How to be happy and grow a business with low staff retention – Maverick Indonesia

This is what I wrote for my office blog at Maverick

Photos of Zul and Jojo’s “graduation” – From Zul’s Facebook post

How to be happy and grow a business with low staff retention – Maverick Indonesia

There was a time when we fretted about staff retention.

Like many others we adhered to the conventional wisdom that if you did everything right as an employer, then you’d have people working for you for a long time. Having people quit on you before they’ve served five years or more was an indication of bad management.

Not any more. These days we work on the basis that about 70 percent of the young professionals that we employ,  most of them being fresh graduates and coming into their first jobs,  will leave Maverick anywhere within 2 to five years – and this high turnover is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact we see this as something positive that will help us grow even more. let me explain.

You’ve heard about the Millennials and how they have different values from the older generation. They expect quick successes, they are taken up by causes and wanting to do good for society, they have options and they know it, money isn’t always important to them so long as they can pursue the lifestyles and goals they set themselves…

Much of this is true so, as employers what can we do about it? After much experimentation and making many mistakes, I think we’ve hit on a winning formula by embracing the limited “shelf life” of our recruits – most of whom come straight from universities because it is so difficult to get good, experienced professionals in the communications industry.


Farewell Balitung, Hello Kyai Maja

It seems like a twinkle of an eye. But 11 years have passed when my business partner Lita and I chanced to pass by Jalan Balitung II in Senopati and saw a “For Rent” sign.

We made an appointment and came back to inspect the building. We liked it immediately and signed the rental contract. We now had a base to operate from for the enterprise we started: Maverick.

The not so orange "orange House" in Jalan Balitung
The not so orange “orange House” in Jalan Balitung

Now, 11 years later, we have to move. Maverick has grown from 6 to over 70 people and the old house cannot accommodate us anymore. We’ve extended to the back, the front and upwards and we have no more room to expand. So two years ago we bought a piece of land near Pakubwono Apartments and started to build a new office. As I write this, the new office is getting its finishing touches for us to move in on Monday.

I am still at my desk in Jalan Belitung. Around me the fourth and fifth generation of Mavericks are either still working on their accounts or packing up. The office seems voluminous with space and memories.

The Balitung house, that some Mavericks have dubbed The Orange House (probably because of our corporate color because the house is anything but orange) will always occupy a special place in my heart.

When we started the business and moved into the house, we were still very uncertain whether we could make it. We had to be careful of our money. And I had moved from Singapore back to Jakarta alone. So I stayed in the adjoining upstairs room. I was to stay there for six months, until we broke even (because we had landed a huge Litigation Support case), then I moved out to a house nearby.

We were not sure if Maverick would succeed, so to save money I stayed in this room for six months until we had a healthy cash flow
We were not sure if Maverick would succeed, so to save money I stayed in this room for six months until we had a healthy cash flow

As the Maverick story unfolded, we progressed from borrowed folding tables and chairs and Yahoo email accounts to something resembling a more established business. Lita and I had four staff but we managed to grow the business and very soon the Balitung office was full of activity and employees.

From the outset we wanted to live up to our name so we recruited staff who had that maverick streak about them – independent thinkers, people who loved learning and wanting to do things that other said could not be done. It has been a a joy to work with them and watch their talents bloom. There is something very satisfying about getting in a young talent and working with them, at times cajoling, at times coaching, encouraging and pushing them to their limits so that they reach their full potential.

I am very proud of the people who work in Maverick today. They are a great crowd of enterprising and spirited young men and women who will collectively take over from Lita and I one day and push Maverick to greater heights.

Dozens of talented young and women have worked in Maverick in the 11 years we have been in Maverick. What human stories have unfolded? The house knows
Dozens of talented young and women have worked in Maverick in the 11 years we have been in Maverick. What human stories have unfolded? The house knows

I am also proud of the many Mavericks who, for one reason or another, have left us physically but not in spirit. They have moved on to lives overseas or promising careers with top multinational companies. My only hope is that they still feel, after all these years, that the time spent at Maverick was one of the best in their lives.

