With a passion for training that began when she was just 17, Viviana Ball has big plans for Wordland International in a year of crisis: to maintain the company’s market share, increase its turnover by over 15 percent and expand its customer portfolio
Viviana Ball took her first steps in the business world in 2001 when she established Wordland, a foreign language training center for corporate customers. She started her own company from personal dedication, rather than an existing opening at the time. “It was not about an opportunity or an unexpected idea. It was about my own commitment which I took when I was 17, when I was teaching my younger colleagues from high school to speak and write English, at the recommendation of their parents and my English teacher,” remembers Ball, managing partner at Wordland International. She adds that she has always wanted to offer an ethical, professional and creative solution on a “private lessons” market, suffocated by inconsistency and amateurs.
Although Ball had the idea in 1990, eleven years would pass before she put it into practice, with the support of her family and spurred on by many positive experiences, much perseverance and encouragement from her customers and collaborators. The initial plan, which involved offering a decent choice of language training and services for expats, was improved continuously with new ideas and services. Today, Wordland language training addresses beginner, intermediate and advanced learners of Romanian, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and other tongues, language immersion programs for expats and English summer camps, language and cultural relocation, special events, classes and seminars. On top of that, other services include translation, publishing and language audit.
“I chose to set up this business because both at that time and now the underground market of similar services was and still is one of the greatest threats to high-quality training. So I made my decision, under the assumption that this business should support a training niche that suffers from a lack of professionalism, tax evasion and unnecessary informal services,” says Ball.
Like many other entrepreneurs, she says she has no regrets, adding that while she is always surrounded by good people to whom she gives what she wants to get back, fewer unfortunate situations occur. “Kindness, mutual respect, overall vision, creativity and the willingness to offer more and better are also useful tools to counter situations you will later regret,” says Ball.
She adds that there is a first time for everything, emphasizing that there are plenty of opportunities on the market at the moment. “If the day was longer than 24 hours I would probably involve myself in each new project that I think of every day. But then its chances of reaching completion would decrease significantly with each new coming project,” says Ball. She therefore prefers to choose the businesses in which she gets involved cautiously, ensuring that she can be completely dedicated to them. “Apart from Wordland I set up Viva Music in 2008, a company specialized in organizing musical events whose main purpose is to promote high-quality music and to loyalize niche markets aside from the audiences of the mega concerts that are booming in Romania,” says the businesswoman.
One of the most important challenges for the young entrepreneur is the education process itself. “The main reason why I liked and I still like training – and I simply cannot retreat into a managerial ivory tower – is that in the interpersonal space of training you are working with intelligences, feelings, fears, beliefs and previous education,” says Ball. Competitiveness is another challenge in the field. “It has suddenly become cool to provide foreign language training services in the last ten years, and many people thought that they could set up learning institutions. Even if it’s a school, if you don’t come with a culture, promotion is useless,” says Ball. She adds that training is the kind of business that spiritually enriches you.”That’s why I deplore the unacceptable conditions and illegality of some training companies,” says the managing partner.
Ball does not believe that there is direct competition for her companies at the moment, although there are some similar outfits on the market. “To have real competition means enjoying the presence of some organizations that offer complete packages and are working to manage the courses almost as much as to support them. It is quite possible to attract your customers by your prices, but it doesn’t assure you long-term success,” says Ball.
As for the company’s market share, Ball reports that it has remained stable for the last five years, adding that five of the top ten companies in Romania are using Wordland’s Romanian training for expats, foreign language courses and relocation services. Elsewhere, the company’s future plans focus on ongoing improvement, with HR and logistic investments being key factors at the moment. “We will focus on expanding the customer portfolio both in Bucharest and other counties, viral popularization of language camps and consolidation of international partnerships in the commercial and diplomatic domains,” says Ball. She adds that the current downturn has changed priorities for her company, but has not wrought too much damage. “Except from the reduced cash-flow and minimal limitations of customers’ budgets (necessary in some cases), we can’t say we have been directly affected by the crisis,” concludes Ball.