I want my company to be both successful and responsible. I want to be a positive presence in the lives of my contractors (the interpreters and translators that work day in and day out for us) and a positive resource for our clients.
A subject near and dear to my heart is that of diversity in business. There are never enough women or minorities at the table, and there are rarely women minorities represented. The female minorities that do make it to the top are extraordinary; they have overcome significant challenges in their lives. For example, G2Local is a WBENC certified woman owned business. When the local women-owned businesses have events, even regionally, there are very few minority women business owners and, many times, there are none.
Similarly, I feel that sustainability is a subject that more and more of the larger corporations are beginning to focus on. Although there are not generally guidelines for a company to follow, such as a percentage goal for working with minorities, big businesses are beginning to ask questions of their suppliers. The goal for my company is to not just pay lip service to sustainability; we want to be leaders in creating an environmentally friendly company. This can be as simple as going paperless and encouraging our customers to use the online systems we have spent so much time and effort creating. In addition, I feel that it is important for businesses of all sizes to at least be aware of the footprint they are leaving on the environment and to search for ways to do better.
As contractors, particularly the freelance translators that read this blog, I ask the question, “How important is it to you that your agency be socially responsible?” Most interpreters & translators work for multiple agencies at a time in order to keep busy. Are a company’s ethics important to you or just their ethics in relation to your job? Do you consider a company’s ethics before taking work?
Everyone needs to make a living and I think it is unreasonable to ask contractors to take or not take jobs based on a company’s ethics. Who one works for is a personal choice, I would never condemn the choice of anyone. Many contractors do not care who signs the paycheck, as long as it clears. Also, it is often difficult to find out exactly what is going on inside a company without working there first. Finding out the true heart of a company can be difficult and most businesses show a good face to the world. I do not even condemn companies with questionable ethics, there are always reasons, I simply choose not to go that route with my own company.
The disastrous debacle in the UK, the case of ALS, made it easy to see a company with ethical holes. ALS received a lot of negative press and problem after problem with the way they did business was revealed. However, ALS is just the tip of a large iceberg as I see a lot of companies putting profits above all else.
The other day I met the owner of a new language services company here in town; the owner had recently bought an LSP franchise. I was surprised to hear that the owner had no previous experience in language services, translation, or interpreting. What he thought he was getting was an easy business with a low entry rate into the market. When introducing himself in a meeting, he stated that his company was a global B2B translation company that outsourced their translation jobs to Argentina. I was obviously shocked to hear this statement and was amused that the owner appeared to believe that their “office in Argentina” was a positive selling point. I am sure they are indeed able to generate cheap translations out of their office in Argentina, but the quality and ethics are questionable at best!
Being a responsible company is not easy, that is why so few choose to go this road. Going for the quick buck, cutting corners, and getting your margins at the expense of your interpreters/translators is the easy way. However, we feel that we will be better in the long run for sticking to our principles and treating our customers and contractors right.
Not many companies have the opportunity to employ former non-English speakers the way a language services agency can. We have the chance to elevate our communities simply by teaching those that speak another language an interpreting skill set. One of the great joys of my life is helping a contractor reach a goal of their own, such as owning a home or buying a car from the proceeds of making a good living as an interpreter.
Few people can change the world but we can all change our own “worlds.” We have a choice with everything we do, absolutely everything. We can choose to be responsible and ethical and think about the big picture or we can think only about ourselves and the profit we will make today. Again, I am not advocating that one should not make money; I am simply stating that one can make money and be responsible. I believe that working for oneself and for the greater good results in a payoff beyond one’s wildest dreams.
To the interpreters and translators that read this blog: do you consider a company’s reputation before working with them? Can you tell all readers an example of a company practicing bad or questionable ethics in this industry? How important do you feel your job is in making the “world” a better place? We enjoy reading your responses and comments so much, please respond at your own convenience!