Jeff Genet, president of Nagoya-based Power Communication KK, talks about teaching English language communication skills, cross-cultural and corporate training, and eLearning.
Where are you from?
I'm from a small town on the Canadian border called Crystal Beach, Ontario. It's close to Buffalo, NY.
When did you first come to Japan and what brought you here?
I came here 13 years ago, running from the law - just kidding. I was looking for adventure like most everyone else. Actually, I love travel and a special person in my life had always wanted to travel here but couldn't. It was kind of a pilgrimage in her honor.
When and why did you establish Power Communication?
Power Communications was established six years ago but the school existed before that. I totally turned around a small, fledgling English school with the vision of turning English learning on its head. The Power English (PE) approach is communication based, getting people to speak and speak naturally. The big eikawas - believe me, I know because I started at one of the biggies - emphasize grammar and the mechanics of English, creating a nation of people who do well on English tests but have very little communication skills. Power English gets students talking from the get-go, providing real language for real situations. We extended this approach to corporate training and our elearning focuses on natural English and things that people actually ask and say as opposed to "what are your hobbies?" types of questions.
I see you have 5 websites. What are the main services your company offers?
Power English is the eikaiwa part of the business, with an ever increasing number of students. We go beyond the classroom and provide lots of opportunities for social interaction for students as well.
Power Business is exactly what it sounds like, English training for businesses with a emphasis on cross-cultural training for effective communication skills across different contexts. We provide in-house training for a variety of companies operating in the global marketplace that are tailored to their specific needs and industry. We also offer consultation for those companies just starting to globalize. In addition, we have pinpointed programs for such specific needs as presentations, negotiations and meetings.
Finally, Power Study is the newest member of the family. This is an eLearning platform to use as a stand-alone program or to enhance our live lessons and corporate training. The beauty about Power Study is, it can be created for a company's or school's specific needs. The eLearning platform brings fun to English learning and can be used across all devices, making it convenient for students to learn wherever and whenever they want. There are a variety of activities addressing every area; writing, listening, vocabulary, grammar and communicative activities for the classroom.
You are in a competitive industry. What are Power Communications’ strengths?
Our strengths definitely lie in our ability to be flexible and to customize programs for individual needs. Our system is based on an elearning program which to my knowledge is the only system whose curriculum is completely online with thousands of additional activities at students fingertips. We can completely customize curriculum's to perfectly match company's needs and get rid of the fluff that textbooks have. The system also pinpoints students needs as teachers can match activities from the online elearning library to exactly what they need and once again eliminate the fluff that so many workbooks have.
Was 2014 a good year for you in terms of sales?
The year 2014 was challenging to say the least but much of the hard work laid out over the year is starting to come to fruition. I have a passion for our products, especially the eLearning. We have put an enormous amount of time into developing and testing our system and are extremely excited about both what we have already done and where we are headed.
How do you market your services?
Our target demographic for Power English is young, single people and it helps that the office and main classroom is next to a sports bar that caters to that same demographic. One of our classrooms is actually in a private classroom in Nagoya's #1 international bar and restaurant. Advertising and social media are great ways - as well as word of mouth - to attract more students. Our many social events outside of the school help as well. The students bring along their friends and our clientele grows. For the business end, it is a lot of beating the streets, networking and creating relationships. The ACCJ has been a great way to open doors and other business associations have helped with this as well.
How has the language teaching and global leadership training industry in Japan changed in the last few years?
I'm not sure that language teaching has changed at all. The majority of major companies continue to use the lowest priced vendors and those whom they are most comfortable with. Thus the focus continues to be on textbook English and TOEIC scores instead of leadership and communication. I can't tell you how many students I have taught with very high TOEIC scores and absolutely no communicative ability. This obviously needs to change and needs major companies to take the lead so others will follow.
What is a typical day for you? What areas of the business are you hands on and what areas do you delegate to your team?
I'm typically in the office by 7 a.m. and busy at work with much of the focus on our new eLearning system. Our team is busy creating new content and courses as we prepare to test a new original curriculum in a junior and senior high school this year. I'm heavily involved with marketing, networking and promotion as well. Depending on the week, I'm also out on sales calls part of the time and always take a bit of time each day to hit the gym. I find it is creative and productive time well spent. Part-time teachers take the Power English classes that are held every day of the week, but to stay close, I also have a few classes of my own. Our Japanese staff handles communication with students, planning events, bookkeeping and other day-to-day operations.
Tell us about some of the intercultural events you host each year?
As a school, we hold monthly Gohan Club events, that take us to ethnic restaurants all over the city. Power English also gets involved with several annual festivals in the city and through the ACCJ, as chair of the Walkathon Committee, my students can take advantage of many intercultural events. An annual river BBQ and camping weekend and other activities outside of the school, together with my international staff, give the students great opportunities to learn about different cultures.
When you are not working, how do you like to relax?
When I'm not working, I'm active. This year, involving the students, I've gotten into running and have created opportunities, through running, to have even more team building between the students and the school. I also enjoy playing hockey and having a few beers on the weekends. I'm Canadian, after all. Travel is still a passion and I try to make opportunities for off-the-beaten-track types of adventures.© Japan Today