Shinta W Kamdani: “Develop Empathy”

Develop Empathy. Great organizations need to cultivate empathy. With empathy, employee engagement can be developed, where collaboration, equality, and generosity can be fostered rather than judging, we treat each team with respect. Moreover, empathy can also bring significant value to the customer’s engagement. We can anticipate market needs and develop product or service that suit […]

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Develop Empathy. Great organizations need to cultivate empathy. With empathy, employee engagement can be developed, where collaboration, equality, and generosity can be fostered rather than judging, we treat each team with respect. Moreover, empathy can also bring significant value to the customer’s engagement. We can anticipate market needs and develop product or service that suit their best needs and minimize their pain points.

In Covid-19 circumstances, Sintesa Group has highlighted the importance of developing empathy to minimize Covid-19 spread within and outside of the organization. This is why we are developing Taskforce Covid19, which consists of employees from our various companies or subsidiaries. The goals are to establish health protocols, evaluate policies, and ensure implementation and socialization of protocols to prepare mechanisms for prevention, control and handling of Covid-19 in the company environment.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shinta Kamdani.

Shinta is the third-generation owner and CEO of the Sintesa Group. Sintesa Group is a strategic investment company that manages 16 business portfolios in the Property, Energy, Industrial Products, and Consumer Products pillars. In leading the company, Shinta is responsible for the Management and Expansion of the Group’s business interests throughout Indonesia. Being a female leader, in a male-dominated industry, has not stopped Shinta from realizing her accomplishments in building a successful company, Shinta has won various awards and nominations, including being awarded as Woman Entrepreneur of the Year at the Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability Award (ACES Award) and nominated as FORBES Asia’s 50 Powerful Business Women.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Sintesa Group was established from a long line of history. In 1919, my late grandfather established N.V. Handelbouw en Cultuur Maatschappij with rubber plantations as its main business line. It then shifted its focus to trading in 1959 when my father, Johnny Widjaja, took over the company and changed our name to Tigaraksa. Under Tigaraksa, our family business was scattered and ran independently without any red line connecting each other. Then, one day in 1999, after working in the company under my father’s leadership for more than 10 years and seeing how his business grew, I decided to envisioning myself and to step out from the silo as ‘employee’ to bringing strategic value in the mind of a woman entrepreneur.

So then I came to him and told him I wanted to run the company differently. I gave him my vision of an integrated group of business. Back then, it was a difficult moment for me. It was daunting to go up to the company’s head, who knew the business so well, to voice out what I felt. Plus, have to challenge the company management, which was still based on family-run management and the “One Man Show” of my father. Moreover, it was more challenging when Indonesia was reeling from the Asian financial crisis. But from adversity comes opportunity, I believe this is the right time for corporate transformation.

We had our discussions and arguments, but I finally managed to convince on restructuring and re-envisioning, hence established Sintesa Group — the Indonesian word for ‘synthesis’. So I proposed establishing a more professional and integrated Sintesa Group, which consists of all my father’s businesses. I categorize our companies and then divide it into four business pillars, namely Property, Energy, Industry, and Consumer Products. Today, Sintesa Group consists of 16 companies that spread in those 4 business pillars.

Until now, Sintesa Group has been managed by a professional group of Executive Committee, who are selected for specific responsibilities with me as the Chief Executive Officer. While, my father sits overlooking Sintesa Group as the Chief Commissioner. So far, this type of management has proven to be the right mechanism for us. Our business is growing more rapid than ever before.

Ultimately, growing up in patriarchal society culture has driven me to challenge the stereotype to prove that just because my parents don’t have a son, it doesn’t mean they don’t have the legacy to continue. With me, they have a person to continue and thriving the business way forward.

