Finding the Right Words

Mary Kazamias helps translation-services firm TRSB uncover meaning in its offerings and culture

“Helping customers with their day-to-day business challenges—even those that may seem insurmountable—is what drives all of us, myself included.” (Photo: Fannie Denault)
“Helping customers with their day-to-day business challenges—even those that may seem insurmountable—is what drives all of us, myself included.” (Photo: Fannie Denault)

Mary Kazamias has always had a penchant for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. Even early on in her career, when she was an intern at an international translation agency, she “asked a million questions,” she says. “The biggest driver was just understanding what the business was about, what clients were looking for, and watching how managers handled issues.” That inquisitiveness helped launch her career, seeing Kazamias work her way up from lowly intern to eventually managing vendors, operations, and accounts full-time.

It’s that same attitude that propels Kazamias today as the vice president of business development for Traductions Serge Bélair (TRSB). From the first interview with the company, Kazamias and TRSB were in sync. “At the time, it was a much smaller firm than what I was used to, but it had—and still does have—aspirations to become bigger, better, and brighter,” she says. It helped, too, that the private company was structured fairly flat, and the opportunity to not only grow but also to make a mark was appealing. “We know we can go places—everyone’s vision for the company is what keeps it successful and exciting,” she says.

While in charge of business development, Kazamias is still a translator at heart. Growing up, she was raised bilingually in both French and English, like many in Montréal. And because of her Greek roots, she was also taught to read and write Greek by her parents. Her passion for language extended into university, where she added Spanish to her growing inventory of languages. “My profile is atypical because I’m a translator, but I’m also interested in the business side of things,” Kazamias says. “Really, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie.”

Because of that, Kazamias has no typical day at TRSB, doing everything from helping managers and salespeople, to coaching project managers, to conducting workshops and training the staff on how to handle certain situations. At the executive level, she is a part of the team that builds the strategy for growing and evolving. “It really helps to have had a background working as a translator, a project manager, and a vendor manager,” Kazamias says. “You understand all the different risks that are involved in the translation-service industry.”

$15 million

Revenue in 2013

125

Employees and counting

100+

Clients

15–20%

Growth per year for past several years

55 million

Approximate number of words translated in 2013

35,000

Approximate number of projects handled in 2013

3

Minimum number of languages most TRSB employees speak, with many speaking up to 5

Even more integral to not only Kazamias’s role but also the company as a whole is how TRSB interacts with its customers. “A lot of companies claim to be customer-centric, but I often feel that this is just an empty buzzword,” she says. “I honestly think that our customer-centric approach is the primary reason that TRSB has evolved the way it has.” And it shows: with customer relationships stretching back 20 years and a client list that has steadily grown almost entirely through word of mouth, TRSB is a force in the industry. In her role, Kazamias is closely involved with onboarding large companies along with the salespeople. While she is ultimately responsible for TRSB’s contracts, negotiations, presentations, and proposals, it’s by working in tandem with her peers that Kazamias is able to be successful. Whether it’s asking for help with number crunching or graphic design, TRSB’s collaborative approach allows it to leverage its entire workforce.

Recently, TRSB has redoubled its branding efforts—having relied on its reputation and customer referrals to build its client base. “Marketing was never the biggest priority,” Kazamias says. TRSB knew it needed a website, information brochures, and other collateral, so it worked on those elements piecemeal. But TRSB and Kazamias noticed that the messaging was disconnected. So Kazamias and her team sat down and created a global rebranding strategy, putting the materials, communications, and website under the same, larger project. To help administer this change, a marketing specialist was brought in full-time.

“We had gotten to a point in our growth that we needed to take marketing more seriously,” Kazamias says. “Given that the business world evolves at such a rapid rate—especially with new technology introduced all the time—we want to always be able to give the customer what they need, not what we think they need.” At its core, translation is about connecting worlds, and the only way TRSB can continue to accomplish that is to continually understand where it and its clients stand in that space. “Personally, my biggest challenge, aside from probably undiagnosed ADHD, is prioritizing ideas in order to be able to implement them without ever sacrificing the customer’s needs,” Kazamias says.

As a company, TRSB is trying to be a learning organization. That doesn’t mean constant training but rather the creation of small focus groups that can dive deeper into issues and pull from each individual’s expertise. Kazamias credits much of the company’s success on troubleshooting where it’s gone wrong in the past, looking at what it can improve, and connecting the dots. When she began her career in translation, Kazamias had a million questions. After 20 years, she has grown and evolved, but she still has a million more. Those questions—and countless more from her peers—are moving the company forward and connecting it with data, clients, and its employees.