7 successful, multilingual CEOs: How knowing a second language helped their business grow

We live in a globalized world, especially when it comes to business, so the skills we need to develop to stay ahead in the game are ever-changing. From knowing how to code to learning to work from home, the trends and needs are transforming all the time. But what never gets old is being multilingual. Why? Because it enables CEOs, managers and employees to communicate with clients and interact with partners regardless of where they are from or what native language they speak. This ability to interact with others in their own tongue opens your business up to new markets that otherwise would be closed to you, meaning that more money, more customers and, thus, more success will come your way.


Let’s take a look at 7 successful CEOs who decided to take their business to the next level by learning a new language.


Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr

Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg is a fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese? With more than 1.2 billion speakers worldwide, knowing Chinese is an undeniable advantage in business and Zuckerberg knows it. He’s capable of holding complex conversations in Mandarin, as he demonstrated in a Q&A at Tsinghua University in 2014.


Billy Bauer, Royce Leather

Billy Bauer, Marketing Director of Royce Leather, also studied Mandarin to enable him to communicate with his partners and clients abroad. In fact, he even claims his success in China was related to his proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, as he was able to sell his ideas to a wider public via his foreign language skills.


Stefano Pessina, Walgreens Boots Alliance

Stefano Pessina is the CEO of one of the largest retail pharmacy stores in the world and speaks Italian, English and French. He decided to become trilingual because after noticing that the country buying the second-most amount of his company’s products was France.

Photo via Flickr

Mike Whaites, Finning’s

Mike Whaites, in charge of Finning’s, speaks fluent Swedish as well as his native English. He took up the language after deciding to expand his business into Sweden and needed to make sense of the country’s bureaucracy and tax regulations. In just four months, he became proficient enough to communicate effectively with his Swedish clients!

Madeline Johnson, Market Council

Madeline Johnson, CEO of Market Council, speaks English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. She started out with Spanish and decided to take advantage of the language’s similarities with Italian and Portuguese to become fluent in all 3 Romance languages. Every day, she listens to podcasts and watches series in her target languages to pick up new words and phrases.


Tiffany Richards, Peaceful Warrior Martial Arts and Healing Center

Different from the other CEOs mentioned in this list, Tiffany Richards learned sign language to expand her yoga business to new audiences. She claims that learning sign language has not only allowed her to communicate with a community of people that is often neglected, but it has also extended the company’s reach to new clients who cannot take yoga lessons anywhere else.


All in all, the CEOs in this list understand the importance of communication and making a good first impression with clients and customers. Very few of their partners expect English-speakers to know a second language. As a result, these CEOs won bonus points with their clients abroad, enabling them to establish a level of trust only possible by speaking the same language.


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