Grey Van Pelt is the founder and CEO of Flamingo Interpreting, a language interpreting agency that provides bespoke services to high-profile clients, heads of state, and major players in the entertainment industry.
Since its establishment in 2015, the company has grown exponentially, providing spoken languages both domestically and abroad.
In this exclusive interview with ValiantCEO Magazine, Grey discusses his approach to employee satisfaction, his company’s biggest strength, and how he’s adapting to the current shift in the business landscape.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Grey Van Pelt: I started my first company, Flamingo Interpreting in 2015 when I was still very new to the interpreting industry. It started as a small collaborative of the best interpreters I knew, working together to maintain a very small but exclusive list of clients.
We managed some of the most complex contracts in our community before branching out into other larger cities. In 2020 we opened our doors to the public and since then experienced exponential growth in cities across the US.
We now support spoken languages both domestically and abroad for heads of state, major players in the entertainment industry and high profile clients who need a bespoke touch
In the past year, what is the greatest business achievement you’d like to celebrate with your team? Please share the details of that success.
Grey Van Pelt: While we’ve consistently been one of the highest paying agencies in the industry, this year we were able to bring rates above the market standard in New York City across the board. Our interpreters are among the top earners in New York.
We’re proud of that as our industry has long relied on low labor costs to improve margins at the cost of the professionals providing the services. We’re thrilled to be the top choice for so many of the clients we serve.
That preference has allowed us to keep our margins and profit healthy while also being able to increase the payments to interpreters. This has given so many of our people the ability to regain healthy work-life balance, spend more time doing things they love and arrive to work with their best product leading the process.
We’re very excited to continue to push rates both within New York and beyond to improve interpreter earnings across the board.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle keeping talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are adapting to the current shift we see?
Grey Van Pelt: When Flamingo Interpreting was founded it had a very simple mission: to provide better services all around. We knew that in order to serve our clients the highest possible quality product, we had to support our interpreters in ways that at the time were unheard of.
We spoke to every practitioner joining our team and asked them what they needed to succeed, then we bootstrapped solutions in order to provide what they needed. We allowed them to lead in creating an agency that would be the best place in the industry to work… and it worked!
I’m so proud to say that every decision around how we work, where we work and who we work with was lead by our people and not just a corporate idea to serve profit.
Those choices that we made with great intention, shaped an agency that was quite hard to get signed into but also was incredibly attractive to the majority of driven interpreters. We were able to source top talent this way and open the doors for collaboration at tables that were filled with ideas and opinions.
We committed very early on to be consistent in checking in with our people. We’ve said from day one, if interpreters are ever not thrilled to be partnering with us and we’re not willing to change that… the doors have to close. We put employee/contractor happiness as our top priority and it has reaped incredible results.
We also have many feedback channels available to our people. Not only do we value self reporting, we solicit it whenever possible. It’s a very high priority item for us in everything we do. We also trust that if we’ve spent the time sourcing and working with a professional, they’re the best at what they do.
Allowing them to make decisions, lead and work with autonomy is so key. If we didn’t trust them, we didn’t hire them so why micromanage them?
Online business keeps on surging higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for the year to come and how are you capitalizing on the tidal wave?
Grey Van Pelt: We were the first interpreting agency with a presence in the MetaVerse. We’ve provided services in VR for some of the major players and have been very open to the process. I think flexibility is the biggest requirement of this change.
Now we’re running towards virtual work at full speed and keeping a very open mind to how that will look for our clients making the shift into a more virtual process. We’re excited.
I think the biggest change we’ll continue to see is a reduction in meeting times. The hour long standard meeting is dead and now with the ability to bounce into a quick meeting for 4 minutes to problem solve at the click of a button, it’s easier to avoid.
Meetings have become something closer to water cooler conversation, which I’m loving. I don’t see us making a return to the block scheduling of 8 meetings a day any longer and I for one, am thrilled.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as THE real challenge right now?
Grey Van Pelt: The new generation is a wildly different one than mine. They make decisions about services differently and they don’t take the things we used to obsess over, seriously.
I love their levity to decision making but it’s a challenge to relate to them. My favorite thing about them is that they want quality. They’ve seen enough flash and now they want the bang that will wow them.
In your experience, what tends to be the most underestimated part of running a company? Can you share an example?
Grey Van Pelt: Underestimated by others: the need to wake up every single day and face the world confidently. I have to make decisions that impact the incomes of hundreds of people.
That can be really scary to think about when you wake up with the flu on a day you’re negotiating contracts with your largest client. You have to be a person who can muster up loads of courage every morning.
Underestimated by people in this role: I think we often underestimate the value of conversation. I know many CEOs who never speak to their people on the ground floor. That’s really disappointing to me.
I want everyone who decides to spend so much of their valuable time on this planet working with us to know that we value them and their time. I spend as much time throughout the day talking to our people. It’s super inspiring.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Grey Van Pelt: Does mind reading count? I’d love to know what our clients and interpreters are thinking at any given time. We could get ahead of any requests, pain points and probably would never miss a sale.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Grey Van Pelt for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
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