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.
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.
Brian shared with us the distillation of his business experience in Taiwan, presented as points of advice:
- Respect your core competency. Stay focused and committed to the thing you do best;
- Go local, that’s where your market is;
- Keep clean books, because your business competitors will try and get you audited, if you actually start making any money;
- 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;
- Be one of the top 5 companies in Taiwan the world at what you do. Be world class, and you will get customers;
- You might very well be copied, so keep innovating.
Thanks Brian for your business bushido!
Next 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!
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”.
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.
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!