The testimony of Irish entrepreneur Andrew Basquille during the Sophia University Institute's Business Strategy course aroused the keen interest of students.
by Giampietro Parolin
In accordance with the established tradition, every year the "Business Strategy" course at the Sophia University Institute hosts an entrepreneur who tells their own business story. This year, with the transition of the course to the English language, the opportunity to have international guests was opened and so Andrew Basquille from Ireland was invited. He has been working with an established and successful English language school “Language & Leisure” for thirty years in Dublin.
Since 1989, the year the company was founded, the world has been going through continuous and turbulent changes. cambiamenti. And so the way of doing business has had to evolve, too, passing through some inevitable crises. From the fall of the Berlin Wall, through the emigration from Eastern Europe to Ireland, to Brexit, every event has had an impact on the company, creating opportunities and threats.
This and the value of competition and entrepreneurial vocation were the central themes of Andrew's presentation in dialogue with students. "Language & Leisure" was created in the living room of the Basquille family by a group of teacher friends. Initially, the activity focused on summer English language courses for teenagers hosted in families and then expanded into offering courses for adults.
Over time, the founding members have tried to develop an online training platform that has unfortunately proved to be a bad investment. This crucial point has put a strain on the sustainability of the company and has forced the members to do some deep strategic reflection. In addition to an entrepreneurial partnership, there was also a friendship: between Andrew and Eugene who play together in a band called "Factor One". How to Save Business and Friendship?
A profoundly honest comparison has allowed for the emergence of different ways of doing business operating with different business models and serving only partially common market segments: one that is more focused on the original market of adolescents in summer courses, the other with a spectrum that also extends to adults and Irish students leaving for study abroad experiences (the two company websites show this very clearly).
This way the paths of the founding members parted, bringing out their respective core competences and leaving open spaces or collaboration between the two companies. It is this idea of collaborative competition between “Language & Leisure” and “Language Learning International” that has intrigued the students in the audience, also in terms of implementing the Economy of Communion to which the two companies adhere.
Andrew stressed the value of competition as the forge of an enterprise. "Competition triggers improvement and can only be beneficial for having a healthy business. Of course you have to be resilient and able to respond to the challenges and changes in the market.”
Finally, there was a discussion of the entrepreneurial vocation, evoked by a student's question. It is a path of discovery. "After the moment of crisis and the realisation that we would not be able to operate with an online training platform, we asked ourselves: who are we? What can we do that the market recognises? And in the end I realised that my being a teacher was the basis of my entrepreneurial vocation, but I only understood it over time.”
Andrew jokes about the fact that he and his wife initially chose to be teachers to enjoy the long summer holidays; having then started to do summer classes, things went differently and an enterprise was born, or rather two, that they will be able to pass on to a second generation.