Read my update! The shocking truth. Why I returned to JET.
My name is Alessandro “Alex” Stanciu, 32 years old, and I am the current proud owner of 2 Smith’s School of English franchises here in Osaka, Japan.
I joined Smith’s School of English in the summer of 2004 and opened my first school in Horie which is in western Osaka City.
In April of 2006, after getting the Horie School sufficiently established I decided to venture out into the area of multiple school ownership by purchasing a second existing school in Kamishinjo.
I am currently aiming towards the opening of a third school sometime within the next year, and I believe that with my entrepreneurial determination and Mark Smith’s guidance as well as the unmatched support and energy of our head office and its staff this will happen, and the prospects are very exciting.
This is my current position within the Smith’s School of English system, and now I’d like to provide some background on myself and on how I arrived here, both in Japan and at Smith’s School of English.
I was born in Romania to a Romanian father and an Italian mother during the Communist Era. Due entirely to my parent’s courage and determination to provide our family with a better life we escaped Romania and eventually made it to the United States. Without my parents courage, love and determination most of what I have accomplished thus far in life would not have been even remotely possible. The chances I have been provided in life I owe entirely to them.
There is no one else in this world whose determination and hard work I admire more than my father’s.
He demonstrated to me what it takes of an individual, no matter how humble their beginnings, to achieve the higher goals in life. I learned to set my mind, chart the route and follow through, no matter what obstacles may come across my path.
It is his relentless determination and energy which has often motivated me to achieve success in my own little realm. He has always taught me to set the bar high and upon achieving it, set it higher.
Never settle for mediocrity in anything in life.
JET Program 2000-2002
It was in my last semester of University when the idea of coming to teach English in Japan was first presented to me. I studied International Law and Political Science and upon graduating I, like many college graduates, thought it would be interesting to travel and work in another part of the world for a year or so before embarking on more “serious” things in life, like a career.
I was fortunate to have been exposed to several languages during my childhood so I initially looked for opportunities in Europe. I have conversational ability in Romanian, Italian and Spanish so it seemed like a perfect fit.
I still remember when the dean of my department asked me how I felt about going to Japan and teaching English. I was left speechless! Did I not just tell him about the several languages I could speak, and how I could easily find work teaching English in a country that I at least could communicate in? Japan? Why?
It was then that he introduced me to the JET Program, which many people are familiar with, but to me was completely new. I had never heard of it; apparently our university had one graduate join this program and I did not go to such a small university.
I researched the details online, found that the salary was about the best around for this type of work and was also intrigued by the idea of going somewhere completely new to me, where everything I experienced would be new from the moment I stepped off that plane at Narita Airport.
I was assigned to a small junior high school as an ALT in Tottori Prefecture (very rural Tottori Prefecture). My first year flew by and I quickly renewed my contract. My second year flew by even faster, and though I struggled with the decision, due to opportunities back home in Chicago, I decided not to renew my contract for a third year but to return home.
I spent 2000 to 2002 on the JET Program in Tottori Prefecture and had an absolutely unforgettable time!
On a side not, should you ever have the opportunity to visit this absolutely amazing area of Japan, by all means go! The beaches, the mountains, the people, the sunsets…. I could go on forever.
And more specifically, my old town in Tottori Prefecture! (It’s recently been renamed to Yurihama Cho due to a merger with 2 neighboring towns; it was previously known as Togo Town)
I still stay in touch with former students and teachers, and visit the area four or five times a year. Check out some of my pics! If I could just open a school up there someday…but then again, the beaches are so tempting I may never work!
Special note to current JET Program participants:
I debated whether to include this here but in the end I felt it was necessary.
Have you enjoyed your stay in Japan on JET? Have you made a lot of friends in Japan? Do you like your area? Have you considered staying longer in Japan but are just not sure how? Maybe you are not interested in working at the BIG Eikaiwa schools…
I was in this exact position in 2002 at the end of my JET Program contract. Unfortunately, I did not know of Smith’s School of English at the time and reluctantly said goodbye to my friends in Japan.
Had I known of Smith’s School of English in 2002, you can bet that there would now be a Smith’s School of English in Tottori Prefecture!
