After two years of being forced to work remotely due to the pandemic, a lot of small business owners are experiencing significant resistance as they try to get their employees back into the office. Should we take this as a sign that it’s time to forgo traditional business practices in favor of the new work from home model? If your answer is “yes,” there are a few issues you’ll need to address before making this permanent shift at your business. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with CSH Translation CEO and Founder, Carolina Sanchez-Hervas, discuss how small business owners can build a strong foundation that will sustain their new work from home culture.
Podcast Key Highlights
- A Three-Step Guide to Hiring Qualified Contractors
- Begin your screening process with an initial review of your prospective candidates’ work portfolios.
- If you like the samples they’ve provided, they can move unto the testing phase, where you administer a formal exam.
- Once they successfully pass the test, invite them for a final round of interviews to determine whether they are right for your business.
- Work from Home Strategies for Your Small Business
- To help establish an effective work from home culture, small business owners need to set some firm ground rules and have a clear system in place.
- The key to running a successful remote business is to have reliable staff members who will still hold themselves accountable without constant micromanagement.
- Sometimes it helps to add a personal touch when communicating with your employees or clients, whether that be through a coffee date or a handwritten letter. These small gestures help humanize your interactions and foster a sense of community.
- The Benefits of Running Your Small Business Virtually
- One of the advantages of moving your business online is that you don’t have to deal with the additional overheads associated with a traditional brick-and-mortar storefront.
- Another benefit to working online is the convenience; you can work directly with any client, regardless of their proximity to your business.
- The Best Platforms and Apps for Running Your Online Business
- CAT tools
- Wave Accounting
- Mailchimp for newsletters.
- Google Business Suite
- The Best Phone Services for Your Online Business
- Virtual PBX
- Google Voice
The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.
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Gene: Hey everybody, and welcome to another episode of The Hartford, Small Biz Ahead podcast. We’re really happy to have you here. My name is Gene Marks and I am here with my friend and cohort, Jon Aidukonis. Jon, say hello to the fans.
Jon: Gene, how’s it going? People of the internet, how are ya?
Gene: Yeah, it’s good. It’s good to have you back talking with me as well. And Carolina, our guest, when we get to her, she’s in the food industry, Jon, and I know you love that stuff. Anything restaurant related.
Jon: I’m excited. We get to talk about food culture, I think a little bit of Miami today. So all the things I love.
Gene: Very, very cool. So our guest is Carolina Sanchez-Hervas. Carolina, did I pronounce that right?
Carolina: Yes. You did a good job.
Gene: Yeah. Pretty good, huh? Like I said though, I’m a Jewish guy from Philly, so I’m doing my best here. It is a pleasure to have you on. You are the CEO and founder of CSH Translation down in Miami, Florida. And Carolina, just so you get the inside joke, if you listen to episodes of these podcasts, Jon is a restaurant guy. He’s worked in restaurants, he eats in a lot of restaurants. He’s all into it. So whenever the topic of restaurants and the food industry gets brought up, he gets all excited. So just so you know, that’s what’s going on here.
Carolina: I love it. Thank you so much for having me on Jon and Gene. Really excited to be here.
Gene: Well, we’re glad to have you on here. So let me, first of all, I’m going to read out your introduction and then I want to dig into you and your company. So you’re the founder and CEO of the award-winning translation company, CSH Translation located in Miami, Florida. You hold a BA in international studies from Rhodes College and an MA in food studies from NYU. She has lived in, or you have lived in several countries around the world and speaks five languages. You’re passionate about a plant-based lifestyle. I particularly like meat, but you also enjoy playing tennis and swimming, which I also enjoy as well. So that’s your background. Tell us Carolina, first of all, about CSH Translation. How did you start the company? How did you get here? And where did you come up with the name CSH Translation?
Carolina: Wherever could I up with that? So, thanks for having me on. And, yeah, so I started the company in 2014. I went to graduate school, as you mentioned. And after finishing grad school, I sort of thought I would have to go into corporate America and do all of that. And I was looking at positions and there was nothing that really fit my interest. My husband’s an entrepreneur and his whole side of the family are entrepreneurs. So he really encouraged me to do my own thing. And it wasn’t something that I had thought of until that moment. And I thought, why not? And so I gave it a shot and growing up, I grew up bilingual. My mom is from Spain. My dad is from Cuba. So I grew up bilingual and speaking Spanish at home was always very important.