The walls of the Balitung House have also been witness to the many unfolding human stories of the staff here. At least eight of them paired up while working here. I wonder how many other ships passed in the night in this office. We have seen Mavericks getting married, having babies, suffered losses and go through good times and bad.

And now it is time to say goodbye to the Balitung House as we being another chapter in the Maverick story in Kyai Maja.

Some last minute work before we all move to Kyai Maja
Some last minute work before we all move to Kyai Maja

Farewell house. Thank you for sheltering us through tough times and nestling us in good times. Thank you for the memories and just being there or us. You served us well.

We now leave your gracious walls for our new office at Kyai Maja

Almost complete for the moving in on Monday
Almost complete for the moving in on Monday

Diving Deep at Maverick

One of the values at my workplace, Maverick, is that “balance is vital to everything we do.”

To love up to those values we ass a company provide what we call a Personal Development Fund. The idea is this: after working with us for a year, provided you make the grade by being confirmed, you get up to a month’s salary to do something that you haven’t done before, or travel to somewhere you haven’t been to.


The idea behind this is that we want to groom the best consultants in the communications business. The best consultants, in our view, are those people who not only are good at work but those who lead full, interesting lives. They are the ones with passion about a pastime or a hobby, or have an innate craving to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. The lead fully textured multidimensional lives and experiences, which they enrich the office and their work with.

I had the opportunity to watch two of my colleagues use their Personal Development Fund over the weekend and witness literally an expansion of their worlds from the merely terrestrial to a whole new world under water.

Jonathan and Sharon used their Personal Development Funds to pay for the crew pack, lessons and diving instruction to obtain their Open Water Diving Certification. It was their first real dive at Sepa Island just off Jakarta. Where diving sites go the Thousand Islands are only so-so when compared to other places, especially in East Indonesia but that was beside the point.

For the first time they discovered a world underwater, that silent, weightless and wonderful world filled with corals, fish and all sorts of critters. New world of experiences opened to them and and future adventures now beckon.

Will this make them better consultants in the long run? I believe so. In learning something as exotic as scuba diving they learned of many concepts such as buoyancy, safety, thermocline and a whole lot of stuff. And once they get into diving they will travel to many places and meet fellow divers from all walks of life and many countries. All the enriching stuff that is essential to make the compleat consultant.

One of the reasons that we introduced the Personal Development Fund is to help us retain people. It has not quite worked out that way. There are still some staff that use the PDF and then leave, or staff that refused to use the PDF for fear of being tied down to the company. The PDF, however, has worked for us in another way. It acts as a filtering mechanism. Those who are adventurous and appreciate the fact that their workplace would encourage them to expand their horizons inevitably stay; the less adventurous or those short of intellectual curiosity cannot see the point of it and leave.

Another side benefit is that when word of benefits like the Personal DEvelopment Fund get around we get very interesting characters who apply to work at maverick (BTW we are constantly looking for the best talents in communications, so if you’re looking pop us a line at

The Personal Development Fund, it would seem, works in mysterious ways but one thing is for sure – it helps us in our mission to groom the best consultants in the market.

The bonus we get when we give bonuses

One of the most gratifying moments as an operator of a communications consultancy is when we are able to distribute bonus checks to our employees. We did that last week, in recognition for their contributions in helping Maverick active a profitable 2011 but more importantly in helping us become even more robust as team.

The bonus we pay out is not required by law, which merely requires companies to pay an extra month’s bonus for Lebaran. But from the start my business partner Lita and I promised our staff that we would share some of the profits and that’s what we have been able to do for the past nine years.


I think it is important to show our staff that they are appreciated, as often as we can. So we always time the bonus to come just before another event to appreciate the efforts of our staff – the annual outing. The bonus comes just in time for them to have extra spending money for the outing.

These outings began modestly – to Anyer for the first year if I remember correctly. Since then, as Maverick grew we have been able to go to places further and more exotic. memory fails me on the exact chronology but we have been to Bandung, Bali, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Phuket.

