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Riverstone: a new approach to learning business English, networking and social media marketing

23 Jan

Integrating language activities in a company helps achieve success.

Traditionally, language learning has been seen as either a service (or duty) provided by companies to their employees, while communications activities such as translation and providing content for the company website have been seen as separate tasks that can either be done in-house by the marketing team or outsourced to an agency.

Riverstone Language & Communications takes a totally different approach.

A dynamic, new organisation for business English, Riverstone believes that all language-related activities in a company should be integrated and harmonised: the way employees answer the phone and write emails; the language used to present the company in sales meetings with customers; the tone and content on the company’s corporate website and social media presence; and even its advertising media – all of these should resonate with one clear voice that is easy to understand, inspires trust and promotes the core brand values of the business.

By raising the quality of the entire company’s language skills and ability to speak directly to customers and clients, Riverstone can help any organisation achieve its business objectives and assist in building strong, lasting relationships.

Riverstone are also active in helping companies and professionals in a wide range of sectors to put their English language skills into practice by attracting new business and extending their network of contacts. With a programme of regular business networking events and specialist language workshops, Riverstone can enable any company or freelancer to give themselves a competitive advantage in the market place – especially in key foreign markets where communicating in English is essential.

Changing the way companies use English

While many companies have embraced the benefits offered by social media, Riverstone also understands that businesses need to be able to tailor and target their message effectively on a variety of social media platforms, such as facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services. They have developed sophisticated language-based training programmes that help companies focus on the key objectives of communicating effectively via social media: establishing trust; conveying a sense of professionalism and integrity; engaging customers with a clear, compelling message; and building communities based on brands, as well as B2B networks.

Riverstone is owned and managed by Milan Business English Network founder Robert Dennis and entrepreneur Helen Fish. Together they are redefining the role of business English training and communications inside a company. Their model is one of collaboration and discovery: allowing management, employees and customers to speak to each other in a shared, inclusive dialogue that is both natural and productive.

“I would like people in business to think of Riverstone as a single solution for all their language needs: training, internal and external communications, and a stepping-stone towards accessing new markets and customers,” says Helen.

If you would like to discover how Riverstone is shaking up the business English world – and how they can help you business to maximise its potential through an integrated approach to language and communications – please contact either Robert Dennis (Robert@riverlang.com) or Helen Fish (Helen@riverlang.com). They will be delighted to provide you with information about their training programmes, workshops and business networking events.

NEW! The Milan Business English Network in association with Riverstone Language & Communications is holding a business networking event at Fiori Oscuri bar in Milan this Thursday. To find out more about this event, please visit the Milan Business English Network facebook event page or see the Riverstone website for details.

Find out more: http://riverlang.com/

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From Cape Town to the Cotswolds: how EduVacation mixes a unique English learning experience with the holiday of a lifetime

15 Jul

Learn English in the Cotswolds, the UK's largest "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty"

NetworkMilan is always happy to talk to people who have started their own business – especially entrepreneurs that are finding innovative and unusual ways to teach English (such as Lorna Allen of Live and Learn Homestays Ltd, who we interviewed last year). Today, we feature another homestay provider: EduVacation a small, privately-owned English language company that offers full immersion courses in the Cotswolds region of England.  (They also arrange English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa.) The company was founded and is managed by Dean and Sue Erasmus, a married couple who are both qualified English-speaking school teachers with extensive teaching experience. (Both Dean and Sue love cooking and students can look forward to a barbecue – depending on the often-unpredictable British weather, of course!)

In this interview with NetworkMilan they describe the services they offer and explain why EduVacation is very different from studying at a typical language school. They also talk about their experience of welcoming Italian learners to the Cotswolds and discuss the unique benefits of being immersed in an English-speaking environment when you are learning the language.

Dean and Sue also agree to share their experiences and insights of running a business. They talk about what motivates them and describe some of the challenges they face as entrepreneurs. And they have some useful advice for anyone considering starting up a company.

Finally, Dean reveals that he once took part in a reality television programme on national TV in South Africa! Using his business skills, ingenuity and charisma, he had to compete for the top cash prize with a group of very determined contestants. Find out what happened in the end…

NM: Dean and Sue, welcome to NetworkMilan. Can you tell us about EduVacation?

Dean and Sue Erasmus

Dean and Sue Erasmus: We started EduVacation to provide learners of English as a foreign language with an experience where they can fully immerse themselves in the English language and enjoy a memorable holiday in the beautiful Cotswolds of England. If you don’t know it already, the Cotswolds region is situated in the southwest of England and is the country’s largest officially designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. A major tourist attraction, visited by thousands of tourists every year, the location is easily accessible by rail, road and air.

Most speakers of English as a foreign language have the basic skills to read, write and speak but lack the confidence to do so freely. Learners of English as a foreign language are often under pressure to learn English for various reasons and the process can become a negative experience. EduVacation uses a holiday format to provide a relaxed and friendly environment with lessons and activities designed to encourage our guests to feel at ease when practising their English language skills. Our courses are designed and presented to improve our guests’ fluency and confidence in the English language.

