My Jakarta: Feliawaty, Store Owner
Kevin Sanly Putera
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. With that philosophy, Feliawaty went into business for herself, opening a nuts and bolts shop.
Drawing from two decades of experience working for an industrial supply company, the 50-year-old entrepreneur takes care of everyone from five-star hotels to individuals who want to fix the hinges on their door. My Jakarta sat down with Feliawaty to talk about the nuts and bolts of her business.
How did you come to start this business?
They say you should do what you’re good at. Before I opened my shop, I worked for an industrial supply company called Kawan Lama, first as a secretarial typist and then as a sales director. And after almost 20 years of working for someone else, I realized I was getting old [laughs]. So I decided to quit. I started my own business, Multi Bisnis Selaras, in 2005 in Tangerang. We opened a branch in Cengkareng, Jakarta, in 2009.
How did you learn so much about construction materials?
I learned a lot about technical equipment and management from my previous job. I was pretty much trusted like the CEO back there at Kawan Lama. I maintained relationships with many suppliers, and I was trusted to make decisions about what to sell like it was my own shop. That taught me entrepreneurial skills and knowledge about all the things you’ll ever need to know in this business.
I had a friend in Surabaya who offered me a job when he heard I had resigned. I refused and told him that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and have my own shop. So we made a deal. I worked for him for five years. I overhauled the management structure of his company, I expanded it to more cities, expanded his customer base. His company grew a lot after I started working there. In return, he helped me supply my shop with all the products and facilities it needed. He also gave me unlimited credit for all the equipment I bought from him. But of course I limit my spending out of courtesy.
Why this line of products?
I saw that so many nuts and bolts companies only looked for enormous transactions. Many small workshops found it hard to meet their needs for nuts and bolts. I saw a good opportunity there. My husband has a workshop background too and he agreed with me.
So you only handle small transactions?
No. I divided my business into three divisions: retail, users and groceries. The retail division manages cash-and-carry transactions. The users division offers credit installments to companies for large transactions. And the groceries division sells to workshops, our main customers. Each division has its own style and marketing method. They complement one another, and I see to it that they do good, or else [smiles].
How many workshops do you supply?
We have 165 frequent regulars and 300 more regulars who come in every two months or so. There are about 50,000 small workshops in Tangerang. I wish we could just get 10 percent of them.
Is selling nuts and bolts complicated?
Do you know that selling nuts and bolts means you have to provide up to 10,000 kinds of nuts and bolts so your customers will not be disappointed? And I’ve heard many of our customers say that our shop has a complete stock. We provide a price list so our customers know that prices are fixed and don’t have to worry about being tricked by the employees.
We are very concerned about data management. We put all our transactions into a computer, things like who is the buyer, which workshop, what did they buy. That way we can see which customers have the most transactions. We calculate a percentage from all customer purchases and give back to our customers in the form of souvenirs. We give out T-shirts, umbrellas, other things.
You have a ‘no bargaining’ policy. How do you communicate this to customers and employees?
I tell my employees to follow the price list. You are paid by customers, not me. Giving unauthorized discounts to your favorite regulars means you lose part of your salary. This philosophy makes some of them quite stubborn with customers. Even a small discount of Rp 1,000 [11 cents] can cause a debate.
Once when I was there with an employee, I gave someone a discount of Rp 9,000. My employee complained, but I said that the boss has that kind of authority [laughs].
How do you maintain employee loyalty?
Besides the monthly salary, I give my employees a weekly salary. The latter salary depends on their discipline and enthusiasm. Discipline is the most essential thing. Every time they skip work, I cut their monthly and weekly salaries. I prefer a diligent employee with ordinary intelligence than a clever yet lazy one.
I can always train them to be good at their job, but discipline depends on themselves.
Feliawaty was talking to Kevin Sanly Putera.