So what is good about the Smith’s opportunity? Well, in my case, it allowed me to come back to Japan on my own terms and not at the whim of the company for which I was working. It allowed me to bring my wife back to be near her aging parents and my son who was living in Tokyo with his wife and new daughter.
When I was young, I also taught English in Japan. I taught at Berlitz in Osaka, Kobe and Fukuoka. As I was just out of college, it was fine as a first job but I wanted to do more, so I got a job with Mitsubishi Electric doing technical translation and I worked that into an engineering position and continued to teach English in the evenings to employees destined for assignments overseas and stayed with that job for five and half years. Being young and not having worked much in the US, I yearned to go back to the states and work as an engineer as I felt a little stifled in Japan. I was able to do that and ended up working as an engineer for 13 years and then as a manager for 13 years for three Japanese companies in the US. As a result of that experience, I never forgot Japanese and when I had gotten a little stressed out by my current job, the Smith’s opportunity presented itself. I discussed it with my wife and she agreed to support me during the startup phase and was happy to get the chance to go back to Japan.
We moved back in June 2006 and I grew the school from 15 students to 66 since then. It has not been easy but it has been fun and I am proud to be able to have hands-on control of a small business. Like any business, it requires a lot of attention and care. There are many stages I have gone through and many lessons I have learned, but through it all the Smith’s team has been very supportive. Basically, if you have the willpower to do what is needed, you can succeed with this business. You can go as far as you want to go. You can limit it to a size you can manage alone as a teacher/owner or you can add classrooms and teachers and grow it into a mega-school.
First you have to decide if you have the determination to start and run a business. Will you be able to follow the normal procedures and do what has been proven to work? If so then buying a Smith’s franchise is a good choice. The procedures, curriculum, headoffice staff and great Japanese web presence are well established and provide a much better foundation than going it totally alone.
Al Bartle (Smith’s School of English – Okamoto)
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