Wendy Pease: Helping Companies Communicate Across Languages

Wendy Pease photo - Official Natasha Miller, helping entrepreneurs grow their business

“I’m just passionate about helping people figure out how to communicate across languages.”

Wendy Pease is the CEO of Rapport International, a translation and interpretation agency that specializes in language services for marketing, life sciences and law firms. She acquired her company in 2004 after realizing she wanted to own her own business. Having lived in places around the world including Mexico, Taiwan and the Philippines, Wendy deepened her cultural openness and understanding from an early age. Understanding the importance of communicating a message, she has developed a passion for language, culture, and communication and loves connecting people through networks.

I spoke with Wendy to know what it’s like to bridge the language gap and expand her business through global inbound marketing.

The benefits of multilingual marketing

Multilingual marketing is becoming increasingly important from a competitive perspective. It instantly opens your business to new audiences, especially those who speak languages other than English. In fact, the United States alone has the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world. By adapting a multilingual marketing strategy, you can expect 20% higher revenue on average, higher profits, higher valuations, and higher salaries. If you find a way to do this in one country,  you can replicate it across other countries.

There will never be one universal language

Language is more than just a means of communication. Any language is a cultural product that expresses our way of life, how we relate to the world and to other people, what we believe in and where we are from, in all aspects of human existence. Language also changes, usually happening locally or limited in a specific society, and naturally tends to diversify by its own nature. Therefore, it can also be considered an identity.

Understanding of grammar and culture

Translation and interpretation demands a deep understanding of both grammar and culture. Language always has meanings and references that go beyond itself. The meaning of a particular language represents the culture of a particular social group. Hence, learning a language means not only learning alphabets, meanings, grammatical rules, and word placement, but also learning social behavior and cultural customs. “You’re better off if you want to get into the industry to be fully bilingual in two languages and really know the grammar and the colloquialisms and the hidden meaning.

The world is your oyster

Today’s global trading system is ideal for SMEs to reach customers beyond their borders. Your local market is a great place to start, but it can only take you so far. Diversifying your customer base through exporting may help to grow your business, reduce risk, and survive changes in the domestic and global economies. “When the US economy drops down, other markets may be doing better. You may be missing huge pockets of people that really want your products and services because products and services are in demand, cross borders.” Don’t miss my full conversation with Wendy Pease! Tune in to the Fascinating Entrepreneurs podcast.

Transcript from Podcast

[00:00:00] Wendy: People are people and a smile travels across all cultures. And so if you can learn how to get along with people and learn some of these tricks, you can be a successful global business.

[00:00:13] Natasha: Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses?

How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit? These and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. Hey, can you tell me a favor? Well, you’re listening to this podcast. Can you open a web browser and type in officialnatashamiller.com?

Yes, this is my brand new website that I built for you, entrepreneurs that want to scale and grow their businesses. It’s packed full of information articles, blog posts, podcasts, and also you can download the free profit finder guide that helps you find more profit in your current business. You can get on the wait list for my digital course and be the first to know when my book Relentless is up for pre-sale.

Today, we talked to Wendy Pease about her interpretation and translation services company and how important it is for your business to consider entering the global market. Now let’s get right into it.

[00:01:31] Wendy: I got into translation interpretation because I had two layoffs on maternity leaves with both my kids.

One of them was a venture funded company that had been sold out. And then I decided to go to something more stable. So I took a global marketing role at a large life sciences services company, and they did away with their corporate marketing department. Yeah, well, before business school, I had owned my own company.

And after that, I was like, I just don’t want to do the corporate thing. I want to have my own business, but I didn’t have an idea of what to start. And I ran into somebody at a venture conference and he said, well, buy a company. I thought, well, that’s interesting. I worked in the portfolio companies of venture capital companies, and I just went online and started daydreaming.

I Googled buy a business and came across this little translation company for sale and it was fascinating. I majored in foreign service. I speak some Spanish, French and Italian. I’ve always loved languages and cultures. It was a similar business model to what I had done before business school. So lo and behold, with a home equity line. I bought a company.

[00:02:48] Natasha: That’s great. I haven’t met too many people that have bought a company. And after 20 years of owning and running my own company, I’m hearing about the perks and the upside of buying an existing business. And of course it makes so much sense. So much of the work that’s already been done.

So I had no idea and I wondered about the languages that you speak. But before we started this podcast, you had mentioned all these places you had lived, including the Philippines. So I just assume that you speak all of these incredible languages from all the countries you’ve lived in.

