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SME Focus: Mentoring success for Alliance Francaise

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Aurelien De Chappotin, Director Of Alliance Francaise Of Port Elizabeth

Name: de Chappotin Aurélien
Company: Alliance Française of Port Elizabeth
Title: Director
Jeremy Barton

Alliance Française of Port Elizabeth has been a member of the Chamber for a year. We are a language school and a cultural centre based in Richmond Hill. Our three missions are to promote the teaching of French, to promote the cultures of French-speaking countries and to promote cultural diversity. We run language classes (French & IsiXhosa) for children and adults at our premises or in situ, and we organize weekly cultural events. One of our main events is the Richmond Hill Music Festival: 

              Click here for a glimpse of the Richmond Hill Music Festival.

As is a medium-size business, our team is very small. And although this makes us very dynamic, each person is quite overloaded with all sorts tasks. We end up being very versatile, but are obliged to note that we sometimes cannot focus on the core of our business. This is what drew us to the Chamber’s Mentorship Programme, which allowed us to step back and analyze our time management and to better identify targets. 

I was quite privileged to meet Mr. Jeremy Barton, who is a successful professional coach. We usually meet every two weeks at the Alliance and reflect on all the goals, successes and difficulties over the past period. These meetings usually last for an hour. I was also glad to invite Mr. Barton to a few special occasions, like the opening of the French Film Festival in South Africa and, I must say, these informal meetings also help to improve our working relationship and trust.

The business challenges I wanted to overcome were, firstly, to define and implement a viable marketing strategy; and secondly, to develop our offer of courses despite the difficult economic conditions.

The best piece of advice my mentor gave me was about time management. He made me realize that we cannot do everything. We have to make choices and measure/monitor them as we go along. 

For me, the most valuable aspects of the Mentorship Programme are the coaching, the motivation, and the benefit of having “foreign eyes” – the views of someone who is not working in our field. 

In a word, the Mentorship Programme helped us in learning how to focus.