Elisabete Miranda, President, Translation Plus, on the Key to Diversity Success

Elisabete Miranda’s company Translation Plus provides specialized translation and interpretation services for complex subjects and diverse cultures, helping the United Nations, the federal government and numerous Fortune 500 companies reach their global and US ethnic audiences effectively.

Translation Plus was recognized as a 2010 Top 500 US Diversity Business by DiversityBusiness.com, a 2011 National Minority Supplier Development Council Regional Supplier of the Year as well as 2011 New York/New Jersey National Minority Supplier Development Council Supplier of the Year.

Active in the translation, localization, and interpreting industry, Elisabete is an expert in multicultural and multilingual communications. She has acted as a cultural consultant to healthcare projects targeting various ethnic communities in the U.S. and has written articles and an industry white paper on the subject. y.

Elisabete was also selected by a distinguished panel of independent judges from a competitive pool of applicants across the US to be honoured as an Ernst & Young Winning Woman in 2010.

We spoke to Elisabete about how leadership has brought her out of her comfort zone; about the value of all women networks; and the key to diversity success.

TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch Translation Plus?

EM: When I moved to the United States I couldn’t speak English.  It was a challenging time for me and the inability to communicate effectively in my day to day life was frustrating and sometimes even frightening.  I started working with my sister-in-law a professional translator who had started her own company that evolved into our partnership at Translation Plus.  If I have to single a moment that triggered my interest for cultural relevant communication, it was how the lack of cultural understanding at my daughter’s school led to a very scary misdiagnose related to vaccine.  I got really interested in improving translations by addressing both intercultural issues and language. It continues to be a major differentiator for us – and my personal passion.

TNW: In a market with myriad translation companies, how does your company distinguish itself?

EM: We are a next generation translation services company.

In our view, it’s not only what you say, but also how you say it. We offer culturally fluent language services by translating the meaning and feeling of messages.

This is critical and it really matters to our target markets - human health, multicultural marketing and global learning.

TNW: How important is technology to the success of your company?

EM: Technology is critical to the success of almost all companies in today’s world.  In our case, it is part of marketing, the translation process, and also a component of our customer deliverables. In the translation area, technology allows us to improve turnaround times, provide consistent terminology, manage our workflow, partner more closely with our customers, and access specialized linguists located anywhere in the world. Going forward, we are very excited about differentiating ourselves through the use of technology and digital media to create new services.

TNW: With business translations, is it often necessary to translate cultural differences, as well as words?

EM: Business communications encompass a very wide range of requirements. Cultural differences have a low importance in technical areas – like a cell phone manual or instructions about how to assemble a chest of drawers. But in areas where there is a need to change behaviour culture is really important - or as I say, you need to “speak to the heart”. For example, “selling” is conducted very differently in different cultures so for sales training programs we work with our clients on things like how a training program is structured, how key components are communicated, and even the type of case studies or exercises that would be most appropriate.

Another example would be health care where we would use a totally different approach regarding a contraceptive drug in a male dominated society then we would use in the US.

TNW: Translation Plus counts the United Nations, the federal government and numerous Fortune 500 companies amongst its customers. How did you attract such high profile customers and what advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to do the same?

There is no magic formula. I attribute our success primarily to thinking big, hard work, constantly looking for the right opportunities and not being discouraged by the amount of work required to answer requests.

Once the opportunity materializes – over deliver. We are passionate about what we do and our clients mean the world to us. This shows in how we interact with them and by standing behind our services 100%.  Another advice that I would give is to be persistent and surround yourself with the right people.  At the end of the day, you can’t do it alone so your team is the most important asset you will have.

TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?

EM: I think it is a combination of the three.

As an entrepreneur the easiest part is having a vision and being excited about it.

In the early stages other than strategy, planning isn’t much of an issue – you can’t afford to turn any orders away and the focus is on continually improving the execution. Different life cycles of the company require different resources that you may not have available. Finding creative ways of attracting the right talents worked for us. As you grow planning is much more important and funding may be an issue to take maximum advantage of upcoming opportunities. 

TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your company which you remember as the highlight so far?

I have many moments which I treasure. However, being chosen as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Woman in 2010 was a big moment.

Being singled out by such a prestigious organization was a huge honour for both me personally and our employees. While I see this award as recognition of my hard work and accomplishments, it is even more significant as a tribute to what we have achieved as a team. I simply wouldn’t have been considered if our company wasn’t successful.  

TNW: What is next for Translation Plus? How do you see technology as a key growth driver?

EM: One area that we are really excited about is new services that will deliver culturally fluent learning content through diverse hardware and software platforms.  We believe that this will be a real breakthrough and it will enable us to provide innovative, relevant, learning programs to companies with global workforces.

TNW: Translation Plus was recognized as a 2010 Top 500 US Diversity Business by DiversityBusiness.com and a 2011 National Minority Supplier Development Council Regional Supplier of the Year. Diversity is such a hot topic at the moment. What do you believe is the key to diversity success?

The key is to be the best company you can be. I’m not aware of any diversity success stories that weren’t companies with high quality, competitive pricing, and outstanding customer service. 

These success stories sought out guidance and advice from the diversity channel and were able to prove that they provided the best value and, only then, was the “cherry on the top” of meeting diversity goals even considered in the sourcing process.   

TNW: What is one lesson about leadership you learned the hard way, but wish someone had told you at the beginning?

EM: As a leader, it’s my job to ensure that we have a culture of excellence and that this culture is embraced by everyone.

This means that I had to get out of my comfort zone and be more assertive (which is not common in my culture) including giving the tough feedback necessary to make every person on our team grow and be the best they can be.

How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your business? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN? 

EM: I have met many inspirational women at DWEN and obtained a few new clients as well.  Women have a different way of thinking and it is really helpful to exchange ideas about the ways they operate and run their businesses.  The DWEN event in Rio last year, was one of the most impressive events that I have had the opportunity to be a part of - besides that it took place in the most “Wonderful City of the World” (ok, I’m BrazilianJ).

Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our community?

Yes, being at the top of your company can be a very lonely place.  Actively participating in a network with likeminded people, such as DWEN, can give you the support you need to get to the next level - then the next, the next, and the next.

The possibilities are endless if you believe you can make it happen!  You only get what you give, so belonging to the community and actively participating will change everything.

The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The NextWomen is in partnership with DWEN to bring you a series of 40 interviews with the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers: The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series.

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