How Sean Hopwood Grew His Business from a Small Company with a Few Clients to a Multi-National with Offices in the U.S., England, and Dubai!

Do you want to grow your company?

In this interview, Sean Hopwood President of Day Translations reveals how he grew his business from a small company in Tampa, Florida to a multi-national company with offices around the world by systematizing and automating his entire business!

You will also discover how he improved communication with his clients, how he trained his employees and was able to delegate tasks to them successfully.

Sean Hopwood President of Day Translations

 

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In this Episode You will Discover:

  • How Sean wrote 2,000 pages in manuals to systematize his business.
  • How Sean created an intranet for his business, and how it keeps his team updated on changes within the company.
  • How Sean has been able to reduce the number of incoming calls from clients, and how he keeps them updated on the status of their order.
  • How Sean came to realize that systematizing his business once wasn’t enough.
  • Why Sean believes you need to set up your business to grow on its own.
  • Why Sean believes that if you want to provide good customer service, you need to manage the human element within your business.
  • Why Sean’s website was over-optimized, and why he needed to make changes to his marketing.
  • How Sean was able to let go of everything within his business, including payroll.

 

Episode Transcript:

OWEN: My guest today is Sean Hopwood and he’s the president at Day Translations. Sean, welcome to show.

SEAN: Thank you very much.

OWEN: This show is all about getting entrepreneurs on here who’ve been able to systematized their business so that it runs successfully without them. And you get to talk about how you’re able to do it. Before we talk about the details or the steps you took to systematize your business I want to share with the listeners what are some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through that process of systematizing and automating your business?

SEAN: Some of the most mind blowing results that I’ve experienced myself are just the growth. And being able to systematize your business and automate your processes has allowed our company to grow exponentially. We’ve gone from a small company in Tampa, Florida with few clients just in the area, to a multi-national company. Now we have over six offices in the United States and we have an office in London, England in Dubai. So systematizing our process has allowed us to exponentially grow to this size.

OWEN: Awesome. How is it that your company has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?

SEAN: Our company has been transformed in so many different ways. We have been able to grow from just serving our clients locally here in Tampa, Florida, to grow in our employee database. And in growing our employee database and our clientele has allowed us to grow exponentially. For example we’re an interpreting and translation company so we have to have translators or interpreters in any city in the world. This is something that wouldn’t be very easy if we didn’t have any automation and process because thousands of cities, thousands of interpreters, and thousands of languages that we have to translate. In order to do this we have to systematize the way in which the interpreters apply to our company because we had to be able to provide an interpreter not only in Los Angeles, United States, but in St. Petersburg, Russia, or Paris, France, or Dubai. We had to systematize the way that interpreters could apply to our company in order to grow to the size that we are today.

OWEN: How will you say your personal life has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?

SEAN: My personal life has been transformed greatly. In the first couple of years that we had the company I was constantly trying to automate things but there was so much to do. And I was working 12-14, sometimes 16 hour days. Sometimes I’ll work 2 or 3 days in a row without sleeping because there was so much to do. But as a lot of people probably say, once you systematize your business and you automate your processes you can focus on more personalized space. My health is increased. I’ve had the opportunity to dedicate time to my habits like dancing. I’m really into dancing and I have a lot of free-time to play soccer, which is good of my health and good for me to spend time with my friends and family.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Since the business itself runs without you successfully, what will you say has been the longest time you’ve been away from it?

SEAN: I could be gone for a very long time. Right now the longest I’ve ever been away from my business was about 5 weeks. This was last year. I went to New York City to go to one of the biggest salsa dance studies in New York. I’ve spent 5 weeks going twice a day to put intensive dance training there. And so I was systematizing my processes. I was able to go and foster one of my biggest hobbies that I have. I was able to focus on dancing, something that I really needed to get away from business, from the day-to-day aspects of my business. I actually went 5 weeks without even touching my business, without checking my emails, and purely just focusing on one of my hobbies.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Just so the listener can get some context as to what your business is all about so that as they learn from you today they can relate it to what your business is about. What exactly does your company do and what big pain do you solve for your customers?