This year we are all heading for Hong Kong. These trips are always fun as the whole office takes a breather form the breakneck speed of work we have been subjected to. One of the things we do is to make sure that everyone – from the bosses to the most junior staffers – has to share rooms so that it’s an opportunity for us to get to know each other more.

The office has voted to go to Hong Kong’s Disneyland this year so all of us will be trooping to see Mi-Key Lau Shu and friends. For some of the staffers it will be their first time out of the country. for others it would be their first time to Hong Kong. This is all good for them as we believe that travel expands one’s horizons.

Another that we try to show appreciation for the staff is to make their journey in the PR profession special. So we have a music triangle installed in the office and the consultant gets to ring it when they achieve a milestone in their careers,much as the first solo presentation to a client, their first overseas assignment or when they lead their first account team.

It is easy for the more experienced PR professionals to overlook the significance of such events. But when you’re starting out these achievements are a big deal and we try to celebrate it with them.

This is all in our pursuit to build the most formidable communications consultancy in Indonesia. The journey has been challenging but its been fun along the way and I’d like to think that we’re closer to our goal today than when we started out.

Still, it’s a never ending struggle if you want to be the best. Looking around at the happy faces in Maverick and the spirit with which they go about their work and help each other it all seems worth it. We never rest, however, and are constantly looking for new ways where we can make our people feel special.

I constantly wonder, however, what other communications firms in Indonesia Do to appreciate their staff and make them feel special, so that we can learn from the best practices if there are any out there. If you work in an Indonesia-based communications firm, we’d certainly like to hear about how you firm does it.

The SABRE Asia-Pacific Nominations

This is what I posted at Talking Points, Maverick’s corporate Blog

Being named finalist in the SABRE Asia-Pacific Nominations

2011 is proving to be an interesting year for Maverick where awards are concerned.

Back in March Maverick was named a finalist in the Holmes Report’s Southeast Asian Consultancy of the Year Award. But, whether it was because we looked the gift horse in the mouth or not, someone else was named the winner.

The Maverick team at the MIX PR Awards

In June we were ann

ounced winners of Mix Magazine’s PR Agency of the Year 2011 Award. Three of the projects we worked on also won awards for the following clients: AXIS (Silver award) for its Menang Bareng Campaign under the Marketing PR category;  the US Embassy in Jakarta (Silver Award) for berbagi Indonesia, a campaign to welcome President Obama; and, perhaps ironically, the embattled Mandala Airlines (Gold Award) for its Issues Management as it sought to restructure the airline.

Then, a couple of weeks after that MIX gave Maverick another award, the strangely titled Most Value for Money Award in yet another award giving ceremony. We’ve still to figure out what the award means but in the meantime its nice to feel awarded.

Now we are told that two of the campaigns we worked on have been shortlisted as finalists in the Holmes Report’s Asia-Pacific SABRE Nominations.  They are with Mandala Airlines in How to Survive a Crisis in the Crisis/Issues Management Category and with the US Embassy in the Berbagi Indonesia: A Campaign to Welcome President Obama in Indonesia in the  Public Sector/Government Category.

The winners, said the Holmes Report,  will be announced at the first annual Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards competition, which will be held in September “at a venue and date to be announced later this week.”

via Maverick Indonesia | Being named finalist in the SABRE Asia-Pacific Nominations | Maverick Indonesia.

Survey: Have a web strategy if you want to get on to traditional media in Indonesia

Early this year the Mavericks asked themselves a question: “How would Indonesian journalists prefer to be contacted in such a connected world?” In the old days, if you had a press conference or were pitching a story you either faxed them or called them on the phone. Then there came email and SMS. Today we also have, on top of these channels YM, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Koprol…to get in touch. So what’s their preference?

Everyone had a hunch, but no one knew for certain.

The idea, however, grew and soon we were talking about conducting a Technographics survey of Indonesian journalists, to find out how they use and consume social media. So we hooked up with the Research Center of the London School of PR and conducted a survey of Indonesian journalists. We sent out invites to journalists in 141 media houses and used Survey Monkey. A total of 320 journalists responded to the questionnaires.