Moreover, I see Sintesa Group as my family, and I will do whatever it takes to make it better, successful, and impactful. Currently, we have more than 3000 employees that rely on us and working excellently every day. I want to build this company as an office or organization and a home for personal improvement, advancement, opportunity, and leadership regardless gender, race, or religion.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I do not think this is funny, but it is a more memorable experience. As a 32-year old female CEO, I faced many challenges related to differences in age, gender, and communication. Primarily, I had to be in charge of managing many people, many of whom were much older than me.

As a young leader, I was full of ideas and very straightforward, which undoubtedly surprised them, that this leadership style was very different from my father’s. It cannot be denied that we had experienced so many miscommunications because of these differences. Plus, as a mother, I still had a baby that I had to breastfeed, and it was an awkward moment for me, especially back then, we did not have any proper nursery room, so I had to excuse myself to breastfeed in my office. Often times, I was also teased when I needed to breastfeed at the end of the meeting.

Nevertheless, I found this experience to be a challenging and rewarding experience. From those mistakes and challenges, I learned to be adaptable, value people, find common ground, and communicate with trust and respect. I also found that I am not the only female leader and professional here who needs much support as a mother and employee. Thus, it gave me an idea, to transform this company towards gender-friendly and provide supportive environment and structure for females to remain productive and advance in this organization. Eventually, this had been a very steep learning curve for me, which gave me valuable insights into complex dynamics.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Sintesa Group is a strategic investment company that manages 16 subsidiaries under four pillars: property, consumer products, industrial products, and energy. Our consumer products and industrial products pillars have successfully managed to be publicly listed companies of the several pillars above. Moreover, Sintesa Group is one of the few companies who have reached 100 years milestones and have established several leading businesses. We are recognized by investors as a reliable and knowledgeable partner to help companies succeed in the Indonesian market

Upholding our big vision to become a Sustainable Excellence Company, we see this purpose is not solely achieved on the silo of the company’s financial performance to fulfill shareholder’s needs. Instead, we look beyond than financial statement to pursue the company’s shared value in building inclusive growth and ecosystem within the navigation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This is not however a step that must be carried out only to improve the company’s image, but as the key to innovation and sustainability. Reflecting on these principles, Sintesa Group aims to build a sustainable ecosystem both internally and externally and scale up our global impact. In doing this, we have developed our SDGs Roadmap called “Sintesa for the Earth”. It is a solid commitment of how our company that compromise of 16 subsidiaries, could pave the way to maintain, cultivate, develop and exceed work culture for nature preservation and incorporate sustainability into our business model and value chain.

Through the value chain, we incorporated initiatives compromise of health and well-being (SDGs no 3), water and energy efficiency (SDGs no 6 and 7), waste management through the lens of the circular economy, responsible consumption and production, handling hazardous waste compliance with mandatory regulation (SDGs no 12).

We are also expanding our business towards the green economy’s lens through our business portfolio in clean and renewable energy We also expanding our business towards the lens of green economy through our business portfolio in clean and renewable energy: Steam Gas Power Plant and Geothermal. Looking beyond, we have recognized that tourism is among the hardest hit sector during the Covid19. Thus, we want to utilize this opportunity to accelerate our efforts in building a sustainable ecosystem by developing eco-tourism business in Special Tourism Economic Zone (SDGs no 8). By far, this one of our ambitious sustainability business model with the concept of sustainable tourism. We are committed to empowering local communities, monitoring and regulating coastal and maritime activities, ensuring climate resilience, recycling waste, preserving historic sites-biodiversity and cultural heritage, and developing eco-friendly infrastructures. We also develop a strategic plan to protect environmentally sensitive ecosystems in the preservation area within the zone.

In addition, we believe sustainability is not a solo journey. It is about working collectively, building dialogue, and inspiring action-oriented collaboration among industry (SDGs no 17). Therefore, by establishing the Indonesia Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD), we together with government partners, companies, academia and civil society organizations have started discussion, building capacity and joint actions to promote sustainable sourcing, efficient use of resources, tackling food loss and waste, handling plastic and hazardous waste, protecting forest and biodiversity, etc.