SEAN: Our company can be involved in so many different aspects because we’re a translation and interpreting company. We’re a multi-faceted language service company. We provide legal and certified translations to immigrants, to hospitals, and law firms. We also do translations for movies. We do a lot of the subtitles that you see when you watch a movie, we do the subtitles. Nowadays with movies opening all across the world and in several different markets they need their subtitles to be translated perfectly in several different languages. So that’s one of the big things that we do. We also really focus a lot on legal translations. Let’s say there’s an immigrant from Ecuador and this person needs and wants to become a citizen of the United States. We have been through the entire process. The immigrant, first they need their marriage license translated, or they need their birth certificate translated. Then we certify those documents. And then we legalize those documents to be used in the United States. And then after we do all that the immigrant often means it has to go through immigration interview. We provide them an interpreter for the immigration interview. So we do a lot of the process by helping people become citizens of the United States.

OWEN: That’s awesome. How many full-time employees do you have?

SEAN: Right now, we have 26 full-time employees.

OWEN: I think during the pre-interview you mentioned about the amount of translators and contractors you have.

SEAN: We have about 200 full-time translators and about 200 or 300 full-time interpreters. Aside from that we have about 500 contracted translators and interpreters that we can call upon them when we need them. Because we don’t need that every single day. And this is also something that actually helps me save a lot of money because we don’t have to… As a contractor we don’t use that on daily basis. For example there are some very rare languages that we don’t need every day. And so, those 5,000 contractors.

OWEN: Is your company profitable and what was last year’s annual revenue for the business and what do you probably expect to do this year?

SEAN: Our company is profitable. We’ve been in business for 8 years. We’ve been averaging about two to three million dollars a year. Last year it was a little bit under $2 million dollars. But our company is I’ve experienced a lot of growing things. I’ve learned a lot of legends from marketing. So our company has been around the $2 to $3 million range every year. For this year though we’ve had days that we average about $20,000 to $30,000 a day. So we’ve been growing exponentially. This is really in part to the fact that we have systematized our processes where we can grow exponentially so we can handle all these new clients. I’m expecting $5 to $7 million this year.

OWEN: Awesome.

SEAN: I’m expecting $5 to $7 million this year.

OWEN: Awesome. We’ve shared where the business is right now. Let’s go back to where the business was not systematized and automated like it is now. What was wrong with that?

SEAN: I’ve had every possible issue you can think of. I started the company from scratch by myself. I’ve had to deal with human resource issues, client issues, issues with our website, and everything. When it wasn’t automated we had all kind of human resource issues. We didn’t automate our translation process. So we had errors in translation. I had to hire new people and I would actually re-train them from all the information that was in my head every time…

OWEN: Every time you hired somebody, yeah.

SEAN: Every time I hired someone. And so I realized if our company is going to grow, I’m going to have to document all these training manuals. And I’m going to have to document all our processes because it’s going to be extremely exasperating, trying to repeat myself over and over again. Even if I hired a human resource manager. They would be exhausted trying to repeat themselves over and over again. So I realized quickly though we had to document our processes. And we focus a lot on the employee side. Our company is really customer service driven so we had to really make sure that our employees are well-trained.

OWEN: Back then you started doing some training when you realized that you have to know these issues, we’re trying to train the employee, you have that documenting procedures kind of like training models and stuff like that. Talk about how longer was it taking you then when you were training the employees. You said something about four months or so?

SEAN: Yes. These employees, they would go through a training, and the training would be a month long. And so that would take time for me. I wasn’t able to focus on the growth of the company. For a whole month I would spend training employees. And then all employees are re-trained every four months that it’s kind of like an update. The clients are updated on all the new information. Then they had to be updated on the information every four months. This is extremely exhausting for us to do. If you want I can talk a little bit about what we did to approve these prices.

OWEN: I guess we’ll talk about that shortly. But back then when the business was not systematized what will you say was the lowest point and describe how bad it got.

SEAN: The lowest point is we had just started our company and a lot of business owners will be able to relate to this. We have just started our company, just started to make money, just started to get clients, and have income. We have this really big client at the time. It was a $36,000 translation that we were going to do for this large client. Our systems were not automated. We translated the document. We didn’t have a good proofreading process in place so our translations in a nutshell basically turned out bad for the client. The client was extremely upset and they were embarrassed because their client was unhappy with the translation. The client refused to pay us. So we lost basically $36,000 and I had to pay payroll for my employees and the translators, and all the people who had worked on this project. It took us several weeks to get this project done and it was all for naught because we made no money. The worst problem of it all was I didn’t have the $20,000 to pay or payroll.

OWEN: $36,000 actually, right?

SEAN: It was $36,000 and it was $20,000 that were my expenses.