What services do you offer?

As an owner managed business, we are very flexible with regards to our courses and can tailor make a course/holiday to suit the requirements of corporate and private clients. We welcome prospective clients to contact us to discuss their specific needs.

We do, however, offer standard courses. These courses are designed according to the relevant English proficiency levels of each participant and group. They include:

Standard weekly English learning holiday in England:

• 6 nights with accommodation in Cotswolds holiday cottages including 3 meals a day

• Up to 40 hours of English lessons, related activities and daily cultural outings to popular Cotswolds tourist sights

• All coursework and the services of two qualified teachers

English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa:

• All-inclusive, guided tours combining a 7 day holiday with a tailor-made immersive English programme

• All meals, accommodation, daily sightseeing tours, English lessons and activities, all entrance fees, transport, services of a knowledgeable guide and English teacher

Extra services can be offered or incorporated into our courses including:

•  Corporate training

• Introduction to working and living in the UK

• Team-building

• Business English and skills

• Student summer courses

• Weekend conversational courses

All our services are explained in more detail, by the way, on our website (www.eduvacation.co.uk) including examples of the themes and activities for our standard courses.

Family life and comfortable accommodation will help you to learn English in a relaxed environment

What makes EduVacation different from conventional language schools?

When we established EduVacation, our aim was to provide a service and concept that differed from the majority of those on offer in the UK. Let me explain the main differences that I believe set us apart from the majority of schools and services on offer:

Firstly, we offer fully immersive and all-inclusive English learning holidays:

  • We understand that it is very difficult for people to find the time to attend language courses in a different country so we decided to combine our courses with an all-inclusive holiday so that our clients get value for their money. The courses are suitable for groups of friends, family, colleagues or students.
  • We want our participants to hear, speak, read and write as much English as possible during their EduVacation course/holiday. We therefore instruct, teach, discuss and chat in English and encourage our participants to do the same. We want them to enjoy their experience and have a positive attitude towards learning and practising their English skills.
  • Our guests are accommodated in beautiful holiday cottages that we rent according to each group’s requirements. This means that, although the group is fully immersed in the English language and culture, they still have their own time and privacy in the evenings after the final meal or activity.

Personal attention and a professional approach

Secondly, we own the business: we are hands on managers and we present the courses ourselves:

  • Our guests and participants get our personal attention during their whole experience
  • We know exactly what service and level of professionalism our guests are experiencing as we provide it ourselves.
  • It is in our personal interest to provide a memorable experience for our clients
  • We can be flexible with regards to our clients’ requirements and needs
Finally, from our personal experience we understand fully what our clients as foreign language learners are experiencing
  • Sue and I both have a TEFL qualification. We are also both qualified school teachers with second language training experience.
  • I speak 3 languages including Italian and understand the challenges involved in acquiring a new language.
  • Both our sons are studying a variety of European languages and we understand exactly what they are experiencing.
  • We are well travelled as a family and have encountered many different cultures.
  • I have spent 15 years in corporate management and therefore I have a wealth of experience in training and business.

Why would someone who reads NetworkMilan be interested in booking a course with you?

With EduVacation you will be on "on the road to success"

Dean: I spent many years working in a corporate environment and travelling globally for business. I was constantly reminded by colleagues and clients of the need and importance of learning English as a foreign language.

EduVacation aims to provide an environment where our clients are encouraged to be confident and feel at ease when practising and improving their English language skills with teachers that understand the challenges that this involves.

EduVacation provides courses that a group of colleagues could attend or a family that want to improve their skills together. Our courses are suitable for a group of friends, a couple or a group of students. I also speak Italian and believe this would be helpful when dealing with Italian clients with basic proficiency levels and in general.

What experience do you have in dealing with Italian clients?

The Cotswolds will delight and charm Italian visitors

Dean: My love affair with Italy started almost 30 years ago when I spent a scholastic year in Italy as an AFS Intercultural Programs exchange student. The organisation is known as Intercultura in Italy. I lived as part of an Italian family in Ostia Lido outside of Rome and attended a year of Liceo Scientifico. I was completely immersed in the Italian culture and language for 10 months. We are still in constant touch with my Italian family and I had the opportunity 8 years ago of introducing my wife and sons to all the family on a holiday to Italy. Since then we have had numerous holidays to Italy and my love for the country, its people and culture is shared equally by my family.

The year I started my studies to become a teacher, I started working as a freelance tour guide in South Africa, registered with the South African Tourist Board and for the next 10 years on weekends and during school holidays, I escorted numerous groups of Italian tourists on guided tours of South Africa. I met many fantastic people and as the tours were exclusive, got to know and make friends with a variety of Italian visitors to South Africa, including Italian members of parliament, businessmen, honeymooners and families.

Cape Town and the stunning Table Mountain: a suitably dramatic backdrop to an incredible English course and a truly memorable holiday in South Africa

As a business, what opportunities and challenges do you face? (especially in the current economic climate?)

