Staying on top
With the northern hemisphere's summer now upon us, many language schools in the business will be operating at peak performance, with classrooms and host families used to maximum capacity over the next two months. This time of year is when all the hard work during the course of the year pays off, in terms of product development. Business is never constant unless continued efforts are made at maintaining levels of quality and appealing to current market trends.
While it is true to say that agencies usually remain loyal to their school partners, they also have to respond to their clients'; demands. So if a type of course, accommodation or particular destination is in vogue, agencies might be forced to look around if their existing partners can';t provide what their clients are looking for. One school in New York testifies that they have been contacted by agents whose clients want to study at the school, thereby increasing their agency network (page 27).
Schools in Australia attest to the rising popularity of sports-based language courses. As the basic language level improves in many student source countries, school clients are perhaps keener to use English to engage in sporting activities or receive sporting tuition as well as undertaking language lessons (page 29). Schools that evolve their products to accommodate such demands capitalise on this trend.
As well as keeping an eye on client demand, there are other ways that language schools can stay on top. One area that is being focused on by New Zealand and Australia is off-shore delivery of products. Both countries have set initiatives in place to further possibilities for off-shore exports (page 6). In New Zealand, ventures that are receiving funding include a project to deliver a virtual New Zealand education experience via the web for students at international schools across Asia.
Another way of maximising business potential for both language schools and agencies is to consider expanding into the opposite sector and becoming a "crossover" business (pages 20-23). There are significant benefits of operating an agency and school; these companies certainly stay in tune with changing client needs and have less of a peak season to deal with, not to mention a good bargaining position. But such a venture is not for the lighthearted - requiring serious time, commitment and money - although businesses can purchase the experience of others via franchise opportunities or the possibility of working as a sub-agent for a larger operator.