When Jessica Moseley took over her mother’s assistive technology and sign-language interpreting company, TCS Associates, as chief operating officer in 2008, there were five employees and an annual revenue of $800,000. By 2015, the Maryland-based company boasted 62 employees and more than $7 million in annual revenue. That year, Moseley restructured, dividing its technology and interpreting functions into two companies and becoming CEO of TCS Interpreting. The secret, Moseley says, is trusting her decisions, which wasn’t always easy. A member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization since 2015, Moseley advises other entrepreneurs to remember that failure is part of the process.
“There are definitely many times of loneliness and self-doubt,” she says. “Learning to trust my decisions and being comfortable with making mistakes is a learned trait—one I am still learning—but it keeps me humble.”
Q. Tell me about your business and how it got started.
TCS Interpreting was started by my mother, Myrna Aiello, back in 1982. It began as a computer business and at the time was named Technical Computer Services (TCS). TCS was a retail computer store. I graduated with my master’s in HR Management and went on to work for a few companies. In 2008, after many discussions with my parents, I began running TCS as the COO. At that time we had five employees and revenue was holding steady at $800,000. By 2015 I became CEO and we had 62 employees, and revenue was at $7.2 million.
Q. What challenges did you encounter when first growing your business?
I would say the biggest challenge I faced while the business was growing from 2008 to 2015 was creating an identity and core culture. We grew 200 percent a year, and while that seems great, there was a lot I needed to learn (I am still learning!) and we did not have time for processes or procedures, let alone a true core culture to develop or a real identity. So I would say that, alongside of ensuring our workforce and logistics team were prepared to handle the steady increase in volume of work without burning out.
Q. What personal challenges have you encountered on your entrepreneurial journey?
As I am sure most entrepreneurs go through this, there are definitely many times of loneliness and self-doubt. Learning to trust my decisions and being comfortable with making mistakes is a learned trait, one I am still learning, but it keeps me humble. I am very hard on myself and I am working on trying to shift that. I also realize from time to time that there are some areas of the business that outgrow me—and I am OK with that. Proud of that, actually.
Q. What would you say sets your brand apart?
I believe our commitment to employee-driven programs sets our brand apart. Programs such as mentoring, professional development, screening and recruiting contribute to a more engaged workforce. In addition, the decision to implement four core company values—transparency, growth, equality and collaboration—demonstrates our commitment to maintain integrity throughout company operations.
Q. How did you first hear about the Entrepreneurs’ Organization?
I first learned about the organization from a family member on the West Coast who was a member. He had been telling me to join for over a year before I made the initial call to apply. I haven’t looked back since.
Q. How long have you been a member?
Q. Why do you think it’s so important for a company to implement a mentorship process?
In our industry, it can be challenging to “bridge the gap” between graduation and national certification. Interpreting is a skill-based profession. Therefore, it takes years of practical application to attain a certain level of competency. Mentorship opportunities demonstrate a company’s commitment to professional growth, and a commitment to the industry. When an employee is given the opportunity to exercise their abilities, confidence and job satisfaction increases, and they feel a greater sense of contribution. In addition, developing an employee’s talents contributes to a company’s growth and innovation. Furthermore, when a company cares enough to invest in its employees, the result is a more engaged workforce and a greater sense of loyalty and trust.
Related: 6 Mentorship Do’s and Don’ts
Q. What challenges did you encounter while building your mentorship program?
Initially, it was challenging to find time to train our mentoring team. However, we were committed to establishing a mentorship and adjusted our schedules to accommodate the needs of the program. Now that we have a firm foundation, the mentoring team stays current through video trainings and conference calls.
Use your company’s values to set the tone for your mentoring program. We value growth and collaboration, so it was clear our mentoring program was a value-add for the company.
It was also challenging to select a philosophical approach. After thorough research, we chose the Vygotsky teaching method with the zone of proximal development. Other challenges included identifying the correct framework and structure for the program, selecting the appropriate staff to become mentors, identifying how and when to provide time for mentors to work with interns, and identifying appropriate yet challenging work for interns. Furthermore, establishing a mentoring culture was a challenge because it required the alignment of multiple departments.
Q. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who might be on the fence about the program?
- Use your company’s values to set the tone for your mentoring program. We value growth and collaboration, so it was clear our mentoring program was a value-add for the company.
- Mentoring programs can be costly, but ultimately, the rewards offset the costs. Training future employees through a mentoring program can engender loyalty and gratitude for growth opportunities. Mentees also learn to conduct themselves professionally, aligning with the training they receive. This “homegrown” process leads employees to demonstrate values-driven work.
- Get company buy-in. Ask your employees who they believe would make strong mentors, and what opportunities would benefit interns.
- Have a standardized approach and framework for your program. However, be willing to customize the program to fit the needs of the intern.
- Have variety. More than one mentor means that no one person is burdened by interns, and the intern has a more diverse experience.
- Keep a running list of what works and what doesn’t work, so you can establish expectations from day one.
- Require the mentors and interns to sign a contract that clearly states their expectations.
Q. What’s on the horizon for you and TCS Interpreting?
There is so much work to be done in our field. We are expanding into more nationwide on-site commercial and government work. We will also expand our Video Remote Interpreting program, and we will continue to build and improve our robust mentorship program. There is a large industry gap between education and service provider. We are trying to see if we can help play a role with that.
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.