Working in the Education Industry in Taiwan (Event Recap)

A few weeks ago, the CCCT Small Business Committee had another Taiwan Small Business Network event, aimed at presenting some deep background and top tips for expats interested in starting an education based business.Tribeca Taipei

It was a really successful event, thanks, of course, to our enlightened speakers, and to enthusiastic participation by the attendees. Many thanks to TRIBECA for hosting their second small business event with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan. We truly appreciate your support and patronage!

Our first speaker was Brian Hockertz, CEO of Oh! Study Education Group. Brian is a very long-term Taiwan expat, having worked for the Canadian Trade Office in Taiwan even before Taipei 101 existed! Going from heading the education department at the CTOT, Brian went on to open his own successful educational consultancy for Taiwanese students bound for overseas study, first in Canada, then also in the USA, and now worldwide.Oh Study-2016

Brian shared with us the distillation of his business experience in Taiwan, presented as points of advice:

  1. Respect your core competency. Stay focused and committed to the thing you do best;
  2. Go local, that’s where your market is;
  3. Keep clean books, because your business competitors will try and get you audited, if you actually start making any money;
  4. Standardize your operations as if it were a franchise. That’s called efficiency and it’s much easier to train staff in this kind of system;
  5. Be one of the top 5 companies in Taiwan the world at what you do. Be world class, and you will get customers;
  6. You might very well be copied, so keep innovating.

Thanks Brian for your business bushido!

Carleen's English SchoolNext Carleen Emma, founder and owner of Carleen’s English School, a mid-sized children’s cram school in Neihu, told us about her experiences starting and growing her now-successful business. And, wow! What a story!

Carleen talked about the financial tightrope she walked, the constant struggle with surprise costs and revenue slumps, and the big risk she took when she bought out a larger location. But running her business wasn’t just about money: She also very frankly told us about the tough times when she was teaching classes with her infant daughter strapped to her body, and about the deep connection she had with the local community achieved by protecting and educating their children, listening to their concerns, and being a positive part of the scene day by day, month by month, year by year.

A great origin story with a happy ending!

Thanks Carleen!

Our next presentation was from Bob MacLeod. Bob became a partner with Rick France, who is the founder of ACES. For those of you unfamiliar with the brand, ACES is the top franchise in Taiwan of a business model that was formerly called “hardcore foreign-run buxiban”.Aces English School

The model is of an expat-owned cram school hires (reasonably) bilingual foreign teachers to do very focused and disciplined classes where words and sentence patterns in English are directly translated into Mandarin. Each class has an aggressive pace, and the students’ mothers are often seated at the back of the room, helping to motivate both student and teacher. ACES teachers get quite decent pay if they build up their skills and class size, and stay with the school for many years. There are now 13 branches in Taiwan.

Bob’s talk was mainly about how he came to Taiwan with a strong background in education, looking for an education-based business opportunity. He found out about ACES, and partnered on a new school in Hsintien, which has become a success. Opportunities are out there if you are sharp enough to see them!

Brief takeaway from his starting a business in Taiwan experience: Always overestimate your expenses.

Cheers Bob!

Last but not least, Joel Laughrin, owner of Guidelines International English Academy, and Professional Support Leader, Asia Pacific Cambridge English, gave a great talk. Joel explained the benefits to all stakeholders – parents, teachers, students and schools – of having a professional third-party independent language ability assessment. Especially, of course, when that system comes from Cambridge University, a global leader in EFL.

Takeaway: if you can be involved at an ownership level in a respected global EFL brand in Taiwan, your business will likely have decent growth potential over time. Quality pays off.

Thank you Joel!

We look forward to seeing you at our next event at CODA. We have guest speakers that will be talking about their experience operating your own sporting business in Taiwan. Come and check it out!

Operating Your Own Sporting Business in Taiwan (Recap)

Our event at CODA on April 8th, Operating Your Own Sporting Business in Taiwan, was another success. Thanks very much to our expert speakers!

First, Kathleen Batchelor talked about her journey that took her to being a successful Taipei instructor of Zumba, a globally-popular aerobic dance exercise program that incorporates Latino dance styles and hip hop.Kathleen Batchelor

After dabbling in ballet and burlesque, she says she was hooked after her first Zumba class. After her Zumba instructor left Taiwan, she stepped in and took over the class, soon thereafter receiving her official certification as an instructor. She now has hundreds of students, and is well on her way to leaving ESL teaching completely behind.

