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Business English in Leipzig: an interview with English Room co-owner Ian Johnston

, by The English Room

In the name of equality, it’s only fair that I start with same question I asked Victoria: What’s it like running your own business and raising kids?

Having kids is going to change your life, for the better! You can’t expect to be able to relax as much as you could before they arrived, but it is surprising how much energy you can find when you love your life. I am lucky to have a successful business, great colleagues, an amazing wife, and two wonderful children.

You started out in Leipzig as a freelance English Teacher in 2004, what was your motivation to open The English Room?

After working for several years for other language schools in Leipzig, we started getting enquiries from companies who wanted dedicated and motivated trainers. Starting our own business was a way of being able to offer those companies what they deserve.

What’s been the most challenging thing about running your own business?

The most challenging side of any business is not the product, or the service itself; your experience gained before opening a business will help with that. It’s the organisation of clients’ and staff timetables that is the most challenging. Add that to the bureaucracy of the authorities and the strains of the economic side of business behind the scenes, and it makes for a challenging life.

What piece of advice would you give to people thinking about starting their own company in Leipzig?

The first and most important piece of advice I could give anyone would be: write a comprehensive business plan. Even if you don’t have to borrow any capital, it’s essential to write a plan, show it to someone you trust and see if they also think it’s a viable business proposition. And no matter how thorough you think you have been, there will be those hidden costs waiting.

You spend a lot of time each week teaching Business English classes at different companies in and around Leipzig. What kind of Business English do Leipzig companies need?

Every English trainer starts off teaching the basics: emails, answering the phone etc. That type of class can be interesting for a short while, but once those boxes have been ticked, you have to look deeper into the specific needs of the client. This is where it starts getting very interesting for me. As a trainer, I feel it’s vital to keep learning new skills, more knowledge and understanding for details. I enjoy the challenge of learning something new and over the years I feel I have built up a database of knowledge in sectors like the automobile industry, IT, Finance, Law, Logistics, Architecture and many more.

What tips would you give someone who wants to improve their English for business?

It is easier to learn something if it’s interesting and relevant. I’d recommend finding a new passion, a new interest and learning about that in the English language. The first German book I read was about wine. I had found something I considered fascinating and multifaceted and deciding to learn about that in my target language meant that I was learning German without even trying. Transfer this to your business needs and you’ll be learning as if through osmosis.

What do you think sets The English Room’s Business English classes apart from Business English classes offered at other schools?

Most of our business classes are one-to-one. This means that the topics are aligned exactly with the client’s needs. Our trainers are encouraged to learn as much about the topic as possible to best deliver the most relevant and effective coaching.

But most importantly, we care! We care how our client feels, we care how our trainers feel and we want the best for everyone. Our goal is to have partners and not just clients. Our long-term partners appreciate how much effort we put in to providing a professional, effective and friendly service.

How do you switch off from your busy schedule?

I’m not a Zen Monk so it’s not realistic to think you can really switch off. But you can switch! After a long day, with a head full of “stuff”, I decide to divert my thoughts to something less like work. My family helps me do this, and simply reading a story with two children sat on your lap can do wonders for your soul.

Find out more about The English Room’s Business English classes here.