OWEN: Okay.

SEAN: I had to take a loan from the bank just to pay my employees. I basically started the company in $20,000 in debt. I learned a huge lesson from this. I learned we had to improve our processes. We’re going to start getting a lot more clients, and I had faith in the company. So I did take the loan out to pay our employees and I had faith that we’re going to continue to grow. So I sat down and I wrote a lot of manuals. I tried to improve our processes because I didn’t want this to happen again.

OWEN: Was that the breaking point when you realized that you needed to systematize the business? Is that the point where you said you had to make the changes?

SEAN: Yes. And also my girlfriend at the time, we had done some research and that was the breaking point when I realized… The negative thing was we lost so much money, but the positive aspect of this was I realized how big the industry was.

OWEN: How? I think during the pre-interview you mentioned you did some research, right?

SEAN: Yeah, we did some research in the industry and I looked at some of the competitors. I saw some people making $300 to $400 million a year. I realized I picked a good industry to be in. I decided to make sure that all of our processes are clean and in place, and they’re well organized. The point when I realized that I had to automate my processes was that losing all that money and at the same time realizing how big she was and how much potential there was if I would only automate our processes.

OWEN: Back then, what was the very first step you took to systematize the business?

SEAN: The very first step I took was to write manuals. This was the most tedious process but for me it didn’t seem tedious because I was so passionate about what we’re doing. I’m a linguist and I speak a few languages myself, and I’m extremely passionate about languages and I was really passionate about what we do. So I would sit down, literally working until 5 in the morning for several weeks just writing these manuals. I wrote a manual for marketing, I wrote a manual for the sales department, I wrote a manual for human resources, and I wrote several other manuals.

OWEN: While you were writing, I think during the pre-interview you mentioned something about PowerPoint presentations?

SEAN: Yes, they were a combination of PowerPoint, Excel, and Word files. The Word file would be a manual that you would read which is about 150 pages long. The PowerPoint presentation was about 100-120 slides. They had graphs and charts. We even had training videos that we put in place for this. I wrote over 2,000 pages of manuals just to systematize our business and it took several months to do, and we’re still improving our manuals today.

OWEN: You also mentioned something about quizzes. How did quizzes come into play when it comes to documenting…? I guess you’re re-writing the manuals and were you quizzing your employees on what they studied on the manuals? I don’t understand.

SEAN: This is something that saved us so much time. The human aspect of running a company can be really complicated. And then you can take the human element out of it as much as possible and automate things, you can really become successful. What we did…

OWEN: The quizzes was the second thing then and the writing of the manual was the first, right?

SEAN: Yeah. The quizzes were the second thing that we realized that we had to do. We wanted to make sure that the employees we got at our company were solid and very intelligent employees. We have a 5-star process that they have to go through. But the interesting thing about this process is it’s entirely automated. The applicant basically applies to the company and we read through their application and make sure that everything is in order. If it’s not in order, actually their application is automatically rejected by our system. If it is in order we send them a 5-step process. The first step is they take the intelligence quiz. The second step is they take a quiz to see how they would handle different situations in our company. The third step is they take an essay. The fourth step is they get an interview with the human resource manager. And then the fifth step is we hire them. These first three steps are done automatically. The quizzes are automatically graded. And if they don’t pass the quizzes they’re automatically rejected in our system. This has gone from taken us two employees to do and working on this on a daily basis to actually requiring only one employee and that employee only basically has to check the end result and interview the client. It saved us a lot of money and a lot of time during these quizzes.

OWEN: Another thing that you did is you created your company internet, talk about that.

SEAN: The company internet is something extremely important because we have our manuals and we have all our processes documented. But our company is constantly growing. When you’re creating a manual it can’t be a standard manual. It has to be a living document that changes. And we created a company internet to where all of our manuals are updated online. Basically our company is not going to be the same company five years from now as it is today. We actually plan for this growth. We’ve fostered this growth. So we created an internet where the employees, the human resource manager and the operations manager can add new information and stuff that’s changed. And every time we re-train our employees all the information is automatically updated on our company internet. It’s like a wiki. You can add and update information on our company internet and it actually updates the news, what’s going on in the company, and changes that are going on in the company. Any change that happens is automatically updated on the internet.

OWEN: What other steps did you take back then to systematize the company that comes to mind?

SEAN: One of the most important things that we did to systematize the business are the quizzes and the online application forms. And we also automated our payment system.

