Like it or hate, the English language is key to communicating/ trading in the International market. Good communications skills translate to sales, poor communication skills cause confusion and hesitancy that can result in lost sales.
Last Summer Cristina Fernandez designer and founder of Spanish based slow fashion label Little Creative Factory decided to invite Clare Posnack of English At Your Desk over to Barcelona for a four week stint in house. Clare’s task was to help improve the business English skills of the Little Creative Factory team. In recent years Little Creative Factory has undergone huge expansion, and is now stocked in over 30 countries. Because of her increased International client base Cristina felt it was important to invest in improving her team’s English skills. So what did English at Your Desk do for Little Creative Factory? Lets find out more.
Cristina Fernandez, Little Creative factory
K: Hi Cristina, how many people do you now have working in Little Creative Factory?
C: We currently have more or less ten people working in the team.
K: What made you realise the Little Creative Factory’s team needed to improve their English skills?
C: Little Creative Factory has had great growth in in recent years. In fact it’s been growing primarily Internationally. We sell in over 30 countries worldwide, our online store and many multi brand stores. 90% of our sales are abroad so as a result communicating in English has become essential and a really important issue.
Although our label is Spanish we have everything in English, our website, our emails, internet and all social media. As a company we decided to use an international language English. The heart of Little Creative Factory is in Barcelona, we design and produce in Spain, however we are a truly international company selling worldwide. This is why I spoke with Claire, who is a good friend of mine beside our buisness relationship. I invited her to join the Little Creative Factory team in Barcelona for one month to help both myself and my team improve our Buisness English.
In different areas of the company the English is different. I wanted to focus on improving the spoken English of all the individuals in the company whatever their role. They all have different levels (of English) which is something I wanted to work on at Little Creative Factory.
K: How did this come about?
C: With Little Creative Factory, I dream and I follow my dreams. With Claire, she came in to help we had a really amazing experience and afterwards Clare decided she can do this for others. English at your desk was born.
K: So in your view business English is very different and can help improve all aspects of the company by achieving a certain level ?
C: Clare is such a professional woman with a wonderful knowledge of so many subjects and experiences. She’s an experienced woman as a business woman so for me it was not only teaching me English she was coaching me in business as well. Clare has an amazing background in business and has a huge understanding of what clients require.
K: Would Claire be in store training the employees, what was the process?
C: When she arrived she organised different groups because not everybody had the same level of English and not everybody has the same objective. People from sales had different lessons to people from marketing and communication. For example because in the store she would come in both in the morning and then in the afternoon. Two groups at two different levels, she would act as a customer, roleplay. Say if an individual doesn’t have a lot of time, how would you communicate to be nice and sensitive, to make them welcome in the store. Or how the team communicates the brand because Little is not a company that sells clothes in different colours and sizes it’s a company that sells experiences, there is a world behind the Little Creative Factory vision and you need a very good English to get that across to a person who’s coming in the store for just three or five minutes. Claire each week sent us individually what we had been working on together. It was really an assessments, something to train and study to, something we now have to include in our normal English.
English At Your Desk: Clare Posnack & Bernice Levy
Hi Clare & Bernice, can you describe this new business? We are on-the-job business English conversation trainers. We literally come to your desk to help you with the English you actually need when doing business with English-speaking clients. Whether it is the English needed on the phone, in an email, or in a retail situation, we are there to help and explain what needs to be said.
How did this come about? In my consulting business, Global Beginnings, I work with international companies that want to do business in the U.S. In dealing with these companies, I found that many needed help not only with business advice, but very basic English conversation so they would be comfortable speaking with buyers. They needed the vocabulary to be able to describe a new collection or the details that make a garment unique. They needed phrases they could use with buyers when explaining the feeling the designer was trying to express. They all spoke some level of English but needed confidence so they would be more at ease.
What do you see as the common mistakes companies are making? We have found that if companies do not give their employees the tools they need, opportunities are missed.
Is how you say as important as what you say? Absolutely! People can tell when you are at ease with a language. It gives you confidence and your clients will be more apt to want to do business with you. It’s a matter of being “real”.
What services do English At Your Desk provide to address communication mistakes? We initially work in two-week modules and establish a foundation with each client so grammar patterns can be explained and corrected and useful expressions can be introduced. We work with emails, role playing situations and situations that require repetition of new phrases until it becomes second nature. Learning a language is a process. We build upon progress made each session.
Google translate? We feel that Google translate is fine for translating a word here and there or when traveling. I use it myself. When it is used to translate an entire letter, it is easily identifiable and sometimes just wrong. When I receive a letter that has been translated by either Google translate or some other app, I am less likely to go ahead with the transaction.
Who is a typical English At Your Desk customer? Any company that works with English-speaking clients needs to have all employees at a confident speaking level. When a phone rings, it needs to be answered. When at a trade show, everyone needs to be able to work with buyers coming into the booth. English is the language of business worldwide.