Crisis within a Crisis

Definitely yesterday’s news, but worth repeating – and looking into as people’s lives were put in danger. I am speaking of the “Interpreter” – used in a press conference to warn people to evacuate in Manatee County during Hurricane Irma.

The video attached shows the “Interpreter” and the message he was actually signing. No further explanation needed. The fact that there were certified Interpreters available and reportedly offered by a local agency removes any excuse for using this employee as an Interpreter for such critical information.

It happens every day – it should never happen. …

Manatee County “Interpreter”

Anniversary…number 14

Businesswoman With White Envelope  At the busiest time of year I had totally forgotten what day it was until I received dozens of ‘Congratulations on your work anniversary’ from LinkedIn – it stopped me short and as I leaned forward into my computer and checked my calendar, yes …it has been 14 years to the day my business license came in the mail. To my home office. In the very small town of Homer, NY…with a roster of 6 Interpreters…in the beginning…all Sign Language.

On the literal hands of those Interpreters a business beyond my limited vision was constructed.  One customer at a time. One Interpreter at a time and one language at a time.

Today I am mindful of that early morning mail delivery, completely naive to what this would mean to myself or others (fourteen years later). Staring at a piece of paper with a name that would come to be known to so many. A name that would be on a paycheck for hundreds – a name that would called ‘The Empire standard’ in the industry……(insert my very slow, but intentional smile)….

Crazy. Unbelievable. Stunning. Life changing for me and for my family. The opportunity to work daily with my sons. Every day – has been my unseen blessing. The talented and unwavering professionals that I hired. One by one – who were now forming a new ‘family’… Stacey, Corissa, Eva. I cannot imagine a day without any of them.

The Interpreters that braid cultures and languages into communication – assignment by assignment and day by day. They actually do change the lives of each consumer. They are the human ‘app’ of communication with humanity rising to the top. Each one has a story. Each one a part of my person.

Surprisingly also the customers. So hard fought in the beginning. First one, then twenty, then a hundred. Now over 1,000 customers have been the constant and the fundamental underpinning of the business. Their unwavering loyalty via repeat business and referrals has allowed us to remain. And grow. And they are why we continue…

There is so much more I could say. However – it’s busy – really busy- the staff have no time to tarry – Interpreters run from job to job… No time to cut a cake or pop champagne…next year? – at the 15th perhaps? But for now…know you are integral. You are valued. You are appreciated…you are in my heart and worth every struggle the last 14 years.  Happy Anniversary Empire Interpreting Service!

Deeper than a paycheck…

minimalist workplace with spreadsheet computer

 

This week, as any other week, was filled with multiple conversations with Interpreters and staff. Normally the dialogue of business … interpreting assignments or catch up meetings with staff. However this week seemed unusually somber  – mixed with a glimmer of optimism and even exciting news.

As I looked at the list of checks to go out I couldn’t help but see those ‘conversations’ jump out at me. What usually was a long list of names became another list….

– The Interpreter whose mother had just passed on. Her amazing grace in such a moment. Her thankfulness for those who supported her and her concern for her work commitments.

– The Interpreter who had overwhelming family problems. His voice reflected a heart being ripped from his chest…I’m not even sure how all of the conversation began. But it ended in my heart being broken for him. Yet his concern was that he remain focused on his jobs at hand.

– The staff who received digital images of his unborn daughter – with all the joy and anticipation that goes hand in hand. Reveling in the love for something not yet seen or touched.

– A translator who received a dire prognosis and telling me he needed to take time off emotionally fell like a precariously built deck of cards….toppling one by one into a pool of desperation…

– A staff who discovered for days she’d been walking on a broken ankle. Amazed at her tolerance for pain, her words hit me “I can work – I can work – I can work”…

A long list of names – many I could not pronounce – some I could not remember to put a face to – but all deeper than the list of reductions in our bank account.

They emptied and filled my heart with their stories…their spirit…their despair and their delight. And as I closed out the screen on my computer their names remained in my head. In my soul….

and my lesson….

