The Story of our CEO at Dialogue: A History

The story of our CEO

People often ask me, ‘why did you start up your own company and what has it been like?’ If you had known me as a child, I don’t think you would have pictured me as a business owner – maybe a carer of people or animals but of a business, no.

Some of us know exactly what we want to do and go for it, but many others seem to just wander into jobs and I was in the latter category.


After university, having studied Environmental Biology and Education, I went to Germany to learn the language. Having been told by a French teacher that I was useless at languages, and having subsequently given up learning French, I thought it was about time I proved that teacher wrong. It has to be said, I’m not a natural linguist (whatever one of those is) but I did master German to a reasonable level and it gave me a real insight into what people go through when they are trying to work, learn a language and navigate a different culture.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a great foundation for the company that Rob and I would go on to create.

Marriage and The Start of Dialogue

After living in Germany for nearly two years, I came back and got myself a job as an account executive within the Burton Group which then became the Arcadia Group. My colleague and boss, Steve (not Philip!), introduced me to Rob and the rest is history, as they say.

We were engaged after 6 months and married within the year. Rob was a language teacher and just loved imparting his linguistic knowledge to everyone – whether it was French or English.

In 1994, we decided that we should start up our own company. Rob worked all hours for very little reward and I thought we could make a much better job of running a language school! So, we left Berkshire for sunny Swindon and started up Dialogue.

The name came to us whilst we were debating options in a pub with a few friends. Immediately it resonated with us. We are all about improving communication and the word dialogue is about communicating with others, often to resolve a problem. So, Dialogue Language Training was born.

Very soon afterwards I had my first daughter, Daisy, in September 1994. Rob rang companies to see if they needed language training and pretty quickly got a meeting at Renault, converting them immediately. We still work with Renault today. Soon after that, we were providing training for Rover Group/BMW and again, they are still one of our highly-valued global clients. Building relationships is what we do.

I then had Jessica in January 1996. It was soon after that, that I started working for Dialogue too – on the business side, not, I hasten to add, as a language teacher!

We started growing the company organically and got most of our clients via word of mouth. In 1998, I found out I was pregnant again but this time with identical twins. Aimee and Becky came into this world in May 1999. Our house was full and we were working hard building Dialogue.

Nicola and Rob's wedding photo: bride and groom leaving the church looking at each other

Growing The Team

Enter, Cathy Branson. Cathy was a German teacher who worked with us at BMW and had also set up her own translation business. Our clients had asked if we could do translation work and so we decided that we would branch into this side of the language industry and support all our clients’ linguistic needs. Cathy joined us as a director and shareholder in 2007.

As we expanded to offer the full gambit of language services, we changed the company name to Dialogue Language Services International – to reflect what we were doing more accurately.

Lucy Cumming, who started as a translation PM in 2016, jumped aboard in 2021 – creating a great mix of 4 very different talents at the helm of the company.

Dialogue Today

Over the years, we have seen fantastic people come and go, we have worked with amazing clients and have grown our business steadily. We have battled through recessions and now a pandemic but we are still standing strong. As a result of the pandemic, we have released our first on-demand product – Kudos, which teaches non-native English speakers the finer points of English, how to connect and do business with the Brits culturally as well give them a practical view of how British people communicate. And all of this done with humour and a sense of fun.

So that is our journey in a nutshell. It has been hard, it has been rewarding but above all we have continued our journey because we believe everyone should be able to communicate on an even playing field, whether through the written or spoken word. We believe that by bringing better communication skills to businesses, we are making a difference. That firm belief has given us the stamina and faith to keep going and reach out to as many businesses as possible.

Here’s to the next 30-odd years!

Nicola, our CEO, sitting with her two dogs on the floor while reading her kindle

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