Not only to the extent of environmentally. Sintesa see that strengthening corporate diversity and inclusion are vital as the foundation of organizational success. At the internal level, Sintesa Group is one of Indonesia’s first companies to be certified by EDGE (Economic Dividend for Gender Equality). The Sintesa Group focuses on providing greater space for women to grow and develop, starting from the recruitment, development, promotion, and empowerment. On the other hand, Sintesa Group also strives to provide a supportive environment for women to carry out their roles both domestically and in work through flexible working arrangements and infrastructure.

At the external and global level, Sintesa Group believes in the importance of providing opportunities for women to grow not only at the internal employee level. But, it can also be amplified in the external through empowering entrepreneurs, leaders and establishing synergy. In this case, the synergy is a multi-stakeholder synergy between the private sector, government, academia, and investors to realize this agenda. This was achieved by establishing the Angel Investors Network and Indonesia Business Coalition of Women Empowerment (IBCWE) to empower women entrepreneurs and business leaders in Indonesia to take an active role in increasing women’s participation in the economy. Besides, Sintesa Group is also active in advocacy support and best practices in international organizations P4G and B20 to ensure that national women’s empowerment can be broadly developed into the global realm.

Moreover, we believe the foundation of our initiatives relies on the people. All of our employees share our commitment to sustainability. Thus, we continuously arrange a knowledge management program to ensure all employees can adopt sustainable and inclusive culture into daily and professional lives. We put firm hopes, that small act matters to multiply. Sustainability is about raising awareness of how everyone plays essential roles in making a better future by making a wise decision towards their lifestyle.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Being a leader is not an easy job, especially for leaders who have to balance domestic work as a mother and wife, multitasking abilities, time management, and stress management are crucial for personal development and wellness. For me, the key here is to prioritize self-Care practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul. This includes regular exercising, conscious breathing (meditating), and eating healthfully. Moreover, it is crucial to take your time to pause, unplug yourself from all devices, and work for just a few minutes about twice or third a day to muster your energy for the next activity.

More importantly, we have to prioritize any work to increase our productivity by streamlining the process and delegating tasks. The Eisenhower Matrix will help you decide on task by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important task to be either delegated or ignored. It is also important, in particular, for women leaders to build a personal strong support system in the family and organization around you to avoid burnout and to be able to take care of domestic work.

Moreover, as a leader, we have to do a challenging task which requires a high level of concentration. Hence, to avoid decision fatigue, this includes resource and time allocation. This might involve blocking out the time early in the day, when you have fresh energy to work on challenging projects, and administrative scheduling works after lunch, when feasible.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My parents hold most important role model in my life. From my father I learned a lot about business and entrepreneurship. Since an early age, my father has introduced me to business, he often takes me to their offices, factories, and social events. We also sometimes discuss business at family gatherings and dinners. Business was common for us.Moreover, from him, I learned a lot about self-confidence, perseverance, and determination. He is one of those old school businessmen who can make tough decisions based on little information and gut feelings. He is also a visionary, and because he is a compelling person and, he can get people to agree and support his ideas. From him, I learned the importance of self-confidence and how difficult it is to be a good leader if you are not sure of yourself. While from my mother, I learned a lot about the legacy of giving back to the community, where it can bring critical influence on the well-being of community.

All of that aspects, experience and knowledge have shaped me into building purpose driven organization, where the purpose of the organization or company is not merely pursuing profitability, exploiting resources but to serve the community and environment.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

From my point of view, a good company is a company who checked all the boxes of what business should be, meaning they are operating in a “standardized market” with “standardized” product, service and innovation” they have good performance. Still, their performance remains stagnant. They run the business “as usual” with limited urge to aim high growth and even hesitate to expand into a new market.