Persistence and skill were part of it, but she claims her success is mainly based on Free Electrifying Joy! Anyone can succeed if they follow their true passion.

Thanks for the inspiration Kathleen!

nigelandersonSecond, we heard from Nigel Anderson, owner of the Scubar in Fulong Beach, where in addition to providing food and beer, he takes divers out to sites on the North East Coast. He starts his trainees at the Taipei Songshan Sports Center pool, a step he says is essential for safety.

A licensed PADI instructor, Nigel says that it was always his dream to be a business owner. So when he had an opportunity to buy the Fubar (a popular foreign-owned restaurant in Fulong), he jumped at the chance.

Nigel had gone diving in Canada’s Vancouver Island, Okinawa, Australia and Thailand. But when he first started diving in Taiwan, in Longdong, he was taken aback by the limited number of dive sites that led to massive overcrowding. So he and his crew went exploring and found lots of good coral – 32 new sites, to be exact.

Now business is good, and he has signed on with the big new Fullon hotel in Fulong. But problems remain: he still gets flack from fishermen who think that scuba divers scare away all the fish. And his relationship with his landlord went south when he asked for an upgraded electrical connection. However, his drive to explore has helped him bring his business dream to life. Thumbs up, mate!

Next, Shawn McClelland gave a talk. Shawn is a successful serial entrepreneur whose startup credits include Luxy, OMNI nightclub, the Green Room, and MIT English Schools. One of his big current projects is 03 Fitness Taipei, which has top-quality modern equipment and innovative fitness programs that incorporate boxing, kicking, yoga, interval training and more. o3-logo

One of Shawn’s main points was that selecting business partners is of the utmost importance. Not only is it essential to share a clear vision with partners, it is also crucial to enumerate any troublesome situations that might come up and have a clear plan for them in black and white. People can have a very different sense of fairness, especially if they are “sweat equity” partners – those who contribute something other than money, such as skill or contacts, to the business. If you don’t have a clear system for dealing with possible disputes, there can be grief, so always have an exit strategy.

Shawn also said that the legal requirements for owning a gym are quite onerous, especially regarding obligations toward clients. So get a good lawyer to write up your contracts, but don’t automatically trust them to do their best for you. You yourself are responsible for making sure you get contract terms that protect your interests.

Last but not least, he mentioned that it is useful to use group cohesion to keep customers engaged. Get some class spirit going so members will nag each other into not missing classes. This is good not only for your business, but helps satisfy your clients’ fitness goals as well.

Next, Tomasz Hasinski of Runivore gave a great presentation. “Eat Superfoods and Run!” is Runivore’s moto, and the company Runivoresells nutritious Chia seeds and Chia-based food products. Their company was created by three runners, who found that their middle-aged bodies weren’t up to the demands of 100k runs powered by burgers and fries alone! Like Shawn McClelland, Tomasz discussed the importance of finding the right partners and having a dispute resolution system. For them it is usually based on going on a run together after an argument! But they also have scheduled “airing out” meetings on a regular basis to keep things real.

He also emphasized the importance of quality: never take any shortcuts when it comes to quality. It took them a while to find the right clean and safe manufacturer for their Chia seed bars, but they did: one that also produced for Starbucks and hospitals.

The company is in the midst of expanding to Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. Good luck guys, and thanks for sharing!

Last but not least, we heard from Andrew Lunman, creator of CODA, Bongos, Forkers, and other successful restaurants in Taipei. This was Andrew’s farewell to the CCCT Small Business Network, as he is returning to Canada, and it was a sad one for all concerned. Andrew’s experience and community spirit has been a driving force for the Small Business Network. His last message was that it was a real pleasure to him to see so many expats with creative ideas. His final official words to the expat small business community, regarding any small business plan they might have: “Go ahead and do it! Do it!”

Business Interview – Clear Sky Communications with John Groot

Today we’d like to introduce a new interview series to introduce our Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan business members to the general community.

If you’d like to interview with us for our business interview series, please email us at info@cancham.tw with the subject line “CCCT Business Interview”.

To kick off this series, we have an interview for you with Mr. John Groot, owner of Clear Sky Communications based in Taipei.

CCCT: Thanks for joining us today, John. Can you tell us a little about yourself?John Groot

I used to be a journalist back in Canada. I’ve been working here in Taiwan as a trainer for 14 years. Last year I finished a project where I walked around the entire coastline of Taiwan.