OWEN: The invoicing of clients right? That’s where you’re getting on now?

SEAN: Yes. We created a system where the employees don’t have to enter any of the information. The client enters all the information themselves. They pay for the translation online, they can check their invoice online, and their translations are delivered online. And they can actually check on and get updates on their translation online. All they do is they log-in to their customer database and they click on to request on an update on their translation, and it automatically tells them, “Your translation is 75% or 80% done.” This has saved us a lot of time on the client side?

OWEN: Why?

SEAN: Because the clients used to call all the time and they would ask us, “How is our translation doing? How is going? When is going to be done?” I’m trying to do as much as I could to reduce the amount of calls that we’re getting to our company so that our customer service representatives can focus on the human aspect as much as possible and not have to answer repetitive questions. So we created a system where the clients can login and check all the information that they need right there from the system. This is another way where we’ve taken the human element out of things and used processes and technology processes. Basically when you have your systems documented and you have processes in place you can take the human element out of it and that reduces error.

OWEN: Back then when you were making these changes how did you even prioritize what other steps to take? How did you decide which systems to create first and which ones next? What will be the reasoning behind what you did, like how you did made the decisions?

SEAN: A lot of people say when they’re starting the business they don’t know where they’re going to start. It’s extremely overwhelming. I don’t know if I should focus on finance or if I should write a business plan, what to do? In my opinion you just have to dive in and start. When you start your business the business demands certain things for you to do first. When we started our first business the first thing it demanded was setting up a website so that our clients could contact us. After we set-up the website we started getting clients calling and asking certain things like, “Do you do French translations or Arabic translations?” Then the business demanded from me to recruit more French and Arabic translators. They would ask, “Do you have insurance?” I’m like, “No, we don’t have insurance.” I then realized we have to buy a company liability insurance. You can’t just do everything at once. But if you just dive in there the company will demand certain things of you.

OWEN: Basically you’re saying that when you’re doing the systemization of the business, let the demand drive the systems you create.

SEAN: Exactly. Let the demand drive the systems that you create and then you’ll just piece it together one by one.

OWEN: Back then, you mentioned a part of this already, how did you document procedures and processes for the business back then, and what tools did you use? Earlier you mentioned you used PowerPoint. I think at one time you also use Word and Google Docs, right?

SEAN: Yes. I’m a strong believer in technology. Our company is really human-oriented but we have a strong base of technology in the background. I like to consider ourselves as a strong technology company. We actually have eight people working in our developing development, our app developing department, managing our databases and stuff like that. The systems that we started using, we used PowerPoint and Word documents in the beginning, and of course Microsoft Outlook to manage all of our emails. We use Google Docs to put a lot of our systems online, documents that can be updated by different employees at any time. After our company started growing we started to use CRM. We created our own internal CRM where we can track our clients, track their payment information, and the last translation they did with us, where they’re located, all that information. One of the biggest things that we did was we started implementing the CRM and our CRM continues to grow. For our internal development projects we use Trello, which is a system that everyone can update. A lot of these things are status applications that can be bought from different companies. But we use technology and a lot of information that’s in the cloud so that we don’t have to continue to write things and save them on computers. They can be updated online. That’s something that I strongly believe in.

OWEN: At that time when you were working on systematizing and automating the business what books or even mentors had the most influence on you and why?

SEAN: One of the main books that I read was Good to Great by Jim Collins and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Another book that I’ve read was Outsource Smart by Daven Michaels. And that was really important in our company because we’re a translation company and in order to be a translation company you have to have people working in several different countries because there are several different languages. For example we do a Zulu translation in South Africa. We’re going to have to have these people who speak Zulu, most of them only living in South Africa. And so, we recruit people from all around the world. We have to understand how to outsource, how to deal with these cultural differences…

OWEN: Yeah.

SEAN: And most importantly how to pay them. How do they receive payments? Can they receive PayPal payments in South Africa or do they have to receive money in a different way? There are some countries in the Middle East that have different cultures and we have to understand that. And I speak Arabic myself. I speak a few languages, and I believe that my understanding and willingness to diversify our company has really helped us with the translation company because personally I love cultures. I love diversity.

OWEN: Back then also this guy who has a YouTube channel, Eli the computer guy, what exactly were you learning from him? Was it about systemization?