The great company sees two or even third step further. They are always looking for opportunities in the market. They are continuously learning, they also establish a strong purpose and leadership. Rather than sticking up to make the company cost-efficient, they invest to make continuous innovation in their product and in their business model, which generates them more productivity and efficiency. More importantly, they emphasize on leadership and uphold inclusive culture, where employees feel empowered and valued. They also attract great talent. Moreover, they are not only seeking for profitability but also long-lasting impact, hence they are thinking strategically forward to implement conscious innovation, product that benefit not only customers but also social and environmental aspects.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Purposeful Leadership

Leadership is one of the fundamental aspects of organizational success. With the ever-changing environment and global crisis, leaders should act and lead proactively. More importantly, with organizational and personal anxiety caused by the crisis, leaders should navigate the organization towards positive transformation, build a personal connection, bring harmony, and support employee wellness to bring their best performance. More importantly, leaders also need to define the organization’s higher purpose in serving people and bring impact to the stakeholders as a whole and drive the organization towards the same vision and goal by recognizing and empowering employee’s value in reaching towards the organizational vision.

In leading Sintesa Group, I see the vision towards sustainable organization is to pursue the benefit of all stakeholders, this means the benefit of people, planet as well as profit. I believe in creating this organization, I need to establish purpose-driven leadership not only as a CEO but also to empower personal leadership within employees and subsidiaries. In achieving this, it is not all without challenge to change norms and belief that have been established for quite some years. Hence, I tried to take the step by step, first by creating change within organization by cultivating personal support, empathy, harmony, and developing organizational knowledge and transparency, where everyone feels included, supported and valued. Then, after a while, I took bold action for our organization to amplify this purpose driven leadership within large stakeholders. This means, creating positive and impactful transformation towards large stakeholders by embedding Sustainable Development Goals roadmap within our business practices and business model. We also empower collective action within the private organization to share our best practices and inspire more businesses to go sustainable. We believe every business’s actions have a strong impact on the sustainability of our social, economic, and environmental aspects.

2. Inclusive Culture

In achieving a great organizational performance, an inclusive culture is needed, where everyone feel empowered, valued, respected and engaged regardless of genders, ethnicity, and religions. Diversity is good for organizational performance, but it also generates more innovation and productivity where every idea and change are encouraged.

In Sintesa Group, we acknowledge the value of gender diversity and equality. Though, our industry is mostly male-dominated, we are pursuing to build culture that is inclusive, gender-friendly, where not only men, but women can able be participate and advanced. This is why, we have built many initiatives in gender empowerment, from refining company policy for equal opportunities of female employees to be involved in the company’s decision-making, developing leadership training for women, building supportive working infrastructure for women such as childcare facilities, lactation rooms, to establishing corporate transparency in advancing gender equality through sustainability reporting. Ultimately, we want to build a safe working environment where everyone is comfortable collaborating and sharing their vulnerability to receive peer support.

3. Cultivate innovation

A successful organization is an organization that can continuously innovate. Hence, cultivating open innovation is more than ever necessary. This can be achieved by building an innovation mindset within the organization and building external collaboration to create breakthrough or penetrate new markets.

One of Sintesa Group’s organizational values is Entrepreneurship. Hence, we cultivate innovation through the sense of entrepreneurship, where our employees have the sense of ownership of what they want to develop and innovate. We believe everyone ideas valuable, hence we always encourage our employees to develop a business plan and communicate their ideas.

Moreover, we also believe promoting the ideas of open collaboration and innovation. Bringing both local and global partners in generating innovation in the market has widened our space for value creation that is impactful. Hence, Sintesa group through our subsidiaries in Consumer Products pillar, Tigaraksa Satria has established e-distribution solution together with our strategic partner from numerous leading e-commerce companies to empower local SMEs to go digital to compete with modern retail stores by developing streamlined value chain flow in the distribution process to increase sales productivity and effectiveness.

Moreover, Sintesa Group has succeeded in working with many global companies to Indonesia and works with multinational giants such as Johnson & Johnson, Time-Warner, Wyeth-Ayerst, Sterling, Messer Griesheim, L’Oréal, Pertamina, Arcellor Mittal, Epson, and Yamaha. In the property pillar, we have established a strong partnership with Singapore, where we have built and managed one of the renowned hotels in Jakarta. In Industry and Consumer Goods Pillar, we have also formed strategic cooperation with numerous prominent international companies worldwide from Japan, China and European countries to expand their global market and extend distribution channels across Indonesia.

