Mentee: LingPerfect Translations, Paul Gromek, CEO & President, certified DOBE
Mentor: Bayer, Leverkusen, Germany, Patrick Hinojosa, Head of Procurement Technical Community
Please add your supplier registration link: Bayer Group (suppliergateway.com)
Kathleen Castore, Disability:IN Supplier Mentoring & Development Consultant, is very excited to ‘Spotlight’ our next mentee and mentor pair, Bayer and LingPerfect Translations.
KC: Hello Paul, tell us your story – how/why did you begin your journey as an entrepreneur?
PG: It was 20 years ago, back in 2003, when I received a full scholarship to attend DePauw University in Greencastle, IN. I came across an opportunity to earn extra to make ends meet by translating a manual from English to Polish, as I’m originally from Poland. During the translation process, I already realized that the translation market was quite inefficient and quite segmented, but I initially saw this as an opportunity to just pay my college bills. But one successful project led to another, and another… And, after some time, the translation gig workload became way too big for me to handle, so I reached out to some colleagues in Poland studying linguistics and built a team of translators. I moved from working as a translator to a Project Manager. In 2006 the company got the official name—LingPerfect Translations—and I hired the first full-time Project Manager. It skyrocketed from there and currently, the company boasts a team of 20 full-time employees and over 10,000 vetted and verified linguists, managing global projects for over 2,200 clients.
KC: Can you let us know about your company LingPerfect Translation?
PG: We are a multicultural inclusive company with a foothold on 4 continents, speaking tens of languages in-house, hailing from all races, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. We provide language translation services such as document translation, multimedia translation, website localization, as well as interpreting, transcription, ASL and captioning (including CART).
Our quality management processes are ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 17001:2015 certified and we work with Fortune 500 clients as well as multiple U.S. government agencies.
In 2016, we got to Inc 5000 as a #1st fastest growing translation company and 204th fastest growing company in the US.
We strive not to be just a service provider but a partner by offering complimentary consulting and guidance on the nuances of localization processes and all translation matters. All our key stakeholders are actively involved in the day-to-day tasks and immediately reachable at all times. We are able to make decisions on the spot and sign off on agreements, solutions and workflows without excessive red-tape. You could say that flexibility and efficiency are the key USPs of our company.
KC: How long have you been a certified Disability:IN DOBE and why has the certification become an important part of your business journey?
PG: I have been certified since 2022. It’s a great opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, share ideas and thrive within the community. It has also helped us build more ideas around diversity and how we can bring more diverse suppliers to work for us. We are currently in the process of building our own diversity program, which is very exciting!
KC: Why did you join it and how has it helped with your business objectives/goals so far?
PG: This mentorship program has been truly amazing and Patrick has been always extremely helpful. He has provided feedback I could never think of. It also helped me look at the procurement process from the buyer’s side and improved our bidding strategies.
KC: You have a great mentor in Patrick, what are the keys to your success?
PG: I think the main thing is to remain consistent and true to your purpose. It’s easy to get distracted with so much changing around, but if you have a good strategy and keep your focus, you can get anywhere you want!
KC: As we know, having specific goals are paramount to a good outcome, how did you decide what you wanted to focus on during the program?
PG: Patrick has always asked many great questions and he has actually helped me identify gaps within our business I was totally unaware of. With his help, I have improved several areas within the business and this is a great foundation for our future development.
KC: Once you complete the program, how do you intend to keep implementing what you have learned and stay focused on those goals?
PG: We have implemented several changes and items related to KPIs, which will help us measure success in the future.
KC: What advice would you give to potential mentees that might help them get the most out of the DOBE Mentoring Program?
PG: Ask questions and don’t be afraid to share your issues and business struggles. By being more open you can get more feedback and you can start thinking of your improvement areas from a totally different perspective.
KC: Is there anything you would like to talk about regarding Disability:IN?
PG: I am very grateful to be part of Disability:IN and the mentorship program. I really recommend all DOBE members to apply to this program!
KC: Thank you Paul.
KC: Greetings Patrick, our readers would love to know more about your role at Bayer, can you give us some background?
PH: At Bayer, I head the procurement function responsible for our technical community: We supply our business with technical goods and services, we drive capital projects across all three of our group’s divisions and we ensure smooth end-to-end processes for our requesters. As a trustful, reliable, and open-minded partner, we practice a close collaboration around the world with stakeholders and suppliers, supported by a strong internal as well as external procurement network. This also enables us to drive sustainability, innovation, and standardization for our businesses. I am passionate about the personal and professional growth of all team members, and coaching/mentoring is a great way to enable this!
KC: How come Disability:IN is important to you professionally and personally to be so involved? What have you gotten out of it so far?