[00:03:23] Wendy: No, no, no in Mexico I did, I was in first and second grade and I went to half a day and learned all the subjects in English.

And then I learned them in Spanish. So Spanish is by far my strongest language. And then when I came back to the United States, I took it all through middle school, high school, and then the advanced courses in college. So that one, if I go on vacation, my kids think I’m bilingual in Spanish, but I’ve never done business in Spanish.

So that’s a different element. And then when I was in high school, I love languages so much. I took French and then I took a modified school day, my senior year, where I took an advanced French course through the university where we met two times a day and it was a full immersion in it. So I got more of a grounding on that.

And then when I was in 26, I quit my job and traveled through Europe. For months and people kept saying, well, you’re going to love Italy. And I’m like, no, I’m going to love Spain. I’m going to love France. I speak those languages. I got to Italy and I fell in love with it. So I came back and I took Italian lessons, but I found that it really messed with my other two languages.

Push that one down and try to keep the other way. You know, I try to keep Spanish, which is interesting because if we go to hire a translator and interpreter, if they tell me they speak five languages, I don’t pay attention to them because it’s hard for the brain to be fully competent in lots of languages.

You’re better off. If you want to get into the industry to be fully bilingual in two languages and really know the grammar and the colloquialisms and the hidden meaning.

[00:05:06] Natasha: Yes. And there are hidden meetings, so interesting that you chose to buy an existing business. That’s based on really. I can hear the passion in your voice about language.

So it’s not like a big surprise. It’s not like you bought a bowling alley and you never bowled before. Right? So let’s talk about the benefits of multilingual marketing.

[00:05:29] Wendy: Absolutely. Here in the United States, less than 1% of US companies export and of those 98% of them are small and mid-sized businesses.

So a lot of companies say, well, why do I need to export? The United States is big enough. Well, what they’re missing out on is when the US economy drops down, other markets may be doing better. You may be missing huge pockets of people that really want your products and services because products and services are in demand, cross borders.

So those that do export have higher revenues on average, 20% higher. Higher profits, higher valuations, higher salaries, and they’re more stable companies. So figuring out how to do that in one country, then you can replicate it across other countries. So a lot of people will say, English is the global language.

So I don’t need to translate or I’ll just use Google. And that’s where I just pull my hair out going no, because test it out yourself, go to a website that’s in another language. Click, Google wants to translate this, click it, and then try to read it. You’re going to be off that website in a nanosecond.

You want to read something that’s really clear. You can get through it quickly. And you’re going to trust. We work with a lot of companies about how you do that affordably and what are some buyer signals that you can jump on to make sure that you’re successful in these other countries.

[00:07:00] Natasha: So if English is not the global language, is there one, is there one language, if you’re thinking about learning a new language, what would it be?

What should it be?

[00:07:11] Wendy: There will never be one global language. And I’m thinking I got to do a Ted talk on this and really do a deeper dive on it and show all the different reasons. But I’ve got a list of words that are just simply untranslatable.

[00:07:25] Natasha: Give one.

[00:07:27] Wendy: Okay. How about, this is one of my favorites. It’s a Finnish word.

Cal sota con. Okay. Okay. It means I’m at home in my underwear. I’m drunk and there’s no way I’m going out.

[00:07:45] Natasha: Okay. That’s not a literal translation, but that’s the colloquial.

[00:07:49] Wendy: That’s what it means.

Yeah, yeah. Or there’s a German word called Cotsen jammer and the literal translation is whale. But what it means is hangover.

[00:08:03] Natasha: Gotcha.

[00:08:04] Wendy: You know, and this is why Google’s having a problem, trying to get exact translation because they don’t have it. They can’t capture all these idiosyncrasies. One that I love is redneck. You know what a redneck is?

[00:08:17] Natasha: Yes. But I can imagine for a non-English speaker, there’s no way they could get to what we know it to be.

[00:08:26] Wendy: No, no, because it has that cultural meaning behind it. So put it in Spanish. It means white peasant. And if you put it in German, it is farmer in Google translate. And then the whole history is lost because of redneck actually came from the miners who wore red bandanas that were striking to get workers’ rights.

So it doesn’t have anything to do with farmer, but it is a rural type meaning. I got so many, we share them on LinkedIn and social media when we come across them. Cause some of them are really funny as you’ve seen.

[00:09:01] Natasha: Yes and I can see how it could be really awkward in movies. You see funny scenes where someone thinks they’re speaking French, and then they actually are saying something just horrific.

