THE DISPATCHES: Lindsay Daigle, David Hall, Matilde Kamiya and Toshi Okubo

Wrapping up the business plan; dinner safari for Coca-Cola chicken

Day 11: Thursday
After a discussion with Ade yesterday, we all came to the decision that working on our own until lunch would be most productive. While the four of us worked individually all morning at the hotel lobby, Ade caught up on some of his other work. It was really nice to have a change of pace. Dave and Lindsay took the opportunity to put on their headphones to escape the monotonous hotel elevator music. We're pretty sure Matilde has memorized the soundtrack, and are even more sure she secretly really likes it. Directly after lunch, Toshi went to the NRM to meet with Ade about the SEP financials. Dave, Matilde, and Lindsay joined in 30 minutes later.

 Toshi crunches numbers
Toshi, master of the spreadsheet, crunches the numbers. (Photo by David Hall)

As the last day completely devoted to the details of the business plan, we had a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time. We had spent the past week and a half talking about strategy for the company, but now it was time to get into the nitty-gritty numbers. We spent the afternoon working out what price SEP should charge for its rattan. Toshi's amazing speed with spreadsheets allowed him to make simultaneous changes to the financial model. Pricing the rattan was a draining session for all of us, and we quickly realized SEP's financial viability would be very dependent on this one factor. We wrapped up the session and headed out to dinner.

We consulted Ade for a place to eat, because we were all growing weary of the hotel menu. You would think that Ade would have abundant suggestions for local eateries, being a Samarinda resident. We were all surprised to learn he doesn't! It was fairly easy to convince him to join us for dinner, but like pulling teeth to get him to come up with a restaurant. After wandering the streets of Samarinda for 15 minutes, we decided to return to the restaurant we had tried with Graham the first week and all jumped in a cab. No one had noticed the first time we ate there, but prominently displayed on the first page of the menu was "Coca-Cola Chicken" which was highly amusing to the four of us. Toshi ordered it for fun, and all of us tried a piece (even Ade). With our Bintang (Indonesian beer), Coca-Cola chicken, and Nasi Goreng (fried rice), we celebrated an end to the intense business planning phase of the project. We even got Ade to relax for a night and agree to not return to work after dinner.

Day 12: Friday
Friday began bright and early as ever with breakfast at the hotel and a walk to the Natural Resource Management office where most of our project work has been done.

We were introduced to three new members of the team who were to help us in pulling together the training. First was Nasir, who is responsible for the farmers' collective development within SHK. Next up was Adi, who manages SHK's accounts, and lastly was Rahim, a new translator who was to be working with us.

Today we shifted gears and focused on developing the materials for the upcoming training we will be offering to some of the more influential rattan farmers and industry experts. We decided to take the "train the trainer" approach, and the people we are training next week will be the actual trainers.

Team planning
Lindsay and Ade working on SEP's business plan. (Photo by David Hall)
We spent the morning discussing the aims and objectives of the training, setting an agenda, and deciding that we would use two case studies to drive home the major learning points.

It was very obvious from our trip upriver that the farmers did not keep accurate records of how their businesses performed on a month-to-month or year-to-year basis. They were also not used to separating personal expenses from business expenses. Consequently, they often could not even tell how profitable their businesses were. This lack of record-keeping made it virtually impossible for them to perform long-term financial planning and to be aware of the general market conditions that they faced. Based on our observations, we decided that the aim of the training should be to introduce some fundamental business management tools including (1) sales journal, (2) monthly financial journal and (3) year-end summary. We thought these tools would help the farmers to better understand the market situation and to obtain the small lines of credit that they want.

Once we agreed on the aim of the training, the next task was to develop the case studies. Luckily for us, Ade suggested that Nasir and Adi would come up with the specifics of the case studies. We were all getting a little concerned that trying to plan a case study in English and then translating it into Bahasa Indonesian would be a complete nightmare! The downside of this approach, though, was that we worked on the business plan again in the afternoon!

In the evening, we celebrated Friday night with a cocktail before dinner and then wine with our food. Toshi became a little excited and we thought that in true Japanese style, he'd make it to the Karaoke that we hear every night from the hotel bar. But no sooner had the excitement built, than it vanished because we all were very tired from a long week's work. Also, we had in mind that we had arranged to meet Ade again on Saturday to go through more of the business plan, as well as Nasir and Adi to see what they had been able to produce for our case studies.