And I’m very happy that my parents instilled that in me from a young age, even though as a child, you kind of push back and you just, no, I want to speak English and no, but I’m glad that they made sure that my sister and I learned Spanish and it was so important. I played tennis, as you mentioned. And when I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go train in Spain at a tennis academy. And I lived with kids from all over the world. And that was my first experience away from home. And I was living with kids from all different countries, China, Poland, Hungary, everywhere. And I remember hearing so many different languages and wanting to speak them all. I wanted to learn something from everybody and we all sort of exchanged our languages with each other.
And so that was kind of my really first experience with all of the languages and had that feeling of wanting to do something with that. And so I went on to study international studies and that’s where that came from. And then I studied Italian in college and lived there for a while in Italy, studied over there. So yeah, so then I started the company after grad school and I used that talent for languages and passion for languages to do something that I loved already. And that, in a way I’ve already been translating my whole life in a way. So when people, friends, acquaintances started asking me, oh, you’re the language girl, can you help us translate this or do something? I said, sure. And I found, I really loved it. And I started to pursue that. And that’s where CSH Translation was born, which is the acronym for my full name.
Gene: Yeah, I gotcha. Well, it’s funny, the name of my company is The Marks Group. So I’m even less creative than you. Who are your customers for the most part? Are they individuals, companies, who do you serve?
Carolina: So we serve both companies and individuals. We specialize in financial and legal translations. So we work with a lot of financial services, companies, banks, mortgage lenders, and then a lot of law firms. We do a lot of immigration work as well, especially here in Miami, usually on the individual level. We’ll translate documents for individuals who need documents for the United States immigration services. So yeah, for both customers, both on the corporate and individual side.
Gene: This conversation though is about running a virtual company. And I thought maybe we could share notes a little bit. Again, before I turn this back over to Jon, your company is virtual. It’s always been virtual, is that right?
Carolina: Yes. It’s always been virtual. All of our core business has been virtual. Although we do offer in person interpretation services, but the core business has been virtual.
Gene: Okay. Do you have employees or contractors? I have 10 employees and about a dozen contractors. What is your general makeup of the business?
Carolina: So we work with contractors, freelance.
Carolina: Translators that are all over the world. So we have a pretty big network of translators and five continents that we work with on a regular basis. Yeah.
Gene: Okay. That’s great. And, I have some selfish reasons for asking this, my wife runs a nonprofit and it’s a virtual company as well. She hires contractors to do tutoring. She teaches kids, her nonprofit teaches kids literacy. So she struggles with evaluating contractors, virtually. She’s not meeting them face to face. I’m kind of curious, when you look for those translators that are going to be serving your clients and representing your company and you’re not meeting them face to face, is there any tips that you have, any mistakes that you’ve made? When you’re sort of evaluating those people?
Carolina: Yeah. That’s a great question, Gene. Especially in the beginning, when I was starting out that process still wasn’t defined for me. And I did make some mistakes along the way in hiring people that weren’t adequate and didn’t do a good job, but over time I’ve become more strict with my hiring onboarding process, so to speak. So, all of our translators go through an initial review process and they send samples of their work. And then there’s a testing phase, which they have to complete a test and pass it successfully. And then there’s the interview stage. So, and not everybody passes, but we found some great people, great talent. So.
Gene: Fair enough. Fair enough. Okay. It’s just because this topic has become so relevant because of the pandemic. It’s so many people have, either companies are sending their employees to work from home, and there are many other companies that have gone virtual and are really considering not returning to the office. So, for those companies that are thinking of giving up the office life and just being completely virtual, what advice do you have for those business owners? What has been your experience?
