- By Florence de Sola
In his early days as a professional, Luis Arevalo was quick to recognize that he was an enabler. As an independent teacher, he saw how learning English as a second language opened up opportunities for his students. “That was when I decided to pursue something bigger. That’s how I started my company, SPEAK.” says Luis.
SPEAK provides English classes tailored to the professional needs of Salvadorans. They offer specialized English for call center work so that Salvadorans living in dangerous communities can learn English and find a job. After participating in SPEAK’S program, students are able to earn twice the minimum wage, often double the amount their parents make. Other specialized SPEAK programs include English for marketing and for finance.
SMALL AND GROWING BUSINESS = BPEACE FAST RUNNER
Before becoming a Bpeace Fast Runner, SPEAK had been growing at a rate faster than what they could accommodate. Luis believed he did have the right organizational structure, and information was not flowing smoothly. “I did not have clear visibility within the business. It would have been impossible to continue growing without compromising quality,” says Luis.
BPEACE BUSINESS VOLUNTEERS, AKA SKILLANTHROPISTS
Through Bpeace, Luis met Skillanthropist Angela Scalpello, who regularly advises CEOs on activating their strategies, and improving the performance of their leadership teams. Together, Angela and Luis developed a new organizational structure where employees are clear on their responsibilities, and job profiles are clearly distinguishable from each other. These distinctions make it easier to track information, which in turn helps Luis be aware of how the business is doing at all times. “To me, this is very important. Now, I know when something is not going well. The information comes to us much faster, and we are able to fix problems much faster. I feel we’re ready to grow. We’re ready for next steps.”
Another Bpeace Skillanthropist, José Mejía, took a more personal approach. Luis says he helped him grow as a person. “Because of my inexperience, I wasn’t too confident. I wouldn’t reach out and look for business. I was more reactive. José helped me overcome some personality issues and to surpass some of my personal obstacles.”
THE AHA OF A TARGETED VALUE PROPOSITION
With Skillanthropist Alberto Brea from Ogilvy, Luis discussed the importance of having a clear value proposition. SPEAK had grown by offering a myriad of services to a varied crowd, and were worried that by omitting some of their services in their messaging, they would be missing out on opportunities. SPEAK saw themselves as a one-stop shop for English language services--offering lessons, translation, interpretation, etc., and were having a hard time communicating all they did to their target audience.
“Alberto helped us communicate this in a much simpler way. We found that our value proposition was professional English. We were trying to compete with the various language institutes in the country. Positioning SPEAK as a professional services provider was the value added proposition that we needed.” This has helped SPEAK create a new line of business--they now offer customized professional English lessons in sectors that clients request.
THE UNEXPECTED RIDE
Luis credits Bpeace for one of his best years of growth. And just when he was on a controlled growth trajectory, sales plummeted, for a reason largely outside of his control. But in his view, this came at a perfect time: when he had the support and guidance of the Bpeace Skillanthropists.
Luis is enthusiastic when he says, “We have to learn to celebrate failure as much as success. Success is the result of having overcome your failures; failure is implicit in success. Bpeace has been there during my toughest year. Angela has gone above and beyond what she set out to do with me. I am still in touch with her. I am still in touch with José. They have helped me tremendously.”
Now that Luis has completed his tenure in the Bpeace portfolio of Salvadoran Fast Runners, he expects to continue to grow. “Bpeace has helped me get a better hold of my company, and now I’m ready for growth. Personally, I’m a lot stronger. Before Bpeace, we weren’t ready for sustainable growth, and now we are.“
LUIS’ TIPS FOR BUSINESS SUCCESS:
- “Read a book called Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster. When you are an entrepreneur, there are a lot of tough days. Sometimes you will be going down the rollercoaster, and you see that the next drop is even bigger, and there are sometimes when you don’t know when it’s going to stop. But eventually, it does. And everything goes up."
- “Persevere. Don’t lose faith. There will always be ups and downs."
- “If you find the right people to support you, you will be ok. Eventually, you will get off the ride and say, wow that was quite a wonderful ride. It’s not easy.”