I have always gotten questions about being an interpreter. Obviously, I get questions about Sign Language and how to say any number of items from good words to naughty words. The one thing I am trying to get adjusted to is receiving questions about being a business person or a woman in business. I mean, I am a business person.
I started the business in 1996 with $100; that is not a joke. It was all I had. I didn’t understand how fax machines worked, and we didn’t own a computer, that is also true. The business I started is now a multimillion-dollar company that provides services in more than my home state. How the heck did that happen? I have to check my pulse and take a breath…hold on.
I’m going to share some of my secrets. (Wait, there are NO secrets!). It takes hard work, perseverance, and choosing the right team. Oh, and lots of courage. That’s it. It’s that simple.
If you want your business to work you have to work. I know, it’s an odd sentence and grammatically, but it’s the truth nonetheless. I remember getting about four hours of sleep a night and I don’t even remember for how long that was for (insert hysterical laughter here). I would get up and get the babies fed and quieted, make business calls or take them to my Mom’s so I could go and interpret. I would make more calls to drum up work while the babies were at my Mom’s and I was in my car, or swing back to my house to make them. Then I would go get the babies and bring them home. I’d clean the house and make dinner, feed the babies, play with the babies, put them to bed, and then spend time with my husband. He would go to bed and I would then do paperwork for the company or go grocery shopping and then do paperwork for the company. This was my schedule until the children were old enough for full-time school. When the kids went to school full-time, I rented a brick-and-mortar office.
I shared my story of what it was like as a mom of two and starting a business because I wanted young moms to understand…you can do it; you just have to be determined. I was determined. We lived in a 932-square-foot house. I loved that house. It was in a great neighborhood with kids for my kids to play with. However, I wanted more. I wanted to pay for my kids’ college. I wanted a bigger house. I wanted a viable company that provided a livelihood for people. I had to work at it and I had to educate myself.
It hasn’t always been roses. There have been difficult years. No business has perfect years. What defines a business is how they get through those years and come out of them on the other side.
Are they stronger?
Have they improved themselves?
Have they grown?
If the answer is yes then that is absolutely a successful business. You are always stronger when you have lessons that give you wisdom and hindsight to give you strength.
If you are in a crisis with your business, whatever it is, this is my advice: Find a professional to assist you. Do what they tell you to do except one thing…do not give up. I was once told that perhaps I should give up, but I couldn’t do it. I dug in my heels and refused. I found a way. There is always a way.
My job as the owner of the business was to see the problem and find the solution. So, I would find a solution. I wouldn’t give up. You may have a hard road ahead of you, but you will find a way.
One of the best things you can do for your business and yourself is to create a team that makes up for your weaknesses. I identified my weaknesses and hired people who excel at the things I am not good at. It took me some time, and I had to go through some heartache to get here, but I did it. I cannot say that the success of Global Interpreting Services is all me, it is not. It is not all one person. It is a team of talented people that starts with me and ends with our team of Interpreters. It is good decision-making in the office by our team and good professionalism in the field. Together we are Global and we make a difference.
When you hire people, be careful about hiring family and friends. I have yet to hire a family member where it did not cause heartache or issue. I have become friends with people I hired and had to let them go and it was more drama and heartache than I care to ever repeat in the next five lifetimes. No matter how many times you say, I will not be involved with their employment, they will be managed by someone else…you are the owner of the company and they will still hold you accountable. Trust me. No contract or handshake shields the heart.
Get a team for legal and financial matters and use them. Don’t try to play attorney and don’t use free accounting software for your taxes. Using professionals will save you money in the long run. All of your paperwork will be in order and done on time. This will save you anxiety and loss of sleep should you ever receive an unwanted letter in the mail. If you hire them right away and they are familiar with your company they will be able to handle whatever comes your way quickly and easily, and that will save you money in the long run.
Write everything down.
I have learned that job manuals, notes in files, client notes, and overall note-taking are just about the most important habit you can have. Job manuals make it easy for training new staff, notes on employees, clients, and whatever else you think is important will help you when 15 or 20 years later you are trying to remember why you did what you did. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, but a sentence or two sure does help.
Ditch the paper.
A couple of years back, we ditched the paper and went digital with all of our files and I have to tell you it has been great. It is very easy to move information from file to file and person to person. Desks are much tidier.
Organization is key!
If you are not an organized person this could be a difficult task. You must be organized or hire someone who is very organized. It is absolutely insane how organized our office is. However, when we need information, we know exactly where to get it and have that information quickly. (Our clients love that.) If you don’t know where your information is, or how your company is doing, you could be losing money and don’t even realize it.
Know your metrics.
Know your inventory, know your hours, know your accounts receivable and accounts payable, and know your payroll. Know it all. If you can attach a number to it, you should have a report on it and you should know it, or be able to get to that report.
Engage in social media.
This is the way the world communicates now. Everyone is involved in social media. It is how people advertise and how they figure out who everyone else in the world is. Learn it or find someone who is able to do it for you. Get a website, even if it’s a simple one. The days of advertising in the newspaper are gone…at least from where I am sitting.
While my business is still small, it’s larger than I had imagined it would ever one day be. I had always hoped that one day I would have an office full of employees and offer services in other states, but hoping and actually doing it are two different things.
I just kept working hard and having those goals out there. I put smaller goals in front of them, but those smaller goals were leading the way to those larger goals, and BAM! Here we are! I’m currently working on my next huge goal…I think it's on its way to working out, I’m keeping it as a cliffhanger. I’ll let you know next year if it works out.