Carolina: Well, I’m definitely thinking there’s a big push towards more working from home. And when I speak to clients who have been in a traditional office setting, and now they’re working from home and now some have to go back, they’re really kind of pushing back. And I think a lot of people got used to the freedom of the working from home. You can be productive if you’re working from home. I think it’s important to have ground rules and a system in place. And for my business, translators have always worked this way. They’ve always been freelance. So it was really no difference. They always have worked from home. So I was lucky in that regard, I didn’t have to modify really anything in terms of how they worked. So.
Carolina: As long as they do their job, then we’re good on our end.
Gene: Have your clients, have they given you any pushback to the way your organization is, do they care?
Carolina: No. No. And honestly, most translation companies are not brick and mortar locations just because it’s not something that you just usually walk in off the street for. Everything is done virtually. Documents are all sent virtually, and we don’t really handle original documents or anything like that. We can provide the originals of course, but we don’t take the original documents. So there’s really no real benefit to a brick and mortar location. Unless you have a big office location with hundreds of translators working for you or something.
Gene: My company itself is completely virtual. We’ve been virtual since 2005. So there’s a few reasons why, number one is because I hate people and I hate being around them. So that’s a big part. And then secondly also is, we were able to cut overhead. And third, when did have an office in Philadelphia, because the nature of my company, which is a technology services company, nobody was coming to the office. They were all like you. I mean, they were dealing directly with our clients in their own way. And I’d be sitting in the office paying rent and twiddling my thumbs. So we shut it down.
So my experience has been it’s cut overhead. So that’s good. But sometimes I feel like I’m running the world’s most dysfunctional company. We never see each other face to face. We have no culture in our company. You know what I mean? Everybody’s just kind of out doing their own thing. It’s a company, but it’s not, you see some company like The Hartford is a perfect example. I mean, they’ve got employees there, and they’ve got employee events, and there’s a social life there and a community within the company. Do you miss that? Do you think that’s something that your company is missing? Do you care? Do you hate people like I do?
Carolina: Those are all great questions. I don’t miss a corporate environment or any kind of physical environment. Of course sometimes you do feel like translation work can be isolated. Because you’re just sitting in front of a computer all day and translating words. And so in that regard, yes. But I do try to have a personal touch with my clients and I do try to… I think it’s important to keep in touch with people, have coffee with people, send a personal note and do things like that to make it so it’s not just, you’re talking to someone on an email all the time. And so, since a lot of our core business is right here in Miami, I get to do that often. So, that’s nice. In that regard.
Gene: Yeah. And I found that with the people that work for me as well. I mean, listen, they hate me too. So it’s mutual. They’re happy to be working on their own. Even the virtual meetings when so many people are going to Zoom, a lot of people I work with, I feel my employees, they’re like, I’d really not even prefer to be on video. No offense Gene, you got a face for radio, but also I’m in my bathrobe and, whatever. So there’s been that kind of thing. Again, I’m dealing with tech people. So it’s different. Speaking about tech, can you share with us Carolina, what technologies do you use to run your company? Do you have a platform? Do you guys use Office? You can name specific applications. I’m just kind of curious what you’re using and how that compares to my company.
Carolina: Yeah, sure. So we use CAT tools, that just helps. It’s still a hundred percent human translation, but it just is in the quality process of doing the translation. So this is really helpful. One particular one I like is Wordfast, but there are a lot of different ones. And then each translator sort of uses what they’re comfortable with. We use an accounting software, and I really like Wave. I mean, there are many out there. I like Wave Accounting. I use a CRM for my email, my inbox, just to keep things organized and in tidy boxes, Squarespace to run our website, and mailing service like Mailchimp for newsletters. I really like Canva a lot. I don’t know if you’ve heard of…
Carolina: I like that as well. And then Google business suite for email and things like that is good too. Well.
Gene: Yes. So yeah, so you’re using it all. That is great. And other than the translation tools, I’m definitely familiar with those. You’re right about Canva, great tool for doing design, for your artwork and for, social media, even your website. I’m assuming that’s the kind of stuff that you use it for?
Carolina: Yes, definitely. Yeah. LinkedIn and things like that where you need to create a post or something. I think it’s really great.
