Bobby Gafur: Solid Teamwork is the Key

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PERHAPS many people had doubts about Bobby Gafur S. Umar when he was appointed president director of PT Bakrie Brothers Tbk in August 2002, as he was quite young for the position at just 32. Some felt he got the position because of his closeness to the company’s owner, Aburizal Bakrie.

However, one must admit that Bobby, born in Jakarta in 1968, indeed has a close relationship with Ical, as Aburizal Bakrie is intimately called.  

He met Ical at the Indonesian Engineers Association (PII) and over the years they formed a close relationship. After graduating from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Arkansas, US, with an MBA in 1995, Bobby became Ical’s personal assistant for almost three years.  

Bobby said that he learned a lot from his boss during those three years. “It was a fantastic opportunity as I could learn directly from a successful businessman,” he said, adding that he had also received offers from other companies during that time.  

Bobby deflects any negative comments about him through his actual achievements, although he does realize the huge responsibility he has taken on as the CEO of such a large corporation. The burden was heavier when Bakrie & Brothers was in debt and the company owed outside parties huge amounts of money due to the 1997 financial crisis that hit most parts of Asia.  

Finally it was proven that Ical had made the right choice by appointing Bobby, because he succeeded in restructuring the company’s loans that amounted to US$1.086 billion through a debt-to-equity swap program. As a result, the Bakrie family, which previously held the majority shares, now holds only 2.5 percent of the company’s shares. But the most important thing is that Bakrie & Brothers ended up with no outstanding loans, and any small debts left to subsidiary or affiliated companies could be paid.  

“We became the first major corporation that succeeded in loan or debt restructuring,” he said proudly. This is the reason why Bobby is optimistic that Bakrie & Brothers will become a major company again and will even exceed its performance during its heyday.  

There are a number of reasons why Bobby was appointed the CEO of Bakrie & Brothers. Bobby, who graduated as an electrical engineer from Trisakti University, Jakarta, recorded enviable achievements when as the director or CEO of PT Agrowiyana he succeeded in restructuring the company. The father of three was then entrusted to hold a double position as the director of PT Bakrie Pasaman Plantation.  

In his hands, both companies grew rapidly, and soon he was asked to join the management team of the parent company, PT Sumatera Plantation. “Maybe that is the reason why the shareholders of the company entrusted me with the position of CEO of Bakrie & Brothers, because the company was facing a debt restructuring problem,” he said.  

Bobby said the first steps after his appointment was forming a solid and professional management team in every division. “I also made short-, middle- and long-term blueprints for the company,” he said.  

Bobby focused on the three industries that were the main target of Bakrie & Brothers, namely infrastructure, plantations and tele-communications. “Thank goodness, all three are running as planned,” he said.  

Bobby said that an organization should have a strong and solid leader. “This is the leader who decides the direction the organization will take,” he said, adding that a leader should be able to coordinate and consolidate the organization teamwork.  

That is why, he continued, a leader can succeed in achieving the set target when supported by a team that has the same direction or intention. “So I always form my own team,” he said, adding that when he was entrusted as managing director/CEO of Bakrie & Brothers in June 2009, he formed a new management team in the company. “What I need is teamwork with clear cut delegation of work and authority. Once that is formed, the flow downward becomes easier,” he said.  

According to him, many companies do not have a clear flow of information and bureaucracy, so at the lower levels there is confusion. Bobby said that just like when he was first appointed CEO of Bakrie & Brothers in 2002, he still prepares the company’s blueprints.

“The blueprints become the guidelines for the future development of the company,” he said, mentioning that Bakrie & Brothers is now directed to become an investment company.   Besides blueprints, Bobby also prepares the board manual to clarify duties and responsibilities at the level of director and to avoid dependency on any particular person. “If a director leaves the company, we can easily replace him or her because everything has a system. So, the essence is to avoid any dependency on a particular person or persons,” he said.  

Recently, Bobby was selected as deputy chairman of the Indonesian Engineers Association (PII). He said that engineers should have an important role in moving the country’s economy, while he lamented the current economic state. “Indonesia has many engineers, but they are not working in their fields,” he said. “In fact science, technology and engineering should be applicable as a combination, but that is not happening, because many engineers are working outside their fields.”  

Bobby wishes to make PII the catalyst that acts as a bridge between engineering graduates and government programs. “This way we can fulfill the demands according to the available competency,” he said. Apart from that, PII also has to enhance the competency of young engineering graduates through seminars, training and so forth.  

Bobby said that one of his dreams is to make PII a good organization in the eyes of the public, the business world and government. “So that we are also invited to be involved when the government is preparing a policy,” he concluded.

(Taufik Hidayat)  

The Jakarta Post, March 17, 2010  

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