In conversation with Michael Hofmann | Licensee for inlingua Wiesbaden
1. How did you hear about the idea of becoming an inlingua licensee?
18 years ago, I had never heard anything about inlingua. I was a headhunter for another company and the position of inlingua Director landed on my table. It was an extremely interesting job for me, so I sent my CV to Dr. Schwarz who was at the time the licensee for inlingua Frankfurt and inlingua Wiesbaden. I got the job and started as the Director, and 13 years after that Dr. Schwarz offered to sell his company to me which I accepted. I have now been the licensee for Wiesbaden for about 4 years.
2. What is your background? (Teaching, accounting, etc.)
I have an economical background and my actual profession was in the Human Resources department. This has helped me a lot in my position now because in selling courses for companies, the contact is always the person in the Human Resources department. So, I know what they want because I was in that exact same position. Years ago, I was the one buying the courses and now I am the one selling the courses.
3. What made the idea of working with inlingua so interesting?
I saw the job description from Dr. Schwarz and that you need people skills, know what selling is – you need to know about management and all these things. He was specifically looking for a “Quereinsteiger” (translation: career changer). I thought, I have all these things and I went for it. Dr. Schwarz accepted me and at the time I was the youngest Director of an inlingua center, 32 or 33 years old. As we were talking and he explained Wiesbaden he told me it’s a family system. This interested me the most and I thought “ok, why not?!” We are a small team – only 4 employees, not including trainers. And this small team is very interesting for me. It’s really an inlingua family in Wiesbaden, and of course I also have the inlingua family worldwide.
4. How long have you been running your center?
inlingua Wiesbaden was one of the first centers. Adalbert Schwarz, founder of inlingua, initially ran it as a branch office of inlingua Frankfurt. In the nineties, inlingua Wiesbaden became independent and Dr. René Schwarz, the son of Adalbert Schwarz, took it over. I started as a director in 2001 and since 2014 I am the owner and licensee.
5. What do you find so appealing about the industry you operate your business in?
I love dealing with customers and especially with different cultures. In addition, there are not only customers who come from all over the world. Because all trainers are native speakers, employees also come from other countries as well.
And even if I am not fluent in languages and even had bad grades in English at school, I am passionate about speaking foreign languages [laughs].”
6. What do you think makes your specific center special/unique?
Unique is the team that works here. My DoS has been here for 35 years – a German coach for more than 30 years, my assistant for more than 20 years and the two other employees in the administration are working over 10 years for inlingua Wiesbaden. Even the freelancers are extremely long on board. 20 and more years of faithful cooperation to inlingua Wiesbaden are not an exception.
7. What do you think makes the inlingua brand so unique?
On the one hand, inlingua offers the strength of a large company and the expertise of over 50 years of existence. On the other hand, inlingua also offers the individuality of an owner-managed company.
8. What advice would you give anyone considering opening a language center?
You have to know the local market very well. What is needed? Are there more private customers, or public contractors, or are there even larger companies in your area whose employees need to be trained? To be proper at the beginning is one of the most important things.
9. What, for you, is the difference between being a licensee and being a franchisee?
As a licensee, I am a shareholder and follow the general interests. As a franchisee, I am an entrepreneur and try to achieve the best possible success for my company.
10. What, in your opinion, is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
The challenge is to remain human in all endeavors to earn the best profit.
11. What, in your opinion, is the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur?
That you can make your own decisions. If you are uncertain you can ask someone, but ultimately you make the decision yourself.
12. What does it mean to you to be a part of the inlingua network?
It means a lot to me to be part of this network. The input and support of colleagues without being dependent on them is very valuable.
13. How did you get into the position of becoming a commission president? What did you need to do to get into this position?
Last October (2018), the last board resigned and there were new elections. Many of the German colleagues approached me and asked me if I wanted to take over this post. I agreed and was voted 100% of the vote.
14. What are the requirements?
As president you should have a very good knowledge of inlingua, the many products and the internal structures. You should also be communicative and have leadership skills.
15. What do you do in this position? What are the added responsibilities of being in your position?
As President, I am responsible for managing the office of inlingua Germany in Hamburg (One employee). inlingua Deutschland (AiD) supports the local centers in marketing and coordinates nationwide marketing campaigns. I am also, together with my colleagues from the board, the contact person for potential clients who want to conclude a nationwide framework agreement.
16. What advice would you give to ambitious inlingua center licensees looking to join the ranks of being on a commission or on the board?
You should have a strong personality, be ready to share ideas and discuss them. But you also have to be patient, because not all problems can be solved immediately. A certain amount of frustration is also an advantage, because sometimes even good suggestions fail because of the veto of a few.
17. What advice would you give young people looking to become entrepreneurs, in general?
It is important to have already gained initial experience in business, to recognize economic connections and to be able to think entrepreneurially.
18. What is the key to balancing running a busy inlingua center at the same time as the other commitments of being a commission president or board member?
[laughs] As soon as I know that, I’ll gladly share it [laughs]”19. What is an example of one of the most challenging things you have had to deal with so far as a commission president or board member?
Every day it is a very big challenge to be there for the commission, the board, the own company and there the employees and of course for the own family. This is particularly critical in times when national meetings are being prepared or where the IC and IC / Board meeting are imminent.
20. What is by far the best thing about being a commission president or board member?
Helping to shape the future of inlingua.
21. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
It would be nice to have a peaceful and tolerant world.
22. What is your idea of a perfect evening? A perfect weekend?
Sitting on the beach with my wife and my dog, looking out to sea while holding a glass of good red wine in my hand.
23. How would you describe inlingua to someone?
When I describe inlingua to someone, I say that it is a special language school. A language school in which you can learn almost all languages and which, in addition to language teaching, attaches great importance to teaching cultural qualities. inlingua is also a big family that is sometimes quarreled, but all have the same goal.