CCCT: Can you tell us a little about your business?

We’re a small training and consulting company, a bit of a boutique business. We do customized programs that include business English training for teams with a specific purpose, like marketing teams, IT teams, sales teams etc., as well as some more interesting programs like cross-cultural communication. We also do writing and editing work, like technical editing, online articles, and also some curriculum design.

CCCT: How did you get started with Clear Sky Communications?

Well, I had been working as a freelancer for a while, and had a chance to do a big project for a major ICT brand. But I needed to issue them an official tax receipt, so we incorporated. After that, things just snowballed.

CCCT: Can you describe your customers?

They’re a pretty diverse group. I’ve worked for many of the biggest ICT brands, some less well known Taiwanese tech firms, big pharma companies, and lots of individuals. I’ve had some private clients who were newly arrived business people who wanted to get a cultural orientation to Taiwan. I’ve done training for the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei’s trade assistants. I guess the common thread is that they all have an international focus.

CCCT: Would you mind answering how you set your business up here in Taiwan?

I set up the business with my wife, as it was the easiest way to do it.

CCCT: Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? In the next ten years?

Over the next 2-4 years we hope to become one of the top customized training companies in Taiwan. Our plan is NOT to hire more employees, expand, and compete for market share with established players, but rather to follow the small team approach and go for higher-level training opportunities.

CCCT: Is there anything about your company that you feel makes it special? Clear Sky Communications Taipei

We really take the time to get to know what senior managers want, what HR wants, and what the trainees want. Then when we deliver the program, it is almost always very close to what everyone actually needs. If it isn’t, we can correct course very quickly. This is actually rarer in the training business than you might think.

We can do all this because the trainer, the training program designer, and the contact window are one person, myself. So I can get to know everyone and don’t operate at a distance from decision makers or end users. I think this helps us deliver a special level of customized service.

CCCT: Thanks, John. We look forward to seeing you out at a CCCT event some day soon! Good luck!

Business Links

http://www.clearskycommunications.tw/

https://www.facebook.com/clearskycommunications

If you’d like to interview with us for our business interview series, please email us at info@cancham.tw with the subject line “CCCT Business Interview”.

Event Recap: Working in the Entertainment Industry in Taiwan

Event Recap: Friday, 15th January 8-10pm at DV8 Pub

We had a great event a few Fridays ago at DV8: excellent speakers and solid support from our hosts Gary O’Connor and Stephen Hepples, as well as the entire DV8 staff. Thanks also to Chef Jason for the good food!

Our first speaker was Elias Ek, founder of B2B sales and marketing firm Enspyre. Elias talked about the Foreign Entrepreneur’s Workshop on January 28th, in cooperation with the City of Taipei Department of Economic Development.

The workshop (there was an earlier one on November 30) will provide a space for foreign entrepreneurs to share their frustrations with local government officials, in the interest of reforming government policy over time. In addition, expat small business people can also learn how to apply for grants and subsidies to start or grow their businesses.

Then we had three speakers who presented on the ins and outs of being an expat entertainment worker in Taiwan:

First, we had Mr. Brook Hall, Managing Artistic Director at The Lab Space. Brook gave the packed room a run down on his long career in Taiwan. He said it took him years and years to get comfortably established, and encouraged anyone interested in acting to contact him to get more info on how The Lab Space can help them. The LAB Space on Facebook.

Contact Brook
Email:bfly.efx@gmail.com
Tel:  02-28985382

Second, we had Mr. Daniel T, of the Foreign Students Club. Daniel spoke mainly about being a model and actor in Taiwan, and gave useful tips about working with agencies. If you are interested in modeling or the Foreign Students Club (which aims to help foreign students have the best possible experience in Taiwan) you can contact Daniel through the FSIT Facebook page.

Last but not least, DJ Marcus Aurelius described his journey as a DJ (plus writer, actor etc.) in Taiwan. Among several great take-aways was this: Don’t burn your bridges! He said that he had previously had issues with Frog in a Sock, but now they are working together in harmony. Take the long-term view and grow positive relationships!

After his speech, Marcus went on to DJ for the rest of the evening, laying down some great tunes for the convivial after-party. Want to contact Marcus? Find DJ Marcus Aurelius on Facebook or email him at DJMarcusA@gmail.com.

Stay tuned for more fun and useful events by the CCCT Small Business Committee!

Photographer: Josh Yang – Visit the CCCT Small Business Network Facebook album for event photos.