4. Develop Empathy

Great organizations need to cultivate empathy. With empathy, employee engagement can be developed, where collaboration, equality, and generosity can be fostered rather than judging, we treat each team with respect. Moreover, empathy can also bring significant value to the customer’s engagement. We can anticipate market needs and develop product or service that suit their best needs and minimize their pain points.

In Covid-19 circumstances, Sintesa Group has highlighted the importance of developing empathy to minimize Covid-19 spread within and outside of the organization. This is why we are developing Taskforce Covid19, which consists of employees from our various companies or subsidiaries. The goals are to establish health protocols, evaluate policies, and ensure implementation and socialization of protocols to prepare mechanisms for prevention, control and handling of Covid-19 in the company environment.

Moreover, to maintain worker stability, we have implemented flexible working hours and arrangements considering the anticipated increased domestic work burden experienced by both male and female employees. On the other hand, we also run various workshop series, including prioritizing digitization training, SDGs, and mental health for our employees.

Not just for the group’s internal, Sintesa has actively cooperate with various private companies, NGOs and universities to ensure the distribution medical device, personal protective equipments (APD), and donation funds to help the government to strengthen the health sector during the pandemic.

In generating innovation through empathy, we also take an active part in establishing impact investment to empower impactful MSMEs to survive and thrive. Currently, we are one of the investors of Burgreens, Krakakoa and Mecapan.

5. Seek for Sustainable Excellence

Companies today face more global, resource-constrained and interconnected challenges. We already learned from the Covid-19 pandemic that an imbalanced ecosystem has a significant impact on social and economy. Good companies can still focus on driving profitability, however great companies seek the opportunity to embrace change and build business strategies that tackle the global challenges in an ethical, conscious and environmentally friendly way. Ultimately, embedding sustainability in the company’s DNA.

I have probably mentioned conscious innovation, investment, and inclusive culture in the above sentences because they are all part of Sustainable Excellence. However, what I want to highlight here is to seek excellence through the lens of sustainability. Where business intersects with environmental aspects. This includes developing company operational or processes to be more sustainable and renewable by applying circular economy principles and smart energy. Moreover, collaborating with customers and suppliers to produce and use resources sustainably are also important to bring a multiplier effect.

In achieving this, Sintesa Group has established IBCSD (Indonesia Business Coalition of Sustainable Development), where together with government partners, companies, academia and civil society organizations; we start discussion, building capacity and joint actions to promote sustainable sourcing, efficient use of resources, tackling food loss and waste, handling plastic and hazardous waste, protecting forest and biodiversity, etc. Eventually, we want to be part of global solutions not the problems.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

The spread of the global coronavirus pandemic has made the linkages between companies, communities, employees, customers and other stakeholders strikingly correlated.

As a result of economic and social dynamic due to the pandemic, organizations are being pushed to implement what it called ‘purpose-driven concept’ in creating a safe work environment for all employees, configure supply chains to be more sustainable, and share expertise and resources to navigate the social impacts of Covid-19 to the communities. Moreover, organizations must also adapt in innovating products that are safe for consumers and able to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Hence, what we can conclude here is that companies that have established purpose-driven principles have chart the pathway forward than other. They performed better than others in navigating the crisis.

Generate Innovative Products or Service

Organizations or companies that are purpose-driven are also able to generate more innovative products or services. The company that I invested like Burgreens has long ago established itself as a plant-based food company that promotes conscious eating and a healthy lifestyle. They have currently grown into a community-based social business connecting local partners and conscious customers to promote more healthy and ethical society. In the pandemic, the food company even performs better and EBITDA positive amidst the retail lockdown. This is because customers are shifting their needs towards a sustainable and healthy lifestyle during Covid-19.

