It seems every time there’s a new app that can “automatically translate” one language to another someone is ready and waiting to show me how easy our jobs as Interpreters really can be. At a business event recently a young man pulled out his cell phone as soon as I explained what I did and said “Why hire a human? – this app can do anything your Interpreters can do”……
Oh Lord, not again…….
The misperception that every language has words or phrases that can be ‘automatically’ translated into another language’s words or phrases is just not true. Every interpretation needs to consider not only cultural differences, but environment, situation, even emotional states of everyone involved. Human sensitivities and respect is not something that can be written into code…
A machine cannot give an eye shift when interpreting to a college student that the professor is really emphasizing the importance of a topic – or express to a hospital patient the optimism or seriousness in the voice or word choice of their physician.
An app cannot sit in a therapy session and convey emotions that are never expressed in words – that actually need the proper linguistic choices that communicate reactions of trauma, grief or desperation.
Endless examples could be given, but the short of all is this – ‘Why hire a human?…I believe is simply because we are human and if we take the human to human out of communication, there is no true understanding.
One of my ‘littles’ favorite books is ‘Little Blue Truck’ – which I have read numerous times. And the story goes like this…
The Little Blue Truck joyfully drives through the countryside, greeting each friendly animal that he encounters along the way with a ‘beep’ and a welcome. Each animal in turn says hello to the Little Blue truck in their own special way..actually animal noises which delight the toddlers who are read to.
Enter the ‘Big Yellow Dump truck’ who tears through town announcing “Coming through! I’ve big important things to do … I haven’t time to pass the day – with every duck along the way”…thereby insinuating that the Little Blue Truck was wasting his time paying attention to every animal along his way.
In a twist of irony, the Dump truck gets stuck in a mud soaked road and ends up needing the help of the Little Blue Truck and his animal friends to get him unstuck. So the moral implied here is not probably the same take away as mine but something that struck me as I read the book yesterday, sweet baby on my lap and Christmas tree in the background.
This is – my sanity time. This is when I’m brought back to what is really important in life. As a business owner, with so much responsibility – it’s not always easy to remember. Sitting at your desk, signing contracts and paychecks, putting on your best face and putting out multiple fires…I can forget that even though I am constantly busy and have ‘important things to do’ … I need to take time to remember all of my encounters along the way.
So this holiday season, being grounded by a 10 month old and taking stock of who is important – I’d like to take the time to let each one that I encounter daily – my staff – my Interpreters – my customers – know that they are critical to who I am. To know that I care for them and work for them and appreciate that they are there for me, no less important than what I do and certainly not who I am.
Each one I pray has a safe and happy holiday season and I hope knows, that without them, I could never get ‘unstuck’ and move forward everyday.
Peace and joy to all who touch my life……
I’ve always had the conversation with new employees that we have 3 sets of customers that we need to constantly be addressing 1) The customers signing the contracts and requesting interpreting services 2) The consumers who do not use English as their first language and are utilizing our Interpreters 3) The Interpreters that work with us.
And for me, I’ll add a 4th – my employees. All of these ‘customers’ need to be treated with the same respect as the customers signing our contracts and sending in checks. All work together like cogs in a wheel – when each are supported, communication is successful in a seemingness fashion – which is the goal for all of us.
I’ve recently been mentoring a new business owner and when we had this conversation, the question inevitably came up ‘How do you address each customer’ – I think more important is each business identifying who their customers are, then addressing each one’s needs. For Empire Interpreting Service:
That is my journey – but as I said to my young entrepreneur ‘mentee’ – you will need to find and address each one of your customers as you grow your business. THEY are the cogs that push the wheel towards success.
This Fall my business reached an anniversary/milestone of 15 years! The business today is an entity I never could have imaged in 2003. The journey from then to now is something I never could have foreseen – and a journey I never could have taken alone. Forgive me while I take liberty to talk about those who stood beside me, carried me through and who continue to be my inspiration.
Six months into my business I knew I needed support. My first hire. Stacey Short, then my part time receptionist/bookkeeper. Today my CFO. Stacey has a fierce loyal heart and a work ethic rarely seen. She is deliberate and forceful – she holds my feet to the fire – and cares as much about the business’s success as I do…AND she is a true honest and caring friend. 15 years and counting – she’s still building the business with me.
Jay – my Business Manager. Who I am sure would have rather followed his own path, but supported me in mine and worked and worked and worked to bring this business into the arena of the ‘big boys’ – to become contemporary and to embrace technology. His daring and sometimes audaciousness thrust us into the future..how incredibly honored I am to work day by day with my son. 14 years later…he’s still standing by my side.
Corissa Hedrick – first came to me as an assistant to Jay and quickly proved that she had independent aspirations. She grabbed hold of an idea I had for a Spoken Language department and grew it to become 1/2 of our revenue. And took it further and further – Like Stacey and Jay – her work ethic was surpassed only by enthusiasm and ability to plan for the future. She is and always will be someone I admire and respect – and again…how lucky I was to find her…all eleven years ago.