Never to forget that while I am responsible for every paycheck, behind those numbers is larger responsibility. To always be mindful there is a human being in each name. Someone loved by others. Someone loving others. ‘Someone’ .. going through something while still working for me every day.  And that should be etched in my mind and heart. Every single day….

Dad’s Birthday

My Dad is on my mind. A lot. My Dad is in my dreams. A lot.

 I look at the calendar and find the answer to why he is continually in my head this week – his birthday is this weekend. The hole left in my life when he passed is never filled. But his influence holds on. Everyday.

Today it is worth a repost of a blog I wrote years ago – – about my Dad:

I was one of those lucky ones. The little girl who was always ‘Daddy’s little girl’ and even as an adult remained in daily contact with and loved being with, her Dad. I looked to him for advice, approval and most of all acceptance and love.

My Dad was not a pushover with his girls. He expected much from his daughters and we tried to prove we deserved his praise by delivering much. Good grades, good grooming, good manners. Responsibility and a high work ethic. It was expected and we tried our best to make our Father proud.

In business females often want the same things from those around them. Acceptance, approval, praise. For us I feel it’s most important as we are making decisions that will never please the masses. Decisions that are based on what is best for our businesses, keeping the doors open, keeping the cash register ringing. We are often wounded warriors, coming back from a battle others do not want, however all have an opinion about. Hmmmm…

Fathers. Business leaders. Females.

When I have those overwhelming feelings of being beaten up by others, I think about my Dad and imagine he were here. Did my decision, my action, my appearance make him proud? Did he approve? Would he praise me? And then I move in that direction. And whether I fall short – or not – I know he would have loved me. And that reminds me of the direction I should be moving in.

Happy Birthday, Dad – I’m still here. I’m still yours – I’m still trying. And the beating up of the world is now resting elsewhere.      I’m resting on you.

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Professionalism and Social Media

Professions of all kinds are now examining their relationships with clients and social media. It is very easy to find your medical practitioner, your mental health therapist etc on social media sites. This includes Interpreters finding Interpreters and/or consumers finding us. It is often awkward for any professional when those friend requests come in. Not because we don’t want to be ‘friends’ with the people we serve, but that it can blur professional boundaries – at the least – and breech professional ethics at it’s worst.

Social media is often where we post our most personal moments, our opinions, our religious and/or political stances and our family. Without knowing it we could easily offend others with differing views or let people too far into our personal lives when it might not be safe (emotionally or physically). I remember many years ago when interpreting a court case for a violent felon the Judge taking my business cards and chastising me for having my home address on them (this was years before I started my business). He took me into chambers and explained the reasons this could endanger myself and/or my family – from that day on my business cards had a PO Box listed…

….Fast forward today people are ‘friending’ consumers and often making it difficult for themselves and for the consumer when they are meeting up again in an interpreting situation. A good example is an Interpreter that posted she was at a playground with her children and a consumer showed up after seeing her post (wanting to ‘hang out’).  The Interpreter felt her privacy violated!  Well…not really – if you’re posting that on line it is for public consumption and privacy is really not or should not be an expectation.

I have found the easiest way around this is to have differing social media – one for business and one for family/close personal friends. This keeps me connected to Interpreters, consumers and customers and keeps it ‘business’  – and I also have another venue in which to connect to family and close friends via my private social media sites.

It’s an interesting discussion – something to really think about. How does our action on social media presents us as professionals to the industries in which we serve. A topic worth reflection……Social Media Online Network Technology Graphic Concept

 

Authenticate

Prove Yourself Words Hurdles Face Challenge Obstacle    ‘Authenticate’ …to verify – validate – substantiate – prove.