The results did not surprise those attuned to social media developments and journalists in Indonesia but it confirmed many hunches. The bottom line is that Indonesian journalists are an extremely plugged in lot where social media is concerned and if you are a business or a PR practitioner who hope to have continued (traditional) media coverage, you’d better have a Web strategy and be part of the journalists’ social media networks or be out in the cold.

Some of the results of the survey:

  • almost all of the respondents (96.1 percent) said they logged in to the Internet every day, the others varied between once every three and five days
  • 71 percent aid they used the internet as a source of story ideas and tipoffs
  • 39.3 percent said they would repost their stories that appeared in their publications onto their own blogs
  • Most of the journalists (70.3 percent) run blogs with 23.3 percent going to the trouble of having self-hosted blogs
  • 72.1percent said they daily visited social network sites such as facebook, Friendster and Multiply
  • 95.4 percent of respondents said they had facebook account
  • 56.6 percent aid they had a Twitter account (a number that probably has increased since September when we completed the survey)
  • Almost all journalists aid that they trawled the Net for information of news tipoffs through news portals, email (88 percent), social networks (72.3 percent), mailing lists (61.2 percent) Instant Messenger (61 percent), corporate websites (51.4 percent), mocroblogs such as Plurk and Twitter (39.7 percent), blogs (37.3 percent) and online forums such as Kaskus and (31.4 percent)

For more information, read the article by Ndorokakung below in Tempo. You could always contact us as well.

Jurnalis Suka Mengintip Jurnalis Lain


2010 | Wicaksono | BlogKomentar [3]

Jurnalis dan Internet ibarat ikan dan air. Keduanya nyaris tak terpisahkan. Bagi wartawan, tiada hari tanpa berselancar di mayantara. Dalam survei yang dilakukan oleh Research Center London School of Public Relations dan Maverick, terungkap 96,1 persen jurnalis mengakses Internet setiap hari, 2,3 persen 3 hari sekali, dan hanya 1,6 persen 5 hari sekali.

Hasil survei itu diumumkan Rabu lalu. Survei dilakukan pada Juni-September 2010 dengan jumlah responden 320 jurnalis dari 141 media di seluruh Indonesia. Ini adalah survei pertama tentang pola aktivitas wartawan Indonesia dalam menggunakan Internet dan jejaring sosial. Hasil survei tersebut penting bagi industri, terutama kalangan perhumasan dan pemasar, juga semua pihak yang ingin mengetahui hubungan antara wartawan dan Internet.

Apa saja yang dilakukan jurnalis di Internet? Sebanyak 93 persen responden membaca dan mengirim e-mail, mencari informasi/berita/referensi tentang pekerjaan (91,5 persen), bersosialisasi (87,2 persen), mencari info untuk keperluan pribadi (76,1 persen), memonitor kegiatan media atau wartawan media lain 75,4 persen, iseng dan mengisi waktu 51,1 persen, bermain game 17,6 persen, serta berbelanja 3,6 persen.

via Jurnalis Suka Mengintip Jurnalis Lain : Blog Tempo Interaktif.

The Cicak who could

After experiencing a viral attack on our old host, Maverick shifted our blog to another host and it’s finally working again. We’re tweaking the blog but here’s something that I posted on on the resurrected blog this morning:

Lessons for Business in the Cicak-Buaya fight

There is a valuable lesson for Business in the conflict between the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Police Force.

It is a lesson of what to do when a seemingly vulnerable institution is threatened by a powerful one. It is the story of how, in Indonesian terms, the cicak (gecko) managed to stand its ground against the bullying buaya (crocodile).

Compared to the Police, which has wide ranging powers and seemingly unlimited resources , the KPK’s influence and power is miniscule. So when it came under attack from the police for alleged corruption among its commissioners, the KPK was in a quandary.

If the KPK was a business entity it would most likely hire an expensive lawyer, engage some lobbyists to probe who could be mollified to settle the issue, and then hunker down in silence. It would also have gone into denial, treating the matter as a pure legal issue and hope that the truth would set them free in a court of law.

If the KPK had done all these, they would have been finished by now.

Read more here.