Gene: That is great. So, that’ll be my last question. I’ll turn things over to Jon. So you’re working from home, you’ve got people working from home as well. That’s what it’s all about when you’re having a virtual company. But, stuff comes up. There’s distractions. Happens all the time. I see people with their dogs, my dogs barks in the background, the whole thing. So is that an issue with you? I mean, or do you think that’s an issue with your clients? It seems like that’s just not a big deal anymore.
Carolina: No, it’s really not. You know, I take my phone calls and my bird’s not usually here, she doesn’t live here with me full time, she’s visiting, but it’s usually quiet in my environment, I just take my phone calls and people really don’t care. Like I said, translation businesses, they’re usually virtual anyways. So I don’t really think that it’s something people ask too much about. Sometimes people will ask, oh, where’s your office or can I come and drop documents off? Some people like to do that, but…
Carolina: We accommodate to meet people when they want to, when we need to drop off documents to them or provide the originals and things like that.
Gene: Got it. Okay. That’s great. Oh, and one final question and then Jon, I’ll turn it over to you. Sorry, you were mentioning different technology platforms. Do you guys have a phone service that you use? I’m kind of curious if you do and what you do.
Carolina: I use Google Voice. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that. Yeah.
Gene: So we use Virtual PBX. There’s a few of them out there, Grasshopper is another one that competes with them, where I think we pay 10 or 12 bucks a voice mailbox. But if you call my office, it’s an 800 number and then it’s the dial by name directory, and then it forwards it to people’s cell phones. You can get hardware as well, if you want to.
Carolina: Oh, that’s interesting.
Gene: Yeah. Just throwing that out because it’s just that way we could have an 800 number and it does voicemails and all that stuff. So it’s more of a sort of a corporate looking environment. So anyway, that’s what we use. I was curious to hear what you’re doing. Google Voice is great as well. I think I’m out of questions at least related to your business. I have lots of questions about food and food recommendations you might have, but we’re just going to have to pass on that for another day. Jon, I’m taking up all of Carolina’s time and I apologize, but let me turn things over to you.
Jon: No, it’s a good conversation and I appreciate it. And Carolina, so I want to dig in a little bit on kind of who you are and how you ended up in translation a little bit. So kind of seeing your background as Gene kicked off, food studies is an interesting way to get into translation, and just kind of curious a little bit about your journey there and to your point when you were finishing school and looking for a job. What is it that you thought you would do before you kind of ended up here?
Carolina: That’s a great question. So, I was really passionate initially about healthy eating and I started getting into that in college. I had a professor that did a lecture on GMOs, genetically modified organisms, and that really just piqued my interests. I had never heard of them until that point. And, I was shocked that we were eating that and that was in our food supply. And so I really just dug in and started doing as much research as I could and I really became passionate about it. And then I started learning about how the whole food system works in this country and elsewhere. And so when I saw that master’s program at NYU, I applied for it. And so I studied that and I thought that I would get a job in something with food policy related or something of that nature. But there weren’t many positions in my field.
And I was really passionate about plant-based nutrition specifically and the positions I were looking at didn’t really fit my interests. And so I was sort of at a stand still where I didn’t know what I was going to do. So I thought I would start my own food consulting company. And I tried that for a little while and that didn’t really pan out the way that I had hoped. Then I started to get requests for language translation because people knew about this other side of me, which was the languages. And I started to do that for friends. And then kind of started just getting the word out. And I started to look for opportunities in translation and I was doing other odd jobs on the side. I was tutoring at a local school and substitute teaching there, and teaching Spanish and stuff like that. And so I could get my business off the ground and do the translation full time.
Jon: Awesome. So when you started kind of picking up the translation part, did it start with things that were more closely related to food? Was it menu and were there categories? Because to kind of get into legal, I feel like legal language is almost its own language, regardless of kind of origin, it’s just such a specific way of talking. How did you kind of get into that space or were you kind of always interested? It sounds like maybe in public policy or have a little bit of a background or education in the legal system at all.
