fortunately, there has never been a time when we had to fear for the survival of the company. So, we had that relative peace of mind. No reorganization or restructuring was necessary, we are a very cost-conscious company and therefore do not have unnecessarily high fixed costs. But like everyone else, we also had to anticipate the events around us. The frantic pace of the start of this pandemic had more to do with the situation at our holdings in other companies. In addition, I have been frequently approached by old relations and former customers. They all had their own cry for help that I couldn’t resist. Because our involvement does not end with the writing of a check or when the task for which we were previously hired was completed.
This regularly caused annoyance to our own team, prompted by the uncertainty that many team members felt in the early days of the pandemic. Why spend so much time with others when we don’t even know where it’s going for ourselves? Despite the fact that everyone within our own team knows very well how the company is doing, there was still some doubt. Where they are normally used to getting an appropriate answer for every situation and that we prepare everyone in detail, there was now nothing to say. When the situation at our participations and for customers had stabilized somewhat, it was time to devote attention to our own organization. At that moment I experienced that I had not properly assessed the situation within our organization, people were numbed by the events.
The positive energy from early 2020 had completely disappeared. Our team was there, they did the job expected of everyone. But otherwise everyone was working for themselves and no longer as a team. You also see these kinds of reactions in sports teams that have been in a negative spiral for a while. Where the team works like a well-oiled machine in times of success, you see everyone playing for themselves when that success is undermined by setbacks. They want to show that they have good qualities, but the word says it all, teamwork, that is not individualistic. This experience of teamwork was thrust down my throat when I had to do my military service. Where previously I was mainly responsible for my own performance, the team dynamics clearly redefines that your performance is not more important than the team performance. Because a team is only as strong as “the weakest link”.
The lesson that I especially learned during 2020 is that as an entrepreneur you must always keep thinking in terms of solutions. Stay creative even if you feel like your employees are letting you down. In this case it was completely my fault, I did not include them in the overall process. I had been the first to abandon the team when my attention was completely absorbed by the problems at our operating companies and external affiliates and with the clients of our consultancy department. I assumed our own company was strong enough to withstand these and subsequent storms, so I withdrew even more from day-to-day management. I was not open to the criticism my team had of my absence. I was forced to become the first team player to go through the mud for his team again, I had to move the groundwork myself before the team was behind me again and could count on me.
This year was a big reality check for me, although it was not supposed to happen, it was complacency that dominated how our own company fared when the pandemic broke out. This started to work against me, and it took me a while to figure it out. There have been times when I just didn’t keep pace with my team and didn’t understand that people were thinking in trouble instead of developing a solution-focused approach. Frustrations predominated in me, because seeing problems but not coming up with solutions was a sign of weakness for me. What I did not want to realize is that I set that example myself by shifting my attention 100% to others and could not muster the energy to also keep the attention internally. I had left my team by not communicating clearly what we were doing and why I was prioritizing certain things.
A battlefield has been created while no war has yet been waged. People will probably think my opinion is wrong when I talk about war because there have been many casualties. Then I really have to disappoint everyone, the pandemic was not a war, if we are all faced with the same “phenomenon”, an invisible enemy, then there is no war, because it is the same for everyone. They are not two camps fighting each other for their own interests. Although there are of course enough people who have already entered the battlefield by trivializing all events. The problem is the same for every organization, government and individual, there was no precedent. No precedent has yet been set either, as we are not yet familiar with the full effect. This is something for later when we review all events and try to learn lessons from them. It is still too early to draw any conclusions from that.
That there is still a “fictional war” to come, that is a fact for me. If we had to believe all the experts of the current events, then every scenario about a possible recovery has already been discussed and treated. But then I really warn everyone. We may be able to get the virus under control, that’s not the battleground I’m talking about either. The battleground will be the economy. A battleground that would have arisen even if we had not been confronted with the pandemic. The pandemic is not the cause of that battleground, it has at most exposed the problems to a wider audience. The major financial blows have yet to be dealt and the battle will be fought on several fronts. The problem will therefore be whether we have enough generals to deal with this. World politics will not be able to produce skilled generals everywhere. There is a tendency that politicians do not want to think beyond the term for which they have been chosen. Because they have to be in a good picture to be eligible for re-election. Unfortunately, this problem is too serious for that. I do not expect much good in this area.