PH: When I first started working with Disability:IN, it was mainly to learn more about how to be a more attractive and inclusive customer for a DOBE as part of our Supplier Diversity program at Bayer on a global scale. Disability:IN has so many resources available to answer all the questions that I have, including access to people, knowledge documents, topic-specific experts, and direct contact to DOBEs. On a personal level, I realized how little I knew about being an inclusive procurement professional for DOBEs, especially as it relates to accessible procurement. In 2022, I was also able to participate in my first Disability:IN Conference – and I learned more in 2 days than I had in several years about how to become a promoter of inclusion of people with disabilities beyond just words and Powerpoint slides. I had to start with educating myself first with real stories and insights directly from DOBEs about accessibility challenges which has helped me both with our supplier diversity program expansion and consider how we can also be more inclusive with our own employees within Bayer.
KC: Knowing some people might be hesitant about the time and location difference as a mentoring pair. You and Paul are one of our first global pair in the program, Germany and Florida, how have you overcome any logistics issues?
PH: I am smiling when answering this as Paul and I have a running joke that we never really know which time zone we are in when we meet. One day Paul could be in Southeast Asia and I am somewhere in Europe, the next time we are both in the North American time zones, and the next Paul is in the US, and I am in Germany. We both enjoy connecting with each other, so logistics have not been a problem as we make it work!
KC: What has your mentoring experience been like with Paul and the LingPerfect Translation team an example of an engaged and committed mentee?
PH: What I appreciate the most when working with Paul is that it is always a two-way approach, meaning that we both get something out of the mentoring experience. Paul has high ambitions to continue the LingPerfect business growth which can be challenging when having to balance aspects like cost vs. cash vs. risk. He has a clear plan, including how to better position LingPerfect with new large global customers, so whenever he needs some independent guidance to validate or challenge an approach, we quickly connect via email or phone to check in – and he is always prepared with solutions that we can discuss.
KC: Can you give us an example or two on how you have approached some of the goals with LingPerfect internally and any outcomes you have already had. What was that process like?
PH: As mentioned, continued aggressive growth for LingPerfect is an aspiration so the requirements for scaling have been a key focus area. A couple of examples, we have been working on have included how to access key leadership talent who will be able to inspire, mentor, and drive the LingPerfect teams towards sustainable growth. Paul had to make a couple of very tough people decisions which in the end best support LingPerfect’s growth aspirations while maintaining the company culture. The latest topic we have been working on is related to Supply Chain Financing (SCF) opportunities from both the receivables and payables sides which could allow LingPerfect to better manage cash flow while growing their business with larger global customers. The process has been a mix of one-on-one personal interaction with Paul and myself as well as giving Paul some additional access to Bayer experts or external resources who could better advise him for specific LingPerfect requirements.
KC: As a Corporate member of Disability:IN, why do you feel it is so significant for Bayer to be involved with the DOBE community from a business perspective?
PH: Bayer is fully committed to Supplier Inclusion & Diversity focusing on the economic growth and advancement of underrepresented communities which DOBEs are a part of. We fundamentally believe that our ability to be a more accessible and inclusive customer for DOBEs will strengthen our supply chains and create a more responsive and innovative company which also aligns with our customer expectations.
KC: Have you had any mentors in your career? How has that experienced helped you in your career and now a procurement leader?
PH: Yes, I have had several mentors over the years, and each have helped give me some new insights from different perspectives that I would not have considered on my own. For example, I started my career working in synthesis-chemistry manufacturing and I was very far away from what the products I was making were used for. Mentors helped me to understand more about the products but also how to build a career using my core skills, interests, and strengths with more connectivity to our customers. This led me to move into supply chain management and now into procurement. What I learned from my mentors has been invaluable as it helped me confirm that I am at my best whenever I can connect our internal Bayer world with the external supplier and customer environments which I love doing today as part of our Bayer procurement team.
KC: Would you share with potential first-time mentors why they should consider volunteering to become one and the benefits they will receive from their involvement?
PH: I do a lot of mentoring within Bayer and I have always experienced that I get as much out of the mentoring experience as my mentees. Being a mentor for Paul has been a truly unique opportunity as it has challenged me to be a better listener, to ask better questions so that I can better understand the challenges that Paul is facing, and then to recommend options that are tailored for his specific needs. On paper I know that I am the mentor for Paul, but I often feel like he is also providing me with as much insights and ideas as I am providing him! Last comment on this…. I would HIGHLY encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a mentor to do so!
KC: Any other thoughts to add on Patrick, the mentoring program, personal development, Paul, Dis:IN, comments in general, your call…
PH: I really want to thank you Kathleen for your leadership with the mentoring program. Your energy and passion are inspiring for all of us, and I have learned a lot from you personally in the past year so a big thank you! I have really enjoyed spending time with Paul, as well as other Disability:IN mentees, which have become more of a friendship than just a mentoring experience so I would really encourage anyone interested to go ahead and volunteer.
KC: Thank you for participating in the Disability:IN Spotlight on Mentoring and wish you both continued successes.