Better Customer Relations & Engagement

To serve customer better and sustainably, the company can generate more engaged relationships with their customers. This is because companies are able to treat customers humanly, where they are not seeing customers as money makers, but instead to deliver sustainable solutions in a humane way.

High Organizational Productivity and Employee’s Commitment

Purpose-driven companies can generate more productivity because employees feel motivated, engaged, and empowered to work better for good. Moreover, purpose-driven companies see the employee as an asset and as a family and community that they want to take care of, developed and advanced, thus increasing employee engagement, productivity, and performance.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Leading a company for 100 years makes this challenge familiar to me. In addressing this challenge, a significant strategy need to be executed. First, we need to re-think our products and services. In this highly competitive and changing environment, customers have countless choices of products and services available in the market. Hence, we need to continually evaluate our products/services performances in the market and collecting customer’s complaints and review. Moreover, we also need to utilize data analytics to evaluate our performance and provide accurate data for decision-making.

The second, is to build innovation capabilities through strengthening the business strategy and develop a culture that empowers innovation. To enhancing the business strategy, we need to ensure that our approaches remains relevant in the new digitalized and marketplace disruption. This is not the world of fixed strategic plans. This may include corporate transformation strategy through M&A, Vertical or Horizontal Integration, or even redefining organization vision. Moreover, we need to develop and cultivate innovative culture by embedding an innovation mindset by attracting new talent, improving employee skills, empowering ideas, and providing innovation incentives.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

  • Review the Business Strategy

We are inevitably facing an unprecedented environment. With the disruptions caused by the pandemic, it is imperative to review our business strategy towards market disruption and social and technological disruption. The first is to review the current company’s conditions and capabilities in navigating this crisis, identifying crucial factors that significantly affected the company’s revenue and costs. The second, is to map the business strategy into 3 scenarios for, namely an optimistic scenario (quick-recovery), a moderate scenario and a pessimistic scenario (worst-case scenario). In these three scenarios, we need to identify crucial factors that significantly affected the company’s revenue and costs, conducted business analysis and financial modeling in each scenario and identified economic and management factors that could substantially disrupt the company’s liquidity. In each of these factors, the company also prepares and determines strategic steps to stabilize all business activities, organization, and costs (optimizing accounts payable and accounts receivable, cost efficiency, divestment, and other options).

  • Adapt Company Business Model

During the crisis, the market is also changing; customers are more picky regarding their purchasing choice, moreover, customers are also being pushed to adapt in the new environment and habit, and in turn reflect to behavioral changes. In capturing these changes, we need to revamp our business model that might not be relevant. For example, due to lockdown, ‘the stay at home economy’ has been thriving, hence considering the new trends, have re-created on how we can deliver value and how we can approach our customers. Moreover, this is also an opportunity to expand into the digital market and redefine our operation towards digitalization, which could increase our efficiency by far.

  • Develop Transparent Communication with The Customers

During the pandemic and lockdown, I can admit that our hospitality industry has been hit hardest. Hence, significant steps have been taken to keep our customer’s trust resilient. Other than keeping the health protocol discipline, we also develop transparent communication with the customers, we continuously inform strong health, hygiene, and safety measures to protect the customers during their stay. Moreover, we also communicate with empathy and openly with our customer, on how we can cater their needs and always open for feedback.

  • Maintain Employee’s Stability

In this crisis, often, we might not prioritize our employee’s stability. The pandemic has brought a lot of pressure to our employees. They are afraid they cannot be fully productive or even afraid of job losses during company’s financial instability. It is important to understand that during this hard time, employee’s wellness and safety are also very important in navigating through the crisis. Hence, we need to take step forward by prioritizing our employee and adapting the ‘Future of Work” to maintain our employee’s safety, health and also productivity. By adapting remote working or flexible working hours and maintaining workplace safety and embracing digital platforms for collaboration tools, our operations can be stabilized or even improved. Moreover, the technological and market shift have also made a strong call for investment in employee engagement and training to adapt and acquire skills in the ‘new normal’ market.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

  • Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility. Most companies are driven to generate profitability. Hence they tend to disregard the company’s harmful activity that may bring the risk for them in the long term. Not only in the environmental aspect, but also in the social aspect. As business leaders, we need to be aware that the company are operating in an interconnected ecosystem. When a company acts, a significant impact can be generated from there either positive or negative. Company harmful action can destroy development and cause enormous economic losses. Each year, companies spent more than billions of dollars to resolve environmental and human rights lawsuits. This does not include social costs due to increasing inequality in society and organization. With this significant amount, the company can better allocate and mobilize the finances towards sustainable actions and investment that eventually positively impact the organization and stakeholders.
  • Inclusive Culture. Most company is driven to make profitability as their top priority. In turn, employees are always being pushed to delivery strong performance in generating profitability. This priority is not entirely wrong because in some point and with financial crisis, the company needs to generate revenue and profit to stay in the market. However, companies underestimate the ‘inclusive culture’, where every employee needs to feel welcomed, valued, and equal regardless of their background, gender, and even limitation. Ultimately, these will not bring positive impact in the long run, where company could create ‘unhealthy’ or ‘disengaged’ working environment, where many employees are not feeling engaged and committed to their work, which could have lost many great talent and creating high employee turnover.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

In my view, it is essential to be engaged with the customers. This is limited to sales or customer support and to anticipate customer’s need by keeping in touch with them to foster the relationship even in the more personal level to offer tailored solutions or products. Moreover, by building trust and open communication, by giving transparent and timely information for customers to capture the value of your products, more importantly, always engage with customers when you have new information available and include customer’s participation in company events and milestones. You may also offer incentives for customers e.g exclusive promo, referral bonus, and complimentary consultation, to attract your customers to buy and refer your product.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

One way is to humanize your brand. With Covid-19, customers are more concerned to their safety and well-being, they want a resource that they can trust and make them feel safe and offer support when they need the most. Consequently, they are getting more selective towards the brands that they can trust, they are more care about whether the brands are responsible, safe, even on how they treat their employee and community.

This is why sustainable brands are getting more attention and traction in the last two years. Sustainable brands have demonstrated genuine care and offer support for their customers. They focus on delivering products that is safe and healthy for the customer’s well-being. Furthermore, they also pay attention on how their product can make an impact for the environment and community. Thereby, they are considering the safety of the product and the company operation and manufacturing across the value chain to make sure they are responsible, sustainable, and even renewable. At the end of the day, what they offer is more than just product but also service and contribution towards the well-being of large community and environment.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

More and more customers are lingering towards customer’s experience that could deliver experiences and service with empathy, care, and concern. In particular, customers want to be understood, heard and cared for in this time of crisis instead of being bombarded with sales or promotion information.

Moreover, we are aware that transitioning customers experience towards digital and automated channels will be more cost-efficient, however, this may be no longer relevant where customers crave more human to human interaction due to pandemic. Hence, we must deliver customers experience that is more humane and embed human interaction that is honest, helpful, and responsive.

Furthermore, with ‘stay at home’ economy, customers need swift access to interact with us wherever and whenever they are. Meaning, we need to expand our access by expanding our engagement towards digital channels and provide human interaction within the technology to engage closely with them. Moreover, we need to remove unnecessary friction and bureaucracy to enable customers to interact with us easily to provide convenience and show our responsiveness.

Another way is to establish trust through transparency by communicating with customers about how the company manages the business and how they can positively contribute to the community. Especially in the new normal, customers are shifting their preferences, in which they are not buying the products, but buying for the company’s purposes.

Additionally, companies also need to utilize data, analytics, and technology that could help deliver tailored experience, where we can enhance customer ‘intimacy’ and understand customers need better, smarter, and faster to enhance customer experience.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Indeed, in the age of technological advancement and digital interaction, customer engagements are shifting towards social media to gain accessibility and build close interaction to the customers. Sintesa Group, as a strategic investment company, has also realized the benefit of building a corporate reputation through social media in communicating on how we run our business portfolio sustainably.