Trevor – my second son to join my business. Did the ‘dirty’ work..for year after year after year. He was the person who manned the business the hours everyone else’s day was done. He answered the emergency phone, became friends with ER Nurses and woke Interpreters at God awful hours to ensure every job was filled – Any day, any time all while being a ‘stay at home Dad’ and raising his little boy. Giving up chunks of his personal time for EIS and again, fiercely supporting my dream. How amazing it is to work each day with him – for now over a decade.
And most recently there is Eva. My Office Manager – who like the others has this incredible ability to dive in, take pride and ownership in the business and function on such a high level. I find myself leaning on her as the others do, always knowing that her perfectionism and caring is exactly the combination we and our customers need. I cannot imagine my days without Eva. She brings life and light into the business while taking on incredible tasks and always having all our backs. She is truly a rising star..and I am blessed to work with her these last few years….
And then there are my Interpreters, who are far far too many to name – who make me incredibly proud each and every time they are out on a job, giving our communities the best there is to offer – their professionalism, talents, commitment – make me stand tall in awe and respect.
My driving force – the people I love to work with and truly love – who have been on this journey with me – made it a true honor & given me all I need to make Empire Interpreting the success it is today. Thank you to all of them, for making my dreams comes true and for achieving this amazing milestone of 15 years!
Recently I had the privilege of being interviewed by Forbes Book/Radio for a Podcast. During the explanation of how we were working within multi-generational customers/employees/consumers, the interviewer quipped “Empire Interpreting Service was a cloud pioneer”…and the conversation turned to the implications of that in our day-to-day.
Fifteen years ago when the business was new, I yearned for the phones to ring. The sound of a phone ringing meant customers calling. The sound was reassuring – when it stopped for even a few minutes, my entrepreneurial heart stopped as well.
Fast forward a few years and it seemed like the phones never stopped ringing. We were growing so fast…sometimes 100%/year and as the phones rang and rang, my staff needs increased. I walked through the halls of our offices and it was incessant. It was comforting. I breathed deep….
In the last past year I have noticed the phone rings less and less and we are still busier and busier. You can no longer calculate how busy your business is by the sound of a telephone ringing. Our requests come in not by a person on the phone, but by email, text, our website portal and fax. Even the fax is silent as those devices went by the wayside and faxes come in off the web.
Today as I monitor how busy we are via databases and online communication, I realize that we were ‘Cloud Pioneers’ … and with that the sound of the telephone becomes less and less. It can be unnerving for a business owner to be in the midst of change, even when it is necessary to be relevant, to be contemporary, to be competitive.
Success doesn’t need to be noisy.
The cloud is silent.
Several months ago I decided to take the plunge and have a few teeth that were beginning to get crowded corrected by Invisalign. I did my research, had several consultations and based on recommendations and my impressions at various offices, settled on an orthodontist I felt most comfortable with.
The office I choose is a very large practice – their protocol is to first have you taken care of by the Orthodontist (for evaluation and treatment suggestion) and after that you are seen by a Certified Orthodontist Assistant. She was the one that introduced the Invisalign trays, answered my many questions and put on my attachments (which are placed on the teeth so that your trays ‘track’ appropriately). I felt I had all of my questions answered and then went home with the excitement of not having braces, but contemplation of a new smile with perfectly straight teeth and no muss or fuss of metal in my mouth.
However…days after returning home reality struck. I had more questions than answers and I found myself scouring Youtube videos to find people depicting their experiences with Invisalign. The information I gleaned from the videos was priceless. It was comforting to know what others had experienced, what was happening to me was normal and to know what to expect down the road.
Hmmmm..what to expect? It made me wonder about our customers.
It is always interesting the questions you receive regarding Interpreters, especially from customers who have had an Interpreter on their site for the first time. If there is lack of knowledge regarding the Interpreters role or how they function, maybe we are not preparing them sufficiently regarding ‘what to expect’ (once the Interpreter arrives).
Much like the very busy orthodontic office, are we so caught up in providing a service that perhaps we are not explaining how that service works? Or what our customers should expect? We all get so caught up in our own industries – we understand the acronyms, the protocols, the specifics. We need to be mindful that all of this can be a new and daunting experience to someone that has no idea what to expect throughout the process.
Years ago we made several ‘How to use an Interpreter’ videos and put them on our YouTube page – Intro to Using an Interpreter – depicting different scenarios our customers might encounter. My experience with Invisalign has prompted us to begin updating those videos for our customers (we will announce them soon!)… And also made us mindful to slow down and consider customers need guidance when using our service.
Another business lesson learned at the most surprising places..this time at the Orthodontist~
Who doesn’t love to talk business, especially the history of your own business? I recently had the good fortune of being interviewed by Gregg Stebbens, of ForbesBooks Radio…….
(click here): Terre Slater of Empire Interpreting Service Interview