In conversation with Ferran Costa | President of the inlingua Board | Licensee for Andorra
Read our interview with Ferran on how he became an inlingua licensee, his advice for future entrepreneurs and what being a member of the inlingua board is all about.
1. How did you hear about the idea of becoming an inlingua licensee?
Well, actually it all happened quite naturally. It was to be my sabbatical year after college in the US. I bought a newspaper to read at the beach and saw inlingua Andorra was looking for trainers, so I decided to apply. It was the perfect place because it was only 2 hours away from my family and hometown of Barcelona and my idea was to work a little in the morning and then go skiing in the afternoons – which never happened [laughs] because I had to work very intensively from the beginning! I was planning to only be there for a year, and here I am 26 years later [laughs].
2. Who did you take over from in Andorra and how did it work?
All things happen in life happen for a reason – I guess. The previous licensee happened to be the wife of the man who became the president of the country 3 months after I arrived! We got along very well, and she gradually added responsibilities to my job until I became the Director of Studies a year later. She then retired a few years after that, but the way it worked was I became a shareholder in the company with her and started buying shares in her company little by little over time. I became the licensee 9 years after arriving in Andorra. And, although the previous licensee is retired I still have a good relationship and I am in frequent contact with her.
3. You recently also acquired the license for inlingua Barcelona, is that right?
Yes, I took over Barcelona officially now on January 1st, 2019, and that has been quite a challenge because I had no direct involvement in the running of the day-to-day operations. There’s a lot of work to be done. The way I have been running my Andorra centers is very different. We are adapting and changing things so that hopefully by September we will have procedures and a set up that I am more comfortable with.
4. What prompted you to buy the license for Barcelona? Have you been waiting for the license area?
Yes, I had been waiting for Barcelona. You see, we have done (and are still doing) a very good job in Andorra. We satisfy a large percentage of the language training business in the country. Of course, the country is small, but having over 1400 students per year of a population of 70 000 people is a big chunk of the market. But, increasing the business share there was almost impossible, so to expand or grow as a business person, I had to look at other markets and Barcelona, for me, was the most natural place. I am a native from the city and I believe we can run a good operation there in the mid-term.
5. What, in your opinion, is the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur?
Meeting people, being able to do what you want to do – something you thrive on doing. I always tell people that I love every single second of the time spent on the things I have chosen to do. I think this is a luxury in life – being able to do what you want to do and enjoy doing it. That’s for me what being an entrepreneur is all about.
Of course, there are pros and cons like in everything in life. On the pro side – everything that you achieve is because of your effort and that’s extremely rewarding. At the same time, failures are your direct responsibility as well. But you just have to face reality.
6. What advice would you give young people looking to become entrepreneurs, in general?
Surround yourself with people better than yourself. That’s the only trick. Bring in people you can learn from. Me having to train everyone and teach everyone because I am the best at everything, is probably the worst way to tackle so many things at once. You need to surround yourself with the greatest people possible. With great teams you can do great things. That’s just the bottom line. Have people on board that are loyal, that are capable, that are enthusiastic – that get a thrill about working in this area of business – and then of course, get organized to make the most out of your time.”
[Side question from interviewer: How many emails are in your inbox on any given day? [laughs] I could easily deal with some 200 emails.7. How did you get into the position of becoming a board member?
I was asked whether I would be available to become a board member quite a few years ago – in 2005. It happened ‘quickly’ because as a DOS for inlingua Andorra I started to attend all the inlingua congresses from 1996 onwards. I remember two years after I started attending we were already organizing an inlingua congress in Andorra in 1998! I have always been very active internationally. I accepted the idea of running, I was elected and ever since I have been re-elected. [At the inlingua Congress 2019 in Lugano, Ferran was also elected as the new inlingua Board President].
8. What do you do in this position? What are the added responsibilities of being a board member?
Board members need to work for the strategic issues the company is facing and looking at overall strategy. That involves a lot of different components – Expansion being one of them, Pedagogical developments being another. The focus on the digital parts of pedagogical developments is also crucial one, and then of course responding to the needs of our customers. And when we look at customers, we must think in two different ways. inlingua International customers which are the center licensees, but then further than that is those customers who want to learn a language.
So, you need to take all those things into account in order to fulfill the needs of all our clients. It’s challenging and involves a lot of listening to people and finding out what their needs are. It’s crucial that board members, the board overall, works as a real team. It’s a matter of coming up with good strategies to make the company move forward. It’s not a matter of individuals pushing for their own agenda but rather finding consensus for the benefit of the company [inlingua].
9. What advice would you give to ambitious inlingua center licensees looking to join the ranks of being board members?
First of all, it’s an honor to be elected to that position and I would say you need to keep in mind the international perspective. We are not there to defend our own countries’ needs or requirements, but rather to look for the wellbeing of the company as a whole. And the company, like any other company, has its own set of challenges. It’s a matter of really being aware of what those challenges are.
10. What is an example of one of the most challenging things you have had to deal with so far as a board member?
Probably the biggest one is the transformation in the language training business. How people are getting trained nowadays – all the digitalization components.
11. What is by far the best thing about being a board member?
Being part of an international company and exchanging experiences with people from all over the world. Learning how the same reality can be seen from so many different perspectives and acknowledging the fact that your version of that reality is just one of these many polyadic realities. To me, that’s very enriching as a person because you truly become a global citizen.
12. What is your idea of a perfect evening? A perfect weekend?
I have several ideas on this! But, it’s a weekend where you can spend quality time both with the people you love, that being your family and friends, and also having some time to yourself. I like just spending time with my family, but I also like just chilling out on my couch with a glass of wine and either reading a good book or watching a good series or film. And if I had the chance and the weekend was a bit longer, doing some travelling as well. This compilation of activities would make for the perfect weekend.
13. How would you describe inlingua to someone?
inlingua is a leading international language training organization formed by many different entrepreneurs from all over the world, following the same methodology of teaching languages and using the services that inlingua international as a company provides to all the centers. But, the same time having the flexibility to implement those business policies that you deem suitable for your license area. It’s an enriching experience because you will exchange experiences with people from all over the world and we are all colleagues – we are part of this inlingua family – but at the same time we keep our own independence.