GOING BACK TO BASICS
So, the pandemic is over – or so they say – and as the dust settles, new players are emerging and the rules of the game seem to be changing all around us, whether we are ready for it or not.
Interpreters are suddenly charging by the hour and clients want to pay in fifteen-minute segments. There are marketplaces that allocate jobs based on algorithms and consultant interpreters are sending colleagues overseas while charging in their own (foreign) currency, in blatant disregard of the local teams that have spent years building their client base.
Basically, it is all a bit of a mess, somewhat akin to stepping into an operating theatre mid-surgery – not good for anyone’s mental health, not good for our bottom lines, and not conducive to good standards of service.
Thus, the questions loom dark on the horizon: will it go back to what it was? Will it get better? If so, how do we get there?
By going back to basics.
Interpreting can be a very ungrateful profession. Nothing but perfection is expected of us, all the time, every time. We are expected to put all our abilities at the service of other people and their message, but we are not actually allowed to be ourselves – not while on the job, at least. We are expected to deliver the high-end quality of a Ferrari or a Rolls-Royce but at the price of a Fiat 500. We are often expected to be available at a moment’s notice, for free, and with no guarantees.
And when we put our feet down and set boundaries, we run the risk of losing the client to an ‘interpreter’ who is willing to charge lower rates billed at fifteen-minute intervals in devalued foreign currency, and who is also happy to book dates weeks in advance with no retainers or guarantees.
Luckily, however, through the clutter, the greed, and the pettiness there is something pure shining through: our desire to help people to understand one another and, in turn, build a better world. Without it, no interpreter would make it past their first year in the profession.
What will get us through the storm and help us find new, solid ground in the post-COVID world are our values: the reasons why we do what we do the way we do it.
Business gurus use different terms to refer to the abstract structure that serves as the foundation for every successful business around the world. Some call it 'value proposition', others call it 'your why', and even 'your business’s North Star'.
In my business, I call it 'The MULTILATERAL Way', which includes values such as transparency, fairness, respect, and excellence, amongst others.
You might be wondering what this has to do with the current state of affairs and how having clearly stated business values helps me deal with the reality of a shifting market. Don’t worry – I was surprised to find it helpful, too!
I’m a very social and outgoing person; I thrive when connecting with other people. And, yet, I sometimes get overwhelmed, especially when there’s too much noise around me or when too many things are vying for my attention. I’ve learned that when this happens, I tend to feel frustrated and rant and complain – probably too much.
Silence helps. In my personal life, I go for a walk. No phone. No company. No distractions. In that state of mindfulness, I can go within, connect with my core, and listen to my gut. Then I know what to do next. It might backfire, but even if it does, at least I’m at peace with myself for following my instinct.
Your business’s gut is its value structure. When the surrounding chaos overwhelms you, and the dark clouds loom on the horizon, go back to basics.
Let your business’s North Star guide you to safe harbour.
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