Guest post from Claudia Mirza, CEO & Co-Founder of Akorbi, who led her company’s evolution from a language translation company to a global provider of multilingual business solutions.
Several years ago, I decided that if I was going to increase the global presence of our company, I had to pack my bags and hit the road. Staying in the comfort of my zip code while dealing with this aggressive global competition was not going to take us to the next level.
My journey began in India, then moved to Kenya, Colombia, Cape Verde, Senegal, the Dominican Republic and so on. I began networking and speaking around the world to gain more knowledge.
I decided to strategically join the WBENC Global Forum, joined WeConnect International, IWEC, Women Economic Forum, and started entering other countries through the Women Presidents’ Organization and Harvard OPM. I no longer have a desk. I have a light computer and a powerful phone with a global plan. I always carry a sleeping bag and a yoga mattress with me after spending the night shivering at a cold airport after losing my connection.
My global journey has been rewarding. I enjoy seeing new places, meeting people, and understanding different cultures around the world. I love the diversity and the beauty of languages. I love the economic empowerment of women as we exponentially increase our power by meeting our sisters globally. For Akorbi, opening production centers abroad has allowed us to stay competitive even with the fierce global pressure that we face while still increasing and preserving our American workforce.
My business, Akorbi, operates in 170 languages and it has taken me on a remarkable journey. We offer translation, interpretation (telephonic and video), staffing and multilingual call centers and that is why I rely on the global import and export of services.
There is a great level of satisfaction in running an international business. We get to help 911 departments and hospitals with their interpretation needs. We get to interpret in American Sign Language and Native American languages as well. We work supporting refugees and people with serious mental health needs, and believe it or not, we help governments collect taxes through the interpretation and translation of communications.
My global journey has been very rewarding, but there have also been several difficult moments that I feel are worth sharing as well.
We are building an operation center and the electric network is not sufficient; we were given the message that in order to speed up the process, we needed to pay to “rush” the process. We made the tough decision and refused to pay a “rush fee” even though it is taking longer, because we want to make it known we do not support corruption. It is very important to me that our core values are reflected in all we do, no matter what part of the world we are operating in.
In another country, we have been experiencing extortion. We refused and submitted criminal charges to the perpetrators. Unfortunately, the criminal prosecutions abroad are outside our control. We are still waiting for resolution and decided to leave the country due to the widespread corruption that does not align with Akorbi’s values.
Another important consideration in doing business abroad, is that the global democratic values are not necessarily equivalent to ours. Freedom of speech could be suppressed, leaving societies that stay quiet and do not speak up. In America, our democracy allows us to be bold and speak up, but in other countries, diplomacy is the only avenue.
Another huge consideration for operating a business abroad is personal security expenses. It is not a bad idea to consider private security consultants to help navigate the risks and complexities in other countries. I am personally unable to return to one of my houses abroad due to safety concerns.
When you are an importer or exporter of services, you deal with people and information. During this COVID pandemic, our BPO and call centers were locked down, limiting our access to them. We could not go to the banks, train our team members, or even monitor our new construction. Even though our business was considered critical infrastructure, as investors abroad, we could not access our businesses due to border closures. I believe that our trade agreements should seek protections for American investors in case of future pandemics. Also, as women business networks, we should continue pushing for the visibility of these challenges.
Corporate members and suppliers face similar challenges abroad and we should come together as importers and exporters of products and services to bring awareness to our legislators and industry groups.
The global work is lonely. When you are a victim of extortion, bribery, human rights violations, espionage and so on, you often suffer in silence, having to make the tough choices for your business alone. We should work together and stay together.
One great opportunity that I foresee is corporations looking for diversification of supply chains, removing the dependency on the East and therefore creating opportunities for near-shore and onshore women-owned companies. This will increase our own national security but also help democracies and the stability of our own hemisphere through job creation and the economic development in the Americas.
I love the United States and the more I travel, the more I value our democracy, freedom, support groups, business networks and business climate. No matter which political side we are on, American values remain strong because of our diversity in thought and balance. Our value systems, low corruption, and solid government structure aligned with activists, advocates working with the media, and engaged citizens is what make us great.
I thank WBENC and the global forum for the kind support.
Akorbi is a group of companies, based in Dallas-Fort Worth, specializing in providing enterprise solutions that empower companies to achieve success in the global economy. We help organizations connect with employees, vendors, and customers in over 170 languages 24×7, through any modality, from any location. Our customizable enterprise solutions include interpretation, multilingual and technical staffing, multilingual contact centers with business process outsourcing capabilities, learning, and localization services.