In conversation with Magda Bteibet | Licensee and Managing Director of inlingua Lugano
Find out more about the (almost) architect from Milan who broke into a very competitive market in Lugano backed by her dedicated and loyal all-female team.
1.) Just because your family is in the language training sector and runs their own center in the network, does not automatically mean you would do the same. Why did you decide to stay in the industry and become a licensee?
I actually started my studies in something completely different and when I finished my studies I started working at inlingua Milano for a few hours per week. And then, I fell in love with the job, with the method, with the inlingua brand, with the inlingua family and so working at inlingua, I realized – this could be my work for life!”
2.) So, what is your background? (Teaching, accounting, etc.)
I started studying architecture [laughs], which was completely different in a way, but it helped me a lot because you also create a project from scratch. I think it has actually helped me!
3.) What kind of work did you start doing at inlingua Milano?
I started managing national projects, working in marketing and the more commercial area. I had very good training at inlingua. I did everything in Milano starting from certificates and working on databases. From there I understood I wanted to follow a different role because there are a lot of aspects of our job that are very interesting and step by step I realized I wanted a project that was completely my own. And now I’m managing a school with 20 employees. We are 5 in the team with 15 teachers!
4. ) So how did you start looking for a license area?
Well, Lugano was very close to Milano, and there was a market for e-learning activities. It was a good moment to start adapting the inlingua methodology to online activities.
So yes, I decided to move to Lugano and open a new Center in the network to be able to start a new adventure right from the beginning. But I’m still also working with inlingua Milano on the same projects that I launched in the past. So, I have these two different roles in the inlingua world. One is as a General Manager of my own center, but at the same time I am continuing to manage some of the business aspects in Milano. And these two roles are actually quite useful for me, because I can switch really easily and I really like it. And Lugano is very close to Milano so it all makes sense.
5.) Why did you choose the specific area you are currently running your center in?
Here in Lugano, or in Switzerland in general, it’s very easy to manage a project or open a company, and to offer courses. People are super focused; business is going well for them and it’s easier here than Italy. It’s a great area, but it wasn’t that easy to get started.
When we arrived, there was a lot of competition. It’s a small city with a lot of money, but generations of families were going to the same schools. Our breakthrough? We have the method!
There are a lot of schools here with a lot of experience, but without a real method, the right material or the right approach for companies specifically. So, this helped us a lot at the beginning because a lot of companies gave us a break and an opportunity to prove ourselves. They immediately appreciated the concept and the didactical opportunity to manage a project for their employees.
6.) What do you think makes the inlingua brand so unique?
The method combined with modern tools. inlingua International was able to find the best approach to combine the traditional communicative approach (the inlingua method) with new technology. And this is not very common. There are good providers but can only offer one idea such as business or online services. The teaching methodology is of lower quality and they have less experience in this field specifically. We have over 50 years of experience and we were able to combine everything very well with new technologies. This is the network strength, I think! And the method is still the best method to improve a language – absolutely, definitely!
7.) What tips do you have about running a language center? What’s Important?
To find the right people who feel like the company is their own company. This is the most important thing. Skills are important, but its not the most important thing overall because you need to learn how to work at inlingua and in the network. You have to find a way to create a very good atmosphere in the center and find people all on the same wavelength.
Another thing that’s very important, from my experience, and how I manage my center, is to always know exactly (or better) what your employees are tasked with doing, even data entry. They can always give you input and sometimes do things maybe even better than you, but you should know exactly what and how they have to do every step. This is how I manage my team. I’m sure there is someone else out there who can manage their team very well without knowing all the single steps, but this is my philosophy [laughs].
Also! Find people that really believe in you. The first person that started working at inlingua Lugano arrived for her interview before I even had chairs, tables – not even a floor yet! I had rented the office, but no furniture had arrived yet. She must have asked herself where she had just landed? [laughs]. But she believed in me, even when there was nothing. No clients, no phones – nothing. And she said “yes, let’s try it. I really want to start this new adventure with you.” She wasn’t a junior either. She was 50 years old at that time. But she immediately fell in love with the idea. And, she still works with us today!
8.) You have come a long way since you opened inlingua Lugano 5 years ago. What are some of your most special memories?
We have had a lot of special moments in these 5 years! We started with 2 or 3 people and then two of my employees got pregnant last year. We cried a lot because it was very emotional and now both moms are back at work, including the substitutes! So, we grew to 5 people [laughs] People come and want to stay with us. And, last August we moved to our new location because in just 5 years we were able to move to a really beautiful office. This is the real secret of inlingua Lugano – to have a team that really believes in the brand, the method and the project.
9.) How would you describe inlingua to someone?
inlingua is a guarantee because with inlingua you can have everything you need to help you. You have good staff at inlingua international that can help you step by step, that can even train you, because new licensees get training to learn how to manage a school and all about the method.
And then after that, you have the best method available, and the best material. You can have a lot of business modules included in your pedagogical offer that are a must when you sell a product to a private or corporate client – it’s a very good business card! You have the inlingua network. 300 centers are a lot, and all centers have a lot of experience and can help you if you need any assistance. It’s a good team, a very important brand and has a lot of history. It’s a big family and we always help each other, and you get to have a beautiful congress every year in a beautiful place. I can only say good things about this magic experience that started 15 years ago.