If you like living in Japan, have made many friends, why not stay put in your local community, open up a Smith’s School of English and continue to enjoy those friendships you have invested so much time in to create and continue to grow as an individual and provide a service for your local community.
Look around you.
Would your current Japanese friends recommend your school?
Might some of them even join your school?
That is your start.
By having already lived in your local community before opening a Smith’s School of English you have an advantage that many of us did not have.
You have an advantage that is of utmost importance in Japan.
It takes time to build it in Japan but once it’s established, it opens up so many more opportunities for you.
You already have that trust; keep the momentum going.
There’s even a special program now for JET’s; I wish it was there in 2002.
After the JET Program
I returned to Chicago in July 2002 and passed the test to become a licensed real estate agent, hoping to benefit from the “real estate boom” the country was enjoying at that time. I benefited somewhat, but more from the education rather than the financial benefits.
In hindsight, I made some mistakes, was a bit too zealous and things did not work out exactly as I had planned. Nonetheless, several months after spinning my wheels (literally), bills had to be paid, so I took a job as a sales rep with a very respected electrical contracting firm in Chicago.
Great place! Great guys! The best!
However, during this entire time while back in Chicago I continued to keep in touch with my former students, teachers and friends who were back in Japan.
Can you believe that one day I received a packet from my old junior high school in which was enclosed a hand-written letter from each one of my students back at my old junior high school?! The teachers did it as an in-class assignment then sent them over to me in the states!
I read each one and I still have them all. I was so moved by that gesture!
What a wonderful group of people!
They welcomed me into their community when I understood nothing of their language and culture, made me feel so at home while sharing their life and then continued to share their love from thousands of miles away after I had left.
It was their care which made such a lasting impression on me, and it was the constant wonderful memories of my time in Japan with started me thinking about returning to Japan. But how? What would I do?
Once you leave the JET Program you cannot re-apply for 10 years.
Enter: Smith’s School of English
I researched the job opportunities in Japan and I always came up with the obvious ever-present BIG English school employers. I have never worked at any of the BIG English schools but from researching the details about the working environment, I knew that I personally would never survive there; I would be fired within months!
I know my personality and I know I like to lead; I would never be happy in a JOB at a BIG school that showed no promise of awarding efforts to the level that I was looking for.
I continued to sit in front of my computer and put fingers to keyboard constantly digging deeper into opportunities in Japan, and I still remember the night I came across the Smith’s School of English website. From the first glance it was a breath of fresh air!
It was a breath of positive fresh air amongst the mostly stagnant air that surrounds this industry in Japan. Here I read about a group of people teaching English in Japan who were happy! Actually happy with their situation in Japan, and they were making good money! These folks were entrepreneurial like me and I realized from their website that though they were not yet that big, they were definitely going somewhere far if they honestly followed the philosophies they were preaching on their site.
Monthly tuition system, organized curriculum, energetic staff, dynamic leader, and above all else a genuine heart-felt care for their students. These are the components to success in this industry. I recognized it then and I believe it even more now that I am part of this organization.
I put in an inquiry via the website that very evening. I was excited! I was surprised at the promptness and professionalism of the reply and became even more intrigued. So intrigued actually that I booked a plane ticket for a couple of weeks later to come and see it for myself. Mark Smith has always been very professional, very informative and arranged for my visit to Kyobashi head office.
I arrived at Smith’s School of English headquarters in February 2004 and got straight down to business. I came prepared with a litany of questions for Mark.
I am not an easy sell guys. I did my homework.
I looked at the numbers, did some calculations, realistic calculations, and then asked Mark to take me around to see some schools. He took me around to various schools which allowed me to get a taste of what types of operations were possible. I saw one-room schools where one could start off and live there at the same time, thereby reducing his overhead during the crucial startup period, as is necessary in any business, I also saw larger well-established operations.
Again, I asked questions; lots of questions.
I asked many questions then and I continue to ask them now. Mark Smith has always been very patient and informative, and is an absolute wealth of information in all things Japan related to foreigners.