And they’re like, what? Didn’t I just say what I want?

[00:09:17] Wendy: Oh my gosh.

[00:09:18] Natasha: In business that could really make or break the deal.

[00:09:22] Wendy: Oh yeah, I host the global marketing show podcast and I get people on there talking about, and embarrassing moments like that, that they’ve had when they’re doing international business. But you know, after a year of doing it, I’m finding that the recurring theme is just be curious and have a sense of humor.

And then you can do business with anybody in the world.

[00:09:43] Natasha: What about gestures and nonverbal translation? Do you guys address that within what you do as a business?

[00:09:51] Wendy: Yes. So that is what we’d call cultural adaptation. So if you’re working with a translator who is working with your written material, if they’re reading something and it’s incorrect, they’re culturally inappropriate, they’re going to let us know. And then we’re going to work with you and we’ll make suggestions on how to change it to make it culturally appropriate. And that can be colors. It can be references. It can be how you talk about the elderly or younger people. So all sorts of things come into play on that.

If it’s spoken interpretation and you have an interpreter with you, they act as a cultural conduit. If you’re walking into a situation or something’s going on and it feels uncomfortable or unfamiliar, you don’t know what’s happening, they can help talk you through what might be going on in a cultural side.

[00:10:42] Natasha: That’s really intriguing, so you had mentioned that you wanted to talk about grants and support for exporters. So talk to us about that.

[00:10:50] Wendy: Yes. In the United States, definitely I can talk to more about that because there are big programs to help people export because we bring so many container loads of goods and services.

And because less than 1% of the companies export, they want to encourage companies to do that. And so the federal government from the department of commerce and then the states all offer supports. There’s this whole network of people that are out there just to consult with you about how to go international.

And then they have grants that they give out that can be used for translation. It can be used for updating your website, for doing trade shows. They’ve even expanded it to sending samples. So there’s all these things that you can use the grants for. And oftentimes money is left over with the states, so it’s accessible.

[00:11:41] Natasha: Something that you help businesses with sourcing and qualifying as part of your suite of services.

[00:11:48] Wendy: Yes. Yes. We don’t get into writing the actual grant because they’re different in each state, but we can give you a direct contact to somebody in every state that can help you walk through the process and the people who do this are delightful.

They’ve had experience with international trade they’re so experienced and they’re so passionate about it and if you’re you’re listening and you’re in another country, I was talking to somebody from Germany the other day, and he was saying that the German government offers it. And so I know that there were other supports all over the place.

And even if you want to go into a country called your embassy in that country and the embassies have trade departments that can help you go in across help you export.

[00:12:29] Natasha: That’s amazing. So yeah, you wrote a book?

[00:12:32] Wendy: Yes.

[00:12:33] Natasha: How did that happen? What kind of support did you get in doing that? Looks great. Did you write it? Did you work with a ghost writer? Did you work with an editor? What was your process?

[00:12:44] Wendy: Well, our processes is that we believe in the inbound marketing methodology. So you provide helpful content to people when they’re trying to figure out how to do something. And so each of the chapters was a blog or a white paper.

I wrote some of them, some of the blogs on the white papers, my marketing person who’s fantastically Saray wrote, and then I took them all and I developed a table of contents. So I didn’t have a ghost writer. I took all the content that we had created and put it in the order of the types of questions that I was getting.

So I’ve worked with hundreds of companies to help them communicate across languages. And I see that there’s such this opportunity in global marketing. So I put it together and I wrote it and then I worked with a hybrid publisher to get it out there.

[00:13:32] Natasha: That’s great. And so it really is the great calling card for you as an expert in this field.

And I imagine it opens doors for doing business, but also perhaps speaking and guesting on podcasts and such.

[00:13:46] Wendy: Yeah. Since I’m part of that community of people that from the state that work, I’m just passionate about helping people figure out how to communicate across languages. And you know, we’re talking a lot about crossing borders here, but in the United States, We have the second largest Spanish speaking population in a country in the world.

So Mexico has more Spanish speakers than the United States, and then all the alike Spain and Peru and Chile and all the other speaking countries. So if you’re in the United States, you better be looking at some Spanish marketing to capture the attention of the people that speak Spanish. If you have any doubt about that, go to Telemundo, or Univision and look at this advertising.

[00:14:32] Natasha: So back to your business, what are you doing to scale and grow your business this year? I know you have a small team you have about, is it six or eight employees?