Carolina: Yeah. So, it started, I was just accepting whatever came my way. It was varied, it started with, I mean I did marketing, I did so many different things and then I started to get a couple legal requests and at first it was like, I don’t know, there’s that feeling when a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners have this imposter syndrome where it’s like, I don’t know this, I don’t know if I can do this. But I did it. I said, you know what, I’m going to do this because this is what I want to do. And this is what I want to be, what my business wants to be. So I’ve got to step it up.
And so I spent hours, I learned the legalese, I researched it, I read contracts, I read samples. I did all the legwork and I really became specialized in that over the years. So even though that wasn’t my background and I mean, I did have a little bit through the international relations, but I wasn’t a lawyer per se. So you got to do what you got to do, especially at the beginning when there’s not many clients coming through the door and I wasn’t in a position to turn people away. So, that’s where that started.
Jon: No, it’s true. I think it’s a common theme that we hear and talk about a lot is kind of, it’s only never been done until you do it. And sometimes you just have to kind of come from that place of BS and I’m going to figure it out and that it becomes an interesting or niche thing. So when you started to kind of grow that part of the business and start to kind of take off, was it something you really kind of had to sell, or was it more because you were kind of the only game in town, people started to find you a recommendation base? How did you start to kind of build your book of business?
Carolina: Well, I think really, for me, the biggest was I think word of mouth. And I think that when clients were happy with the work I was doing they recommended me to others and other law firms, people within their law firm or the bank or whatever the company was. They would say, “hey, do you know anyone for translation?” The legal department needs something or the marketing department needs something. And so it’s sort of, that’s how my name started to circulate. We even did a big translation a few years ago where we did the translation for both council and opposing council. And I think they recommended me to one another. And so it was a huge undertaking with over a hundred thousand documents within a week span of time. And I had just gotten injured. I had a leg injury and I had to be sitting for 12, 15 hours a day. So it was crazy. But those are the things that you do and that makes it an awesome experience. And you learn from it, you grow from it.
Jon: No, that’s incredible. And that must be an interesting position to be in, because you’re kind of seeing both sides of, I feel like especially in law you can get a very one sided point of view if you’re only supporting one side of the argument. So that must have been just been an interesting experience altogether.
Carolina: Yes, it was. I learned a lot. That’s the other thing I love is I learned so much from whatever the translation is. I always learn something new every day.
Jon: I bet. Now, talking about that a little bit. So, you mentioned you grew up bilingual, how many languages do you speak today?
Carolina: I speak five.
Jon: And did you pick those up kind of over the course of education or just out of interest or hobby? How and when did you start to kind of add into your toolbox there?
Carolina: So I studied Italian in college. After that, when I went to NYU, even though I was studying food studies, I wanted to learn languages on the side. And so I got special permission from my program to take undergraduate courses, which, I probably shouldn’t be saying that, but they let me do it even as a grad student. I took Portuguese and then I took Russian. So I picked both of those up when I was getting my masters. Yeah. And I mean, I try to keep learning every day. I love languages, I’m trying to learn French. I’d love to learn Mandarin. I think that would be amazing. Yeah. There’s so many languages that I would love to learn.
Jon: It’s funny, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had more of a keen interest in trying to learn other languages. I grew up in a house that was English. My grandmother spoke a little bit of Italian when I was super young and I could kind of, you start to understand it contextually. And I ended up taking it in college too, but it was interesting because in high school, I didn’t really probably commit as well as I should have. And now it’s one of those things I kick myself for every year as an adult where it’s such a beautiful thing to be able to communicate. And I don’t think we always understand that, especially with, I think growing up in a traditionally American culture. Kind of how important or how beneficial it can be to speak in someone else’s native tongue, especially kind of as you grow in the world.
Carolina: Yes, definitely. No. And I bet if you tried to pick up Italian, just because you had that background, it’d probably be easier for you, too.
Jon: One day. We’ll try it. We’ll see if we can do an Italian language podcast by the end of next year.
Jon: We’ll see. I can have you grade it. Awesome. I think the other thing I’m kind of keen on is, when you think about how many languages you speak and how much thinking and interpreting that kind of requires, when you hear things and when you’re kind of thinking through these legal contracts, what’s that process like in your mind? Are you interpreting it as English and then immediately kind of translating it four ways? How does that kind of impact you when you come across written or spoken word?