Armed with my new information and a promise to Mark that I would make a decision by a certain date, I returned to Chicago.
Back on the computer; more questions…
I crunched some more numbers, put them into the equation and then threw in some of those old fond memories of Japan and I liked what I saw after the “equal” sign at the end of the equation.
I sent my deposit and asked for about 4 months to get my personal life in order in Chicago and prepare for my move back to Japan.
Back to Japan: Summer 2004
During those four months I continued to stay in touch with Mark and the head office, and I arrived back in Osaka at the end of July 2004. Completing the purchase of the franchise was simple, finding a suitable location took two days, Mark has excellent contacts in the real estate industry, then on to the training at head office. The training they provided was more than enough to get a franchisee up and running. Of course, many of the items covered are only theoretical at the time; you really learn them once you get going. As in any business.
I had opened Smith’s School of English – Horie School within only one month of having arrived.
Very quick, very efficient.
Both extremely necessary when you are burning capital and need to start seeing some sales.
Multiple School Ownership: Smith’s School of English – Kamishinjo School
After building Smith’s School of English – Horie School for about a year and a half I decided to continue on with my goal, that of being a multiple school owner. Back to head office I went to poke my nose around and lo and behold I learned that an established school might be coming on to the market soon as the owner was looking to retire due to some health issues. The school I am referring to is Smith’s School of English – Kamishinjo School in Northern Osaka, and the former owner was Alan Landgren.
Great guy! He did a tremendous job in facilitating the transitioning over of the school and made it a point to let the students know they would be safe with the new owner.
I am truly grateful for his efforts.
Incidentally, from the time I became aware of this opportunity to the time I received keys in hand took less than 3 weeks! That is what I like, that is how I operate.
Do not waste time. Seize the opportunity when you find it.
Throughout this purchase, as well as my first school, I had Mark Smith providing guidance all along the way. I sincerely do not believe that the second school’s sale would have happened so swiftly had it not been for his guidance. He helped facilitate the transaction from start to finish, ensuring a win-win situation for all parties involved.
Was there a cost involved for his “facilitation”? Is time money? Of course there was!
This is a business guys.
Did I deem the cost fair? Yes, and that’s why I went ahead with the purchase and I am very happy I did.
I grabbed that school and immediately started passing out flyers. Yes, the infamous flyers we have all heard about. But not just flyers. Flyers backed by the power of the head office and the stellar staff who work hard on our behalf to get those students to a trial lesson, then work hard to answer all their questions, then work hard to get them to sign up.
Results started coming in.
Super results? Depends on your interpretation. Manageable steady results? Yes.
With a steady flyer campaign, sales have nearly quadrupled within a year.
Those are results I like.
I’ve already stated my goals. I am looking to expand my business within Smith’s School of English. I am looking to add a third school to my portfolio and I know Mark Smith believes in my ability to do it and I know he is personally watching over my businesses. He has never been more than a quick email or phone call away.
I envy his management skills. He has the ability to steer this large ship yet can provide personal guidance to each franchisee.
Once I have built up a sufficient income stream, I would like to venture into real estate investments in Japan.
One step at a time; I am looking for long-term lasting results here, not just a flash in the pan.
Is there a demand for our services? You better believe there is!
If you are even remotely aware of the current business events in Japan you know that demand for English learning will only increase from now, and we are uniquely positioned to benefit tremendouslyfrom this.
Our system of monthly tuition coupled with care and well organized lessons is what Japanese learners of English are looking for! I know this because I have met loads of students who have “studied” at the BIG schools only to be disappointed and paid dearly for it. We are a breath of fresh air for them; you can see it on their faces every time and it makes you feel good as a Smith’s School of English owner.
I am proud to be a member of Smith’s School of English.
This is my story thus far and I am available to answer any questions.
I have always felt that we provide an invaluable service to our students and our local communities in Japan. Value for value relationships.
The only truly sustainable type I know.
Read my update! The shocking truth. Why I returned to JET.
Alessandro “Alex” Stanciu
Smith’s School of English Fuse
http://www.smithweb.co.jp/school/fuse.shtml 東大阪市 英会話