[00:14:42] Wendy: We’re 10 pushing 11 now.

[00:14:44] Natasha: Is that full-time, full-time employees?

[00:14:48] Wendy: Yeah, I think two of them job share. I’m looking at my employee list.

[00:14:53] Natasha: Org list, so what is the strategy that you’re really focusing on this year, which is nearly over, but what are you doing? And how’s it working?

[00:15:03] Wendy: Well, there’s a few things, one is we implemented traction, you know, the book by Gino Wickman. So I read the book and it just completely made sense. We’ve implemented a lot of things from that. The second thing is our team has really been focused on, you know, we were just having a conversation today, whether we have a sales oriented culture or not.

And it’s so funny because sales, it was a four-letter word here. People are like, we’re not salespeople, but I’ve encouraged them to be helpful and provide content and get answers to their questions and do things. And so with that, our company has really grown because everybody’s looking for how to help people. They won’t sell, but they love to help.

And I’m like, well, isn’t that what a salesperson, a good salesperson does. So that’s the second thing. The third is really empowered the management team to make decisions. And so that free’s me up for doing more of what I like, which is podcasts, and speaking, and educating to help people understand how they communicate.

And the fourth thing is, is we’ve gotten a lot more involved in social media because we were providing all this fantastic content on our website, but we weren’t driving enough people to it. So we have a whole social media. We haven’t done paid social now, but, um, really connecting with people and building relationships on there.

And so that’s really how. And plus, okay. And the last thing personally, I joined EO, Entrepreneurs’ Organization. So if you’re a business owner with over $300,000 in revenue, check out the Accelerator, if you’re over a million, join the Regular EO. And that is a amazing organization with people from around the world.

And so that’s been so helpful.

[00:16:51] Natasha: That’s an incredible opportunity for you specifically, but for any entrepreneur, that’s how you and I met. Thank you for giving a plug. I always plug EO. Where you’re at right now with the business, it’s going well, you’ve got a management team. You’re on EOS traction. You have a book, things are going well.

And a lot of times we see of course the positive, wonderful, shiny, pretty objects. What are you challenged with right now? What is keeping you up at night or what is a roadblock that you’re experiencing?

[00:17:23] Wendy: I am working more than I ever have before. So when I started my business, I had my vacations. I had my time.

If I was too much time at the computer, I’d get up and go do yard work or go for a bike ride or something. Now I have a thera stick sitting on the floor next to me I’ve been in physical therapy because I’ve got all the knots from looking at the computer too much. It’s a combination of things.

One is, during COVID, it’s what I could do. I wasn’t hopping in the car to go to networking events or face-to-face meetings. I was very focused on running the business and writing the book. And so right now it’s just too much time in front of the computer. So I did hire an executive assistant, Chrissy in the Philippines, and she’s taking a load off of me, of handling things but trying to make sure I get that balanced vacuum, which is not like me. Cause usually as an entrepreneur, I’ve got good bounds. So I’m working on that.

[00:18:22] Natasha: The last question I want to talk to you about is your podcast. Who’s your target demographic for listening? Who do you interview and how’s that going for you?

[00:18:31] Wendy: The podcast is going great. I mean, it’s been out there a year. The last I checked, we had people in 40 countries download it. Listenership goes up every episode, which is every week that we post out there. So I’m thrilled. I’m enjoying it so much more than I thought I would because it’s talking to people who have actually done global business.

So there’s an episode. With somebody from rotary that globalized their whole marketing, how they went from a multinational company to really having a global message, talk to somebody who said they used to have an internal person in market and do their translation and the problems that they ran into doing that had another global sales expert that talked about how you open new markets.

And he actually brought up that in with doing translation, having your distributor do it. How risky that can be and how it blew a market launch. We’ve got somebody who hasn’t traveled outside the country and is managing global market just by going to trade shows in the US and meeting people. So there is no one size fits all.

It’s all these different examples. And then they talk about different cultural experiences because people are people and a smile travels across all cultures. And so if you can learn how to get along with people and learn some of these tricks. You can be a successful global business.

[00:19:57] Natasha: Wendy talked about the incredible opportunity for exporting from America, being able to communicate with people in their native language, and how she’s scaling her business. For more information about Wendy, please go to the show notes where you’re listening to this podcast.

Want to know more about me, go to my website, officialnatashamiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, please leave a review where you’re listening to this podcast now. I’m Natasha Miller and you’ve been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Sign up for the newsletter