Then there is business, which has to fight in different areas; the most important thing is the viability of the business. But on top of that, there is the employment situation, how do you deal with that when you are dealing with negative economic sentiment? Sorry fellow entrepreneurs, but the initial response of the pandemic shows that we cannot expect much good in this area, because did not a great wave of mass layoffs immediately follow when the true nature of the pandemic became clear? They immediately grabbed the stick closest to the door, away with that staff. But ladies and gentlemen entrepreneurs, it was precisely the staff that you counted on when everything went well, why do we drop them immediately when there is a headwind? For employees I have only one advice, don’t think your job is safe, everyone is replaceable. Stand up for yourself and fight for your income, no one else will do it for you.
It will not be more fun for entrepreneurs in the near future, it will be a time to eat or be eaten. Not much can be expected from the government in terms of financial support, in Europe there is little room for further quantitative easing without this having dramatic consequences. There will therefore be no scope for support measures from governments of individual Member States. Support measures are to be expected in the United States, but they will have a major negative effect on the dollar and undermine the dollar’s position as the main reserve currency.
I have written about this before; it is time for a different monetary policy. Now I am not the only one who has raised this topic before. Only the tendency surprises me when it comes to this topic. The president (Kristalina Georgieva) of the International Monetary Fund has held a press conference in which she unfortunately cited the terminology “Bretton Woods” as a metaphor. This had a big impact, especially in the crypto currency community. Bretton Woods 2 has been talked about for months as if it were the holy grail. Which of course is not the case, one fact is mostly ignored and that is the main reason why the original Bretton Woods conference was organized at the time. Those dramatic events that preceded it, the first and second world wars and the great depression of the late 1920s in between. Despite having the word war flamed off my keyboard myself, I spoke emphatically about a fictional economic war. This is not the same as a physical war where death is just around the corner and can affect anyone.
Then there is the citizen in the form of the general public, they are spectators and unwanted victims at the same time. The vast majority of the world’s population has noticed little or nothing of the economic growth that the world was experiencing before the pandemic, but they will soon be the victims who will be hit first and hardest. Unsurprisingly, hatred is slowly but surely forming for the current capitalist system. There was already an Industry 4.0 in which jobs were not guaranteed, then there was the pandemic that showed that even the form of work offers no security. And as a thank you for all this uncertainty, the great mountain of debt continues to grow, which cannot be resolved except over the back of the common man. Go ahead and find a suitable solution for this.
The advice I want to give entrepreneurs is as follows; dare to look at your own performance before pointing the finger at others as the cause of failure. Look in the mirror more often, we are really not perfect, and the mistake often starts with ourselves. Stand in front of your troops and lead the way instead of giving orders from the ivory tower. More than ever you will have to be a centipede in times of economic downturn. But also step away from the canvas. I like to look at painters, the gift they have to step away from the canvas and see the whole in perspective is admirable. Then you often see when they approach the canvas again that with a few brushstrokes the whole becomes better again. Train yourself to look at your own company and the processes within the company objectively from a distance. If for some reason you can’t do this, dare to ask others. But then be open to criticism.
Dare to ask for your own troops, you will often see that if you communicate openly, you can learn a lot from your own employees and your customers. Be creative in finding solutions, because doing nothing will keep everything the same and the situation will not change. Don’t be complacent either, there is always room for improvement, be open to it, because then you will be the fastest to spot problem situations and then a few brushstrokes will probably be enough to turn it around in your favor. There is a solution for every situation, so don’t be negative, see it like a challenge.
This newsletter has become more extensive than I initially envisioned, but I hope someone will benefit from it. Thanks for your attention. Good luck, wisdom and good health to all.
We wish everyone a happy 2021 on behalf of:
Warni Suwarni C.E.O.,
YS Koen, author of this newsletter,
and the rest of the entire team of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama.