Updated: Jun 1, 2020
In my last post I spoke about using expats as part of your networking and shared some experiences from my the time I had a small bar in Bali. Looking back and re-reading the post makes it sound a little dramatic and gloomy but that was the reality for me at the time. Having spoken to some people who currently live in Bali and are currently setting up business in Canggu and Ubud, they have explained to me that the expats are actually worse now due to the stresses of business in Bali.
To quote my friend: "I've had a mixed response to my business being set up recently. I have noticed that when business is going well for expats, especially the ones who have been here a long time, they are happy to help you out and will share their network with you. Once there is a downturn in business they very quickly shut up shop and are no longer your friend. We have found that increasing our network with locals is better as they are more welcoming to our business."
Which brings me to this weeks edition. Networking with locals.
If you think about it, it makes sense to develop relationships with locals as they will be the ones who can really help you when you need help. As I stated in the last post, Indonesia runs on networks. It is more about WHO you know than WHAT you know. In fact in business in Indonesia, knowing the right person could be the difference between waiting 8 weeks for a IMB or waiting 6 months! One of the biggest challenges is learning who you can trust as there are a lot of opportunistic people waiting to take a "bule" for a ride and milk them for all their worth.
So how do you develop a network of locals that you can trust, rely upon and know that they are not trying to rip you off.
Here's the first tip. It is a basic concept but the first thing you need to do is do your homework. What does this mean? It means you need to use your existing network to develop your local network. Asking other expats, friends, business owners if they know of anyone who can be trusted or better still if they have heard of anyone that can't be trusted, you will quickly learn who to avoid. This should be done BEFORE you start your business and will help you to feel safer in the lead up to your business opening.
There are many stories in Bali and in other parts of Indonesia about foreigners being ripped off by locals. Locals who they thought they could trust and locals they thought they knew. These people were a part of their original network before they moved to Indonesia. A lot of the time the foreigner has holidayed in Indonesia and wanted to come back and set up business. They make friends on their holidays and before you know it, there is a business opportunity that allows the investor to live their dreams in Indonesia by running their own business with their Indonesian friend as a business partner. I experienced this when I set up my second business in Bali. Unfortunately I set up with the wrong person and lost approximately $100,000 in a 6 week period. (You can read about it here)
Ok - so it is easy for me to say - DO YOUR HOMEWORK - before you relocate or start to spend any money on setting up your business, but sometimes it is easier said than done. You never know someones intentions when you start out and if you're like me, you expect the best in people. I know I did. But even I was ripped off and I thought I knew it all as I had holidayed in Indonesia a lot over the years. BUT....What if the people you seek advice from, meaning your already existing network, don't know anything about the person / company you want to work with? What should you do then? That brings me to tip number 2.
Tip number 2: Google. You would be surprised how much information is online about people. If someone has been ripped off by a company or perhaps a particular person in Indonesia, they most probably reported it online through a blog, Facebook group or some other platform. So a quick Google search is another great thing to do. It's simple and logical but a lot of people forget to do it. If nothing comes up on Google try a little Facebook search. There are a lot of groups on Facebook about Indonesia, especially Bali, these groups have thousands of people in them interacting everyday. Joining these groups and posting a question about who you want information about could produce some great results.
Tip 3: Facebook. Facebook has become less about posting stuff and more about staying in contact with people. Expats and locals love Facebook groups as it allows them to share their wealth of experience with others and there are lot's of groups for each island and area in Indonesia. These groups will allow you to do lots of things and will bevery helpful in your networking development. On Facebook you will be able to check on certain people by asking fellow members if they know of someone, you will be able to ask for recommendations, you will be able to develop friendships and you will be able to learn little bits about the different laws that affect you. (Be careful with this and always seek professional advice when you are wanting information regarding the Indonesian legal system).
Tip 4: If you have already established your business I suggest you become friendly with your landlord. Usually landlords will be locals with lots of local knowledge and a lot of connections that will be able to help you. Your landlord will be more than willing to help you as they will most probably earn a little commission from the person they recommend to you. Don't be upset at this practice as this is a vital element of conducting business in Indonesia. Networking is big business and even small networking provides a small income to many people.
Eg: People use to ask me where to get tattoos from that were good quality and safe. It just so happened that I knew a guy who did some great work and I would reccommend him to people. The first time I did it I recieved a phone call from him asking me to come down to his shop. When I got there I was surprised to receive a cash payment of AUD$80 from him. When I ask what this was for - he said it was for the referral. When I said I don't need that and I was happy to help - he explained this is how we do it in Indonesia. We all help each other out.
Tip 5: Indonesian business networks are a great place to start your networking. How do you find them? You can start by looking on LinkedIn and/or Google - try searching for Indonesian Business Networks. Using these key words brings up a lot of results that will help you. Depending on which island you are or and which town you are in - you will be able to find a local chamber of commerce that will get you in the right direction.
Tip 6: It may sound silly but I believe it to be the most important tip. Learning the local language and culture will put you in a great position to develop your network. It shows you are interested in more than just trying to make some money from the nation. It highlights that you respect and understand Indonesia. You will be able to find some great language schools in your local area who will become a part of your network - both locals and expats.
So just to recap when trying to build your local network these tips will be able to help you:
1 - Do you homework and ask your existing network to recommend people to trust
2- Google searching names of people and companies will help provide more information on your potential partners
3- Facebook groups to connect with people
4- Become friendly with your landlord as it is in their interest to help you stay in business
5- Indonesian business networks on LinkedIn and local chamber of commerce
6- Learning the language and culture will be more beneficial than all the above put together
If you need more help please do not hesitate to contact me and add me to your network.