SEAN: He talks a lot about systematization and he talks a lot about technology. I’m a big lover of technology. I took some computer programming classes when I was really young but I didn’t get into it as much as I wish I had. This guy teaches about computer program and technologies, databases, he talks about different languages like PHP, HTML5, CSS. He also talks about Somerset, the data centers. He talks about anything a company needs to do to grow, and using technology to help their company grow. He’s an expert on all things you need to do in order to systematize from a technology standpoint.

OWEN: Back then, what was the biggest challenge that you experienced when you initially tried to systematize the business and how did you solve it?

SEAN: The biggest challenge I realized is that doing it one time is not enough. You can’t systematize your business and then just walk away and say everything is fine. I like to call it automating the process of automation. Basically…

OWEN: Why is doing it one time not enough?

SEAN: Because like I said before your company is not going to be the same company in 5 years than it is today.

OWEN: I think during the pre-interview you used the word that I like, you said it’s a living document.

SEAN: Yes, the document has to be a living document. It has to be continuing to grow with your company. Like I said all of our documents are editable and online. The manager can go in and let’s say there’s a new policy that they want to put in place, Policy 14.2. They go in and enter the change, Policy 14.2 and then add another new policy, 14.3 and 14.4. These documents are automatically updated online. Number 1, every time our employees do a re-training, they see the most recent documents. And number 2, when we have the employee they’re getting the most recent documents.

OWEN: How was that a challenge though?

SEAN: It was a challenge because a lot of people say when they start a business they just want to create it and just leave it alone. After a couple of years you can just let your business run on its own, but you have to…

OWEN: I guess what I’m getting now, you have to make that conscious effort to know that every time you had to go back to reflect on the document and improve it if you had an issue or something. You have made that conscious effort to always be looking at ways to improve it, otherwise it’s just going to be there and you’re not doing anything to it.

SEAN: Yeah, and your company’s not going to grow. If you want your company to grow while you actually have personal time for yourself. And you don’t have to constantly be involved in the business, you have to set-up your business in a way where it grows on its own. You also have to hire employees that are leadership-oriented employees who can help the company grow.

OWEN: What was the second biggest challenge that you experienced at the time where you were trying to systematize the business?

SEAN: The second biggest challenge would be the human element. With humans there are so many different possibilities, so many things that could happen. You have to make them feel important. You have to make them feel like and understand that they are contributing to the growth of your company. But there are so many human aspects that can come up. For example an employee could be sick or an employee could have a family emergency, or they need their vacation time, or there are some animosity in the company. You can systematize things as much as possible. But if your company has a human element in it and you want to provide customer service you’re going to have to understand how to manage the human element. We have to basically make sure that everyone in the company felt important. And we have a system in place where the employees could be promoted and they could be getting raises and recognition for the work that they do. I didn’t want the company with employees just doing the bare minimum. I want a company where the employees felt a sense of belonging. A sense that they’re contributing to a greater good. I think that we’ve accomplished that in our company. We’re helping people become citizens of the United States. We’re helping people with legal problems. We’re doing so much. I believe that our employees understand our role in helping improve people’s lives and increasing communication across the world.

OWEN: Do you have any other challenges that come to mind that you experienced that time when you were trying to systematize the business? I think you mentioned something about the marketing department. What was the challenge with the marketing department?

SEAN: It was a big challenge because now these marketing has totally changed from where it was 10 years ago. There’s a lot of search engine optimization and social media management that didn’t exist 10 years ago. That has been a big challenge for us because we’ve actually over optimized our marketing in the beginning to where Google actually lowered the ranking of our website because of the over optimization.

OWEN: Search engines

SEAN: Yeah, of our search engines. We actually experienced a dip in growth and our revenues decreased because our marketing department wasn’t [Unintelligible 00:32:00] systems in place for them to follow instructions. Basically we didn’t do things correctly in the marketing department, we’ve over-optimized our website and we were penalized by Google in the search engines for doing this. After I started to improve our marketing department and improved the way we did business, and mixed traditional marketing with social media and search engine optimization. That’s when our business started to grow again.

OWEN: That’s awesome. I think you also mentioned there was a challenge of finding managers because it’s one thing to find someone who wants to do the work and then another thing to get somebody who wants to take on a larger responsibility or role.