Our biggest challenge as a new business is marketing and presenting our company, services and concept to potential clients. This can become very expensive with no guarantee of ROI (Return on Investment).

Our concept is also quite different to the majority of English learning methods used in the UK, e.g. formal English schools and lessons, and it takes time for people to understand what we offer and how it is beneficial to their English learning journey.

The current economic climate is also a stumbling block to a business model such as ours as people and companies still understand the importance of learning English as a foreign language but are looking at ways to cut their costs. However, one of the reasons we structured our courses as they are, is so that people wanting a fully immersive experience can get value for their money by not only having a full day of lessons and activities but also an all-inclusive holiday as well at very competitive rates.

New direction? EduVacation's strategy is to make your English learning journey as effective as possible

What motivates you as entrepreneurs? Why did you choose the language education sector?

Dean: Anybody that is making money from a consumer whether it be private or corporate, should be striving to offer the best service, product and experience if they hope to be or continue to be a success.

Working for yourself enables you to be fully responsible for the success or failure of your business. Your personal effort will relate to your personal gain. I have always wanted to start my own business and particularly with my wife as we have different strengths and talents that we believe complement each other.

Making you feel at home: relax after an intensive day of studying and visiting places of interest

Being self-employed, especially, and establishing a business and concept from scratch, takes a lot of courage and faith. I have always given 100% to the roles I have previously held and felt that if I did the same for my own business, I would make a success of it. It also eventually gives you the opportunity of finding a good work/life balance.

I have been fortunate as I have worked as a teacher and also in the private sector in sales and marketing management. EduVacation gives me the opportunity to use my skills and experience in both fields for my own company. Working internationally and for multi-national companies and clients, I continually saw the necessity of learning English amongst my colleagues and clients and the idea for EduVacation was born from this experience.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and startups?

Dean: Many people say that you should not give up your job to start your own business but do it as a sideline until you are established. This is good advice but not always practical. I tried but realised that if I wanted to make a success of EduVacation, I had to give it 100% of my time and effort.

My advice to entrepreneurs would be the following:

  • Research your sector well, both locally and internationally.
  • Try not to jeopardise your family and their well being by taking a huge risk with your assets – we are still experiencing a very unstable economic climate.
  • Take a calculated risk.
  • Believe completely in your business and concept.
  • Put in 100% effort into making it a success.
  • Don’t be proud – use contacts.
  • There are so many cost effective ways of building your business from website building to social networking sites.
  • Use all the negative experiences in your working life as learning opportunities for your own business.
  • Use any available time that you now have to pursue other opportunities that you have never had time for e.g. designing a product, writing a book or course, consulting, charity work, etc.

Dean and Sue are 100% focused on providing students with the best learning and holiday experience

We always like to find out if there’s anything unique or surprising about our guests on NetworkMilan. Anything you would like to share with our readers?

Dean: 9 years ago, I was working as the International Sales and Marketing Manager for a company in Cape Town. I applied as a contestant on a reality television programme on South African national TV. The programme, the Sanlam Money Game, was to promote entrepreneurship and was sponsored by one of South Africa’s leading financial services groups. [Editor’s note: The global Sanlam group includes Sanlam UK, a wealth management fund.]

The competitors were subjected to a comprehensive and rigorous selection process and assessed on everything from confidence, intellect, enthusiasm, ambition and the ability to express themselves. The focus was on outstanding entrepreneurship and thinking as far outside the box as possible.

Contestants were given an amount of money, dropped off somewhere in the country they were unfamiliar with, given three days to survive and make as much money as possible with their starting capital with a cameraman and monitor following them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Each week 3 contestants competed against each other – with the winner taking all. There were very strict rules including not dealing with any known contacts and certain trading challenges included.

I won my week and was in the top 3 money makers when the season ended resulting in a grand finale with the top three money makers competing against each other with double the starting capital and various extra challenges and rules. I ended up winning the final and being named the SMG Entrepreneur of the Year on national television and the prize being allowed to keep the profits made during trading. I believe that my success was due to excellent preparation, hard work, persistence, treating people with respect and keeping a sense of humour which are all traits I can carry over to EduVacation.

My only regret was that it was not in the UK or elsewhere as the hype at the time would have been a lot more lucrative I am sure!

Dean Erasmus: Reality TV show contestant and winner of the "Sanlam Money Game"

NetworkMilan: Dean and Sue, we really appreciate you taking the time to tell us all about EduVacation and your experiences as language entreprenuers (and TV star, Dean!). Thank you. We would like to wish you all the best and hope that you enjoy continued success with EduVacation.

Interview by Robert Dennis

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

If you would like to discover more about the benefits of a full-immersion English language course – as well as a Cotswolds (or Cape Town) holiday you’ll always remember – then visit the EduVacation website: http://www.eduvacation.co.uk/

You can also contact Dean and Sue Erasmus at EduVacation by phone, email or skype:

Tel: +44 (0) 1451 822 307

Mobile: +44 (0) 7810 442 470

Email: info@eduvacation.co.uk

Skype: suedean.erasmus

EduVacation: Talk it, experience it, live it!

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