Great Business Ideas: Offer Classes in English as a Second Language

Great Ideas for your Small Business:

Offer Classes in English as a Second Language

It’s no surprise to me that two of the nation’s most successful entrepreneurs offer free, onsite English as a second language (ESL) classes to employees.

David Giuliani, president of the Optiva Corp., and the Small Business Administration’s 1997 Small Business Person of the Year, faced a major challenge at his fast-growing toothbrush company. Employees at the Bellevue, Washington, firm speak fifteen different languages, so Optiva, which makes Sonicare toothbrushes, decided to host free lunchtime English classes. “Taking good care of employees is required for good business,” said Giuliani.

Through the years, scores of employees have taken advantage of the free classes. Their improved English skills lead to improved productivity and better communication through- out the company.

Marsha Serlin, president of United Scrap in Chicago, also provides onsite ESL classes to the mostly Spanish-speaking workers at her recycling business. Serlin said she benefits from a skilled, English-speaking workforce. “Many of my workers, who started here with nothing a few years ago, are now able to buy their own homes,” she said.

If you think your multilingual workforce would benefit from ESL classes, call your local community college or continuing education program to find out how much it will cost. Teaching English to employees is a great way to invest in your company’s future.

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