SEAN: Yes. It was a challenge. I spend two and a half years trying to find a marketing manager. But what I realized what you have to do and what I did in order to get this was probably very obvious. What I did was I created a job description for exactly what I wanted. It was a about 3 or 4 pages long and had to understand exactly what I needed in the job position for marketing manager. And then I put the application online and I let the people apply. And then we started to evaluate our people for that position. We put them through testing, essays, and interviews, and then we hired people. We finally found we have a really strong marketing team now and we found really good people who are able to market our company without any risk of over-optimizing our website or anything like that. I have a manager in each position. It’s been a big challenge for me in the beginning to actually wanting to delegate. A lot of the managers will find that they want to micromanage the employees and they want to have their fingers in every aspect of the company. But I realized that if I want our company to grow I can’t do that. I had to hire managerial oriented people who can actually make the company grow on their own. And people who are creative, who can come up with their own ideas, and who could take initiative without being told what to do. That’s one thing that I do.

OWEN: Awesome. Given all the challenges you mentioned earlier why did you even stay committed to the goal of systematizing your business?

SEAN: Because I love what I do. I’m extremely passionate about languages, translation, and interpreting, and I’m passionate about entrepreneurship. The satisfaction that I get whenever we pay one of our employees, or one of my employees tells me they just bought a house. That makes me feel so satisfied because I know that the opportunity that we gave them in our company to work here contributed to them being able to buy that house. Being able to create jobs and being able to provide work for people, and help people communicate, provide translation services for people, this is what kept me going. I’m just extremely passionate about what we do.

OWEN: That’s awesome.

SEAN: When you have your own company you have the ability to do so much more in the world. It’s like you have extra arms to where you can do more things. For example you can setup charities or foundations. Right now we’re setting up a scholarship for people who are learning languages or studying international business. There’s so much more you can do to make a bigger impact on the world when you have your own business. For example Bill Gates, he started his own business and he actually left it. He’s still the richest man in the world but he left his business and now he started his own foundation, something that he was really passionate about, the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation. And now he’s helping vaccinate kids throughout Africa and poor countries. So the fact that you can do more when your run your own business is something that really kept me going.

OWEN: At what point in time were you able to systematize your entire business so that it can run without you successfully?

SEAN: We started different processes, we systematized the marketing and sales. But the last thing that I systematized was the payroll. And this was about a little bit over a year ago. I was able to let go 100% of everything. Payroll is sometimes the hardest thing to let go off because you don’t want people to know exactly what the other employees are making. Also you get kind of nervous if somebody’s going to pay somebody on accident or pay them too much. When it has to do with money you get very nervous. That’s the most important thing. But I was able to let go. I hired…

OWEN: How did you do that?

SEAN: I was very nervous but I have a woman who’s been working on our company for seven years. She’s extremely trustworthy and so I decided to give her the responsibility of being in-charge of payroll. She’s perfectly trustworthy, she’s been doing it for over a year now. That is taking a lot of time out of my day because I don’t have to write the checks. I don’t have to do the checks, I don’t have to do all those things that were extremely cumbersome.

OWEN: Now we’re talking about the present, just so the listener can understand how your business works. What are the different parts of your business and the specific systems that you have in each part. To make this question clear imagine your business is like a conveyor belt. One end of the conveyor belt is somebody who has some translation project. On the other end is that person being transformed into a customer raving about you guys. But behind the scenes people and processes in your business that are making things happen to enable that transformation. What goes on behind the scenes?

SEAN: We have different prices for different kinds of services. The main service we offer is certified translation. What happens from the beginning we have our marketing department marketing our company up. And then we have a client that contacts us with the translation be it email or by phone. What we do after that is we send them a quote for their translation. The next step is they approve of the translation. Once they approve of the translation the invoice is automatically processes online and then we assign the translation to a translator. Let’s say it’s a French translation. So we assign a French translation to the French translator. And then back to the translator space the next step would be we assign the translation to be proofread, to the proofreader. After the translation is done and proofread we send the document to our mailing department which is in San Jose, California. Our mailing department stamps the document. If it’s a certified translation we have to get the document legalized and notarized. We notarized the document, seal the document in an envelope, and mail it via 1 or 2 day mail, whatever the client requested. That’s the whole process for a certified translation. We had to document those process. I actually even made a how-to video on how we do this so that all the people in the mailing department and every department know each step of the process.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing that What are the steps do you have in place now that enable your employees know exactly what they need to do. I think in the pre-interview you mentioned something about systems of checks and balances.