However, on the other hand, the accelerated use of social media and user-generated content makes risk management related to the company’s reputation remains a challenging part. News spreads faster, whether it is a fact or false news. This is certainly brought misconceptions about the company. Every company and ours undeniably have been positioned in this position, where we must respond immediately and prudently. In navigating this, our company, Sintesa Group, has established a crisis management team led by our VP of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Communication Manager. We have been actively invest on social media-monitoring actions to protect such avenues to happen. Proactively, we understand that prevention is far more effective than cure. Thus, before we decide on strategy or corporate action, we have to always make sure that the action taken is sustainable and responsible not only for the customers but also for community and environment. Furthermore, we are also building private-sector collective action to learn and share best practices in enhancing corporate reputation management and community trust.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

  • Poor Hiring Decisions

The team is the most critical aspect of business success. When it comes to hiring, sometimes new CEOs or founders are expected to be fast, without a solid pre-employment selection process. We need to take note here that hiring takes time. Consequently, this could lead into hiring less-than-ideal employees and eventually can risk the company’s performance.

In avoiding this mistake, CEOs need to prepare earlier by identifying the candidates you need and dig deep into required job responsibilities and skills. It is also important to include soft skills and emotional intelligence-related skills as part of the pre-employment selection process. Moreover, it is crucial to take the time to collect outside information regarding the candidate to gain the sense that they could be suitable for the company.

  • Targeting The Wrong Market

Another common mistake that new founders face is not taking enough time to understand the market characteristic that they are serving. The market is not for everybody. Hence founders need to research and map out the specific target market, the demographic background, lifestyle, and customer purchasing decision framework. Moreover, communicate with your customers to understand their problem, and utilize the insights to create strong products that is crucial for customers.

  • Fear of Failure

I think every founders or ceo have fear of failure. This fear oftentimes leads to indecisiveness, procrastination and failure to take risks. Overcoming this setback is the key that founders have to pay to succeed. Instead of searching for perfections, founders need to learn to seek development. Even more, amid uncertainties and global crisis, CEOs have to take decisive actions, even though with little information. We cannot always make the right decision, but we can always learn from our mistakes. We can also seek support, find mentors, and collaborate to help our way forward and faster.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My passion and purpose has always been to empower more women. Not only as a professional but also as entrepreneurs and investors. I believe together, women can move mountains. However, reaching towards gender equality movement is not merely an action of women herself, but also their support system, including men as father, husband, and colleague. Most men support the women’s economic empowerment, however the patriarchy system has been rooted so deep, so it becomes a natural role where women in charge for the domestic role. Thus, we need to include men in this process by providing a platform for men to share their aspirations toward women empowerment. Men need to be engaged as gender advocates — speaking out as active agents and stakeholders who can transform social norms, behaviors and gender stereotypes that perpetuate discrimination and inequality.

The HeforShe movement has been the patron towards gender empowerment, and I believe we need more platform like this. However, rather than focusing on men movement to empower women on a general level, I would like to focus the agenda towards men’s active contribution in Gender-Lens Investing, meaning investing on the ‘women economy’. This is not only investing in the companies that led by women but also companies that promoting gender equality in all stages of business operations from employees, customers to the whole value chain.

To realize this in full potential, we need to guide the investors to examine the gender bias at each stage of their investment process. This means by including gender analysis in each step of the process, not only in selecting investments but also in recruiting teams in their fund operations. Essentially, we need to ensure that all stakeholders understand the landscape and the importance of gender analysis and strategy in each step. In addition, we need the investor team to have a greater vision where they see their jobs in the base of operations and more as an avid advocate in which they have ownership in gender empowerment roles.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Please connect with me through my Instagram @shintawidjajakamdani.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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