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A sense of purpose: „Idź przez życie tak, aby ślady twoich stóp pozostały wieczne”

31 October 2020 · Martyna Gorska

Running a business, especially during times of uncertainty, means lots of noise, being buffeted from one side to another; it means working crazy long hours, getting knocked back, getting noticed, celebrating wins and learning some life lessons quickly.

Whilst the last few years have seen PAB go from strength to strength, it has not all been a smooth sailing for me.

When I moved to the UK, for about the first two years my dad would not speak to me. My parents wanted for my professional career to progress in Poland, under their umbrella, and they did not like the idea of me being a migrant. It was a hard decision for me to come to the UK, settling into a new country and discovering that I could be happy somewhere other than Poland, doing what I love. When you have a second life, where your friends and family are, leaving the security behind was difficult.

It was almost 20 years ago, when I arrived in London (at the popular at that time Victoria Station) from Poznan (West part of Poland), and today I am a proud Polish and British Citizen. Having moved to the UK from Poland, I have successfully built and managed multinational teams and businesses in the UK. I have also experienced many ups and many more downs, especially in my early years in business I faced many tough challenges that other female business owners may be familiar with. It took many sleepless nights, gritting my teeth and asking for help, as well as hard work, discipline and resilience.

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.

I heard this quote, which defines leadership for me “Love your people, love your organization and love those you serve, and you’ll have discovered the secret of great leadership.”

Having a good understanding of my own values, expectations and the clarity of purpose, have helped me to find and attract to our business many talented, smart, and just wonderful people. We are blessed to have wonderful humans in over 50 countries from different faiths, backgrounds and ethnicities, working with PAB Languages. Of course, different cultures will demonstrate different attitude to protocols and policies, and different attitude towards the time, the task and relationship building, etc.

Therefore, focus on regular, honest, inclusive and quality communication, using different platforms and formats, plays such an important part in everything that we do at PAB. We communicate our goals and our strategy to all our employees, ensuring they understand our long term and short-term vision. We encourage our employees to contribute to the overall strategy, to share and implement their ideas, and so to truly participate in various innovative and vision related projects.

During challenging times, it is absolutely critical for leaders to focus on the big picture, be open-minded, be open to change, be as transparent as possible about what’s going on, be crystal clear on expectations, and give assurances, that despite a world of unknowns, there is a plan and contingencies are being thought through.

What are the “non-negotiable” behaviours that you expect you and those around you to live by?

While there is a lot that is out of our control during the pandemic, there is a lot we can control. The most critical thing under our control is how we treat our colleagues, suppliers, and clients. And the “non-negotiable” behaviour, that I expect myself and encourage others to live by, is to act professionally with kindness and integrity.

What impact has COVID had on your business?

Our team members’ lives were disrupted when COVID hit because schools closed, day cares were shuttered, and supply chains were massively disrupted. Showing empathy towards each individual’s situation and providing the flexibility needed to get through this, was essential for our success.

There was a period of a few days, early in the pandemic, when business seemed to stop, as everyone was in a bit of shock, trying to figure out not just what to do, but what had happened. This was the perfect time to take a deep look at ourselves, both personally and professionally — our vision, values, structure, goals and key accountabilities — and focus on areas for improvement.

What was your internal comms strategy at the start of lockdown? Has that changed?

Our internal comms strategy was simple – honest, frequent, transparent, and inclusive communication, because people wanted to know how it was going to impact them, and we needed to be clear and transparent. In good times and bad, if we all know where things stand, we are much more likely to focus on what is important and head in the same direction. It was critical to remain authentic, clear, and optimistic. When we are clear and optimistic, we are confident. When we are confident, we do our best work. When we do our best work, clients thrive, and we create a better environment for everyone involved.

What advice would you give to those starting in your industry today?

There’s little point in going into business – regardless of the industry – simply to go into business. You must have a passion for your service and to know it inside out. Running a business, especially during times of uncertainty, means crazy long hours, getting knocked back, and a hugely competitive market. You need to be clear, focused on delivering a solution, creative, and you will enjoy the wins, but you will also face adversity and barriers. Having passionate and dedicated people around you, whom not only you will inspire to deliver on the company goals and mission, but you will also respect, value and trust, will enable your business to expand and thrive.

As linguists we are extremely conscious of language and how we say what we say, keeping in mind that different people have different communication approaches. Being aware of these differences and ensuring inclusive, regular, honest communication and feedback, will make the relationship stronger and more successful for everyone.

Finally, in today’s stressful, uncertain, and busy world, we must remember about mental, physical, and emotional health.  Therefore, the company leader’s self-care, as well as employees’ well-being, should be on top of our Agenda.

The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives.  In what ways have you recalibrated your own priorities and goals.

With businesses facing a second wave of COVID, and the government asking employees to work from home, we are working hard to ensure the sustainability of PAB Group. Much like many other businesses, we are hugely adapting our approach in the light of COVID and Brexit.

Surviving is not good enough for us, and we want the best for PAB and for all employees and their families. That is why we stay disciplined with our resources, making it a priority to protect jobs and to protect the team, that we have put so much effort to build and grow.  People are at the centre of what we do, and they become a working family.

In terms of our own priorities and goals, I could summarise them as:

️ stay positive and believe in yourself

️ be grateful for the past lessons

️ have something to look forward to

️ have people to look after

️ know what you want and go get it

️ stay focused on what is truly important to you

️ ask for help and stay kind to yourself

Do you feel like you have found a sense of purpose?

From the very beginning, our culture has been to go that one step further –  to do more for clients, staff, and community, than what was expected of PAB; to be the best that we can be. We constantly remind and inspire each other to focus on solutions and what is possible, staying positive and having goals always in mind.

Our core values are Quality, Integrity, Flexibility, Relationships, Customer Focus, and Trust. In bringing these values to life, nothing demonstrates our approach better than our charitable work and contributing to the welfare of the wider community.

I currently serve as a non-executive Director of the East Midlands International Trade Association (EMITA) to help