SEAN: Yes. We have a very clear and intricate system of checks and balances. We have online forms where each day the employee has to fill-out all of the quotes they did to clients, all the phone calls that they answered, and all the phone calls they returned. All these information is processed in an online CRM. And then I can go in and check how many quotes were done, how many clients were followed up, how many quotes were approved. And I can even divide it up about each employee. For example, Jane or Maria, or whatever employee we have, how many quotes they did for that day. I can look at the analytics for the month and how many they did for the month. Are they increasing or decreasing. I can check all that information with our online CRM that we created. This helps us to train our employees and actually determine a lot of times whether or not they get raises at the end of each quarter and different things like that. And so, using technology to automate these things has really allowed us to keep track of our employees knowing what they need to do and making sure that they’re doing it.

OWEN: Did you mention the thing about clocking in as well?

SEAN: I didn’t mention it but yes, we have our employee online clock in and clock out. They clock in and we can check online when they’re clocked in because we have employees all throughout the world. We have employees in the United States, Asia, and South America. We have people all throughout the world. They check in online and the human resource manager makes sure that they clocked in on time. We also have online checklists to make sure that they went through the procedure for each quote, that they called the client back, that they sent the email, that they provided a contract for the client. And they also entertain all the questions that the client had. We have online checklists and online forms that the clients use to clock in and clock out.

OWEN: How do you track and verify the results being delivered by the employees?

SEAN: I verify these results like I said with our CRM, our Client Relationship Management System as well as the online system that we created to track our employees. Let’s say at the end of the month I want to see who’s been doing the most calls or the most quotes. I’ll look in there and it actually can be set-up as a graph. I could see Maria has done the most quotes. And then I speak to Maria and I’m like, “You’ve done a very good job.” The human resource manager actually does this now, I don’t even have to do it. But she says you’ve done a very good job and I think that you are up for a raise, or I think that you have the opportunity and you have more responsibility in our company. We have all these things in place to measure and analyze the performances of our employees and also give them the opportunity to grow within the company. And this has really reduced our internal turnover rate. A lot of people are very surprised by this but we’ve only had one person quit in the past 7 years. A few people go for certain reasons but we’ve only had one person quit. And this is I believe because of our way of tracking employees and the systems and documents that we have in place to make sure that the employees are appreciated and they have the opportunity to grow. I’m a firm believer in analytics. I really believe that you can mix the human element with analytics and make a really sound decision on what to do with your employees and how to train them.

OWEN: Since you have more free-time in the business right now. I’m wondering which areas of the business do you focus on now and why?

SEAN: I guess I have a lot of free time if I want. I like to focus a lot on marketing and technology. Our company has grown to the point where our systems and processes are so well in place that we can handle 30,000 more employees than what we have right now. It’s kind of frustrating whenever you don’t have as many clients as you can handle because we can handle a lot of our work. I’m really focusing on the marketing of our company right now.

OWEN: Because it would drag more people in.

SEAN: Yeah. Also, I like to focus a lot on technology. Personally, I’m taking classes on development right now, learning how to develop and manage databases and servers so that I can understand better how to manage all of our developers. For example we’re working on another application. This application was already finished. You can download it on iTunes or Android. It’s an application where you can basically request an interpreter from anywhere in the world and we’ll provide you with an interpreter anywhere in the world within an hour. Sometimes it takes longer if it’s a rare language. Or if you need an interpreter over the phone we can provide you with an interpreter within 2 to 3 minutes. So these are the things that I’ve been focusing on now that all of our systems are in place. And if these things weren’t in place, if I didn’t have all these automation done in the beginning I wouldn’t be able to focus on growing our company, on technology, and our market. I would say about 50% of my work is on marketing and the other 50% is on managing and growing the technology of our company.

OWEN: That’s awesome. And that shows the testament of systemization, because you want to be able to focus on this if you didn’t have a business that is systematized. Because you’ll literally be stuck working inside of it.

SEAN: Exactly. That’s why systemization is so important.

OWEN: What will you say is the next stage of growth for the business and what do you plan to achieve next and why?