Carolina: First, I sort of read over the document and kind of understand the context of it. And then I start to sort of from a macro point of view, and then I really hone in on the micro, sentence for sentence, word for word type thing. And then of course there’s many revisions that happen. There’s the initial translation, and then I leave a bunch of notes for myself, come back to this, rethink this or reword that. And I think that’s how the editing process goes with any writing, but yeah, you really have to think about things. I think with legal and things like medical or financial, there’s really not much room for creativity.
Carolina: So in some ways it’s easier, in some ways it’s harder because of course the terminology is harder. You got to find, each country has different laws, there’s different terms for things. But with medical, the Latin root, and so there’s not a lot of room for creativity, you know what I’m saying? So it’s like a pancreas is a pancreas is a pancreas, in any language. But with things like marketing, there’s more transcreation that happens. That’s more of an adaptation of the text. So, things like metaphors or jokes or things that have to be sort of carefully crafted into the other language. It can’t be a word for word. And I’ve seen some awful horrendous examples of word for word. I’m sure you have too, of marketing like that. So yeah. It really has to be an adaption of the text, and that requires a lot more creativity than the financial or legal part of it.
Jon: Yeah, it’s interesting. Because I don’t think people always catch that. And to your point, you usually learn about it when it becomes a little bit of a scandal or kind of a PR fail. And I think that’s a good takeaway for our audience. If you are thinking about translating your marketing specifically into another language, do yourself a favor and find someone who really understands the language because I don’t think Google translate always gives you the best adaptation. And, sometimes what you’re saying is not what’s being received. So definitely you must, I could only imagine kind of the internal dialogue you have to have with some clients there. It’s like, I know you’re trying to say this, but what you actually are saying is something completely different.
Carolina: That’s totally good advice, Jon.
Jon: Awesome. Well, Carolina, I think we’re almost about time, but I want to see if there’s anything else you might want to add to the conversation or anything else you’d like to kind of talk to.
Carolina: Well, I think that I’ve noticed that a lot of people when I first started my company and I told people I have my own company, people said, oh, you know, that’s cool. But now I’ve seen a shift where people are like, oh, that’s really cool. Tell me more about it because I really want to start something or it’s my dream to start something. And I think even with COVID, there’s been more of a shift. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this with any of your other guests, but if there’s a bigger shift towards, I mean, the working from home, but also for starting something of your own and not being tied to a particular company. And so, I think that’s an interesting trend that’s sort of going on right now and people are wanting to start their own thing. And so I think that’s cool and Miami, I mean, this country is built on small businesses and Miami is full of them too. And I think it’s a great place for it. So yeah. I hope to see you all here in Miami.
Jon: Awesome. Well, thank you. Yeah, I think that entrepreneurism, it’s not going anywhere. I think since the pandemic happened, it’s a trend I don’t think we’re going to see go away. I think that people have realized that planning for things the way that we’ve probably all been taught to growing up and the kind of linear steps you can take in life, that’s not always guaranteed. And there’s something really kind of interesting about charting your own course. And I think it’s kind of made us all be a little bit braver and bolder. So if there’s a silver lining, maybe that’s it.
Carolina: Yes, definitely. Definitely.
Jon: Awesome. Well, thank you again, Carolina, for the time today. Gene, thank you for a great conversation.
Gene: Thank you, Carolina. That was awesome. And best of luck to you.
Carolina: Thank you both for having me on.
Jon: Okay. Thank you. Yeah. And again, we’ll have you come grade when I can at least fluently speak a couple sentences.
Carolina: Okay. I will do it.
Jon: And to our listeners, thank you. We wouldn’t be here without you. We appreciate you spending some time with us and we’ll keep an eye out for you on the next one. In the meantime, if you’re interested in getting more insights or advice for your small business, make sure you check out the blog, sba.thehartford.com. And if you are listening to this on any of our audio platforms, make sure you rate and subscribe us. It helps us out. Leave us a comment, let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear about next. And we will catch you on the next episode.
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