Getting ahead of your competitors in 2015 often means speaking more than one language. After all, thanks to the globalisation of business, our clients are often based far and wide. And if you can’t communicate with them in their language, not only might you lose out on their business, but they may just take their business with them to one of your rivals.
Being multilingual immediately says to clients that you are an effective communicator. It will widen your market, and allow you to interact with numerous clients in various geographic locations that would otherwise be closed off to you. This means more revenue, more exposure, and more success. It also means bilingual job opportunities, and it means you’ll be following the example of multilingual companies, such as Facebook and YouTube, who embraced new languages and really took off.
So let’s take a look at 10 successful business founders who took the plunge and decided to learn new languages in order to open themselves and their business to the world.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
As well as being rather adept at English, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg can also speak Mandarin. Mandarin is the most popular of all the Chinese languages, and is actually the most widely spoken language in the world today, with 1.1 billion native speakers. Zuckerberg has a remarkable grasp of Mandarin, and he isn’t afraid to show it. Recently, he conducted a Q&A at Tsinghua University entirely in Mandarin. Speculation has grown that the reason Zuckerberg took up Mandarin was in anticipation of the day Facebook is finally allowed in China.
Steve Jobs, Apple
Steve Jobs was a maverick entrepreneur who co-founded the innovative and mega successful Apple. It was his view that great products are created out of months – even years -of thought, refinement and deliberation.One of the business worlds truly great thinkers and visionaries, Jobs spoke fluent Armenian alongside his native English.
Billy Bauer, Royce Leather
Marketing Director of Royce Leather, Billy Bauer, is also another entrepreneur who took up Mandarin. Bauer credits his success in China to the fact that he took the time to learn the language, and says that he would have floundered had he spoken only English. Moreover, Bauer’s ability to speak Mandarin allowed him to gain the trust of Chinese executives and to carry out day to day business dealings in the country. Bauer knows the power of speaking more than one language in creating bilingual job opportunities.
Mike Whaites, MJW Embroidery
British entrepreneur Mike Whaites has a multilingual resume and is able to speak Swedish as well as his native English. Whaites says that learning Swedish has given him the chance to make sense of Swedish bureaucracy, as well as their tax procedures. He is now also able to write business plans in Swedish, as well as send emails to his Swedish clients. Even better, learning the language took just 4 months!
Madeline Johnson, Market Council
Madeline Johnson also has an impressive multilingual resume, as the CEO of Market Council can speak Spanish, Italian and Portuguese alongside her native English. Johnson says that learning a new language if you’re a CEO is possible despite the limitations on your time. Each day she listens to Portuguese Pod 101, from which she daily picks up new words and phrases. She says the trick is to practice a little bit each day and not to worry about making mistakes. Johnson also picks out new phrases and words during client conference calls, and says the biggest benefit of being multilingual is that you can harness your relationship better with multilingual companies.
Tiffany Richards, Peaceful Warrior Martial Arts and Healing Center
Founder and owner of Peaceful Warrior Martial Arts and Healing Centre, Tiffany Richards, might have an unusual multilingual resume but she says that sign language should not be dismissed as a language in it own right. Richards claims that learning sign language has optimised her business and expanded its reach and market. Being able to interpret and speak sign language in her yoga classes has meant that Tiffany is able to show compassion to her members.
Marc Anderson, TalkToCanada
CEO of TalkToCanada, Marc Anderson, took it upon himself to learn Arabic so that he can exploit the man business opportunities that are available in the Middle East.Knowing full well that too many American and British businessmen can speak only English when they visit the Middle East, Anderson sets himself apart from the competition by peppering his conversations with Arabic. He says it makes for a good first impression. We don’t doubt it!
Barbie Snitzer, BioMérieux
Entrepreneur Barbie Snitzer speaks French alongside her native English, and has thus been able to interact and advise clients that work for some of the world’s biggest corporations, including Nestle and InBev. Like Marc Anderson, Snitzer has recognised that very few of our foreign counterparts expect American’s to speak a second language, and they are always surprised and pleased when they do. She says that American’s who speak a second language get “bonus points.” Lovely!
Leo Apotheker, Hewlett Packard
Former Hewlett Packard CEO Leo Apotheker has a solid command of five languages, including Dutch, German and Hebrew. Apotheker’s versatility with languages and his multilingual resume certainly opened up bilingual job opportunities for him, as he was hired by HP because they were one of the big multilingual companies who needed a global person to run the corporation. He basically got the chance to grow a huge business because he could speak more than one language.
Stephen Maighan, Independent Speaker
Stephen Maighan is a highly successful bilingual author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker who is able to interact and reach out to audiences around the world thanks to his multilingual resume. Maighan travels the world giving Keynote speeches, which are designed to motivate and challenge the spectators. His speeches are aimed at employees, managers, entrepreneurs, and without his ability to speak more than one language, his message would be lost.