SEAN: The next stage of growth is to be a household name. Kind of like Uber has become a household name for someone who wants a taxi in the United States. We want to be the household name for someone who needs an interpreter. And so we need to work on some things like retaining your clients, growing our economies of scale. We’re now creating an interface where all new clients can login online, request their translations, and give updates on the translation. Like I said, we’ve got a lot of that finished right now. And also a couple of other things. We’re improving the quality of our service. I won’t ever like to just rest on my laurels and say everything is perfect. We like to increase the skills of our employees and the abilities they have and our customer service. And really focus on branding our company. Making a brand that’s all encompassing that fosters repeat business. Just make our company, Day Translations a name that people go to when they need translations, interpreters, and stuff like that. The next step is to basically take our company from a company that’s making $5 to $8 million a year to trying to get close towards that $100 million a year mark.

OWEN: And if you can quickly summarize the steps to take so that the listeners can transform the business just like you have so that it runs without them. What would that quick summary be?

SEAN: In order to have your business run successfully without you, you have to have a balance. I try to make it really simple, it’s employees and clients. And it’s the yin and yang of your company. You have to keep those two things in balance. Basically you have to make sure your employees and clients are happy. You can treat both of those equally. Then your business can run successfully without you. In order to do this you have to understand what your goals are for your employees and what are your goals for your clients. And you have to document all these processes. Like I said, these processes could be tedious. It could take weeks or months to write these things. Personally, I feel like I’ve written a couple of novels with all the documents that I’ve written. But it was never a chore because I was so passionate about it. Or you can hire someone to help you write these manuals. But you have to write extensive manuals and PowerPoint presentations, and different quizzes. And you have to get everything in place to make sure that the client and employee side are take care of.

OWEN: Awesome. What will you say is the very next step that the listener would have to take in order to get started today with transforming their business so it runs without their constant involvement?

SEAN: One thing that is extremely important would be to hire managerial-oriented people. You can’t just try to micromanage the company on your own or it’s not going to grow past your personal capabilities. You have to hire people who are smarter than you in several aspects. You might be really good at organizing a company but someone else might be really good at marketing. And another person really might be good at human resources. You have to identify who has talent and harvest the talent of each one of your employees and exploding to the point where they are fulfilling their true potential, and they feel like they are satisfied with what they’re doing and they feel like they can actually come up with ideas to help your company grow. So you’re not the only one. For example, Google hired someone internally to develop Android for their company. And all of that was done internally by the company. I don’t believe that the owners of Google were even too much involved in the development of Android. Android has become the number one operating system for telephones now. This was done by an internal employee at Google. If you can hire the right people and give them the opportunity to grow they can create amazing things within your company.

OWEN: As we’re round out the questions I’m wondering, is there a question you wished I asked you during the interview even it’s systems related or not, but whatever that you think will help to really round out the interview? Go ahead and post the question and the answer.

SEAN: The question might be why I started the company in the first place. The reason I started the company was because I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was interpreting for law firms and I interpreted at hospitals. I was actually fired from my job as an interpreter and a legal assistant, and I was unemployed for several months. Actually the first month I realized I want to start my own business. I think unemployment was giving me about $330 a month. I could barely survive off that, but I use that time to learn how to develop websites and how to market my business. I went to the small business development center and I started my own business. So now something that I’m really passionate about. It was one of the best decisions that I ever made.

OWEN: What would you say is the best way for the listeners to connect and thank you for doing the interview?

SEAN: I tried to make myself really available, available for interviews, available for advice, and I like to give people business advice. People can contact me on my website seanhopwood.com, or our business website daytranslations.com. Or they can follow me on Twitter, @seanphopwood. I usually reply within 30 minutes to anything. I’m pretty responsive.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Now I’m speaking to you the listener. If you’ve enjoyed this interview all the way to this point, what I want you to do is leave your feedback on iTunes, and to do that you go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes. Hopefully you’ll leave a positive review. And if you are in an Android you might want to use the Stitcher app. To do that go to sweetprocess.com/stitcher. If you know another entrepreneur who would benefit from listening to this interview please feel free to share this interview with them. Finally, if you’re at that point in your business where you’re tired of being a bottleneck and you want to get everything out of your head so your employees know what you know, then sign-up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Sean, thanks for doing the interview.

SEAN: Thank you very much.

OWEN: And we’re done.

SEAN: All right.

 

Noteworthy items Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. Trello for project management
  2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  3. Outsource Smart: Be Your Own Boss . . . Without Letting Your Business Become the Boss by Daven Michaels

 

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Here are 3 Steps to Take After Listening to the Interview:

  1. Make sure your employees and clients are happy.
  2. Understand what your goals are for your employees and clients, and document the processes.
  3. Hire managerial-oriented people, and give them the opportunity to grow.

 

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