For many people, trying to read or write another language can be a slow, mind-numbing exercise in frustration. For Beatriz Bonnet, it's a business opportunity. Her 11-year-old company, Syntes Language Group, has translated documents, manuals, and correspondence between English and more than 100 other languages. Although the firm has only 14 full-time employees, Beatriz expects Syntes Language Group to top $1.5 million in sales this year.
Not bad for a former teacher and part-time musician who "inherited" the firm in 1988. "I had a background in languages and had done some translating work for a friend, who had started the company [then called Global Communication Services] as a sideline," she recalls. "He was finishing law school, and offered to sell me the company in exchange for lunch. At the time, I thought, 'I'm just a flute player; what do I know about running a business?'"
Beatriz renamed the company Global Translation Services and most recently changed the name to Syntes Language Group. Initially, the company wasn't foremost in her life either; there was her music, teaching responsibilities and a master's degree to complete first. But word of the firm's services spread, and in 1990, Beatriz decided to devote herself full-time to expanding her company's solid reputation for quality work. When Beatriz and her husband relocated to Denver in 1995, Syntes Language Group moved with her. Yet she kept the Houston office open to serve the region's strong market for translation services.
With success, however, came many challenges, such as finding and retaining good translators, and managing two offices 1,000 miles apart. Beatriz had to make sure her employees were capable of handling the often complex assignments, as a misplaced word or wrong verb tense could easily cause headaches of literally global proportions. Fortunately, there was a resource that could help make sense of these complex issues—SCORE.
"I had been trying other resources as my business grew," Beatriz says. "While attending a business expo, I visited the SCORE booth and spoke to a mentor about my administration and human resources management concerns. He said that SCORE could provide exactly the kind of assistance I needed."
SCORE Mentor Phyllis Milway began applying her extensive knowledge of human resources and administration to Syntes Language Group's unique needs. She guided Beatriz through the maze of structuring compensation programs, interviewing and selecting candidates, checking references, and conducting new employee orientation, as well as the sometimes difficult process of termination.
Phyllis also offered suggestions on developing accurate and relevant job descriptions, employee handbooks, policies and procedures, and other personnel functions that are so vital—yet often overlooked—in supporting a company.
Phyllis currently serves on the board of advisors for Syntes Language Group. "Phyllis brings a breadth of experience that I couldn't have developed myself. She has been more than a great counselor," Bonnet says. "She's also a great friend."