I’ve been watching as a local business woman makes her run for congress.  She is well known, respected by many and leads many groups of people – her business, groups of colleagues and groups of successful women business owners here in NY and across the country. However this dipping of her toe into the political arena has been fascinating to watch – as she has to ‘authenticate’ herself to those that do not know her. And as I’ve read and watched people’s reactions – I realized something fascinating…In life as in business we repeatedly are asked to authenticate who we are and/or what we do. Especially to those who do not yet know us…

So how does a company authenticate who we are to our customers, our staff, our Interpreters and our consumers? As each new customer utilizes our service, as each new Interpreter signs on with us – we are being scrutinized and need to substantiate and prove who we are.

So I asked – customers, Interpreters, staff and consumers – how do you feel we validate ourselves in your eyes. And the answers were varied ..some predictable, some surprising….and all I learned from.  Below are the top three answers… in order of importance to those polled.

First, customer service. This came from all groups – being responsive to needs of others. Sounds simple, however is critical in others opinions of us. Responding quickly to our customer, Interpreters and consumers and not ignoring their needs. This was their number one answer to how we prove ourselves.

Second, we have a track record. We have been providing services for over a decade, myself personally for a quarter century – people know us through our reputation.  They want to work for and with a company that has proven themselves.

Third was professionalism – they trust us because we follow high standards. Set forth by ourselves and our professional code of ethics – people will only ‘authenticate’ you if they trust you. They trust us to be on time – to be prepared – to deliver services in a competent and timely manner.

Authenticate – like it or not – we are authenticating, validating, proving ourselves in our professional and often personal lives. Being scrutinized is often unpleasant – but a learning process and from the candidate running for office to the company competing for business – it is and always will be a part of the process.

 

 

Business lessons learned….in the gym

Personal fitness trainer with his client in gym.I  have had numerous personal trainers since a surgery years ago. A surgery that left me with side effects that need to be addressed daily. Consequently I have been a member of numerous gyms – and the client of numerous trainers.  And through the years I have found a huge variation in workouts.  Some have approached me with unrealistic sessions – having me solely and repeatedly only  ‘pump iron’ – and on the other end of the spectrum I have been approached like a fragile flower that should never do anything too strenuous … for fear I’d break? …I have no idea…. but results were as varied and unsatisfying as the approaches.

The truth is that I really need the guidance of a trainer to keep me on track, to maintain optimum health and to keep my body in working order. I really needed to keep searching. A  search for a good match that seemed unending…

And then I struck gold. Within my current fitness club I found the consummate professional whose approach has given me results….Why?

To him it is business. To him it is personal. To him it is reputation and results. His approach is a lesson to any business – whether you are a solo practitioner or you have 1,000 employees. Here is a small amount of what I have gleaned in sessions over the last several months…

– First and foremost, all clients are intrinsically different. My needs are completely different from his other clients. In order to serve my needs well he makes sure he understands completely my needs and how to get the results I desire. (*note to self – know each customer’s particular needs…)

– Consistency is key – I do not mean each workout session is the same. I mean ‘he’ is consistent. On time – prepared with my file in hand – changing my workout every time I meet with him. His attention is 100% on me and my needs – this is uniform at every meeting. (*note – every customer should receive the same consistent service every time they use our service…)

– Results – I am constantly being re-evaluated for strength, weight, measurements, flexibility. There is no end result – there is only consistent improvement. (*note to self – put a plan in place to measure customer’s satisfaction and make changes where necessary to obtain the results we want them to see…)

– Professionalism – which is my favorite and what my agency was built on. When I am in the presence of my trainer it’s friendly but always professional. He’s not distracted by a cell phone or chatting with others in the gym. He’s not ‘working out’ while I’m training – he’s not gossiping about others in the gym. When he is ‘on’ as a trainer, he is ‘on’ as a professional. There is no contact via social media or cute Instagram pics – he’s my trainer.  Period.  (*note to self – stay in your role as business owner, practitioner, etc – all of the time…any time you are in the presence of a customer)

The bottom line is he keeps me motivated to remain his client. To keep each appointment. To tell others of the excellent service I receive and of the trust he’s build in me to have him as my trainer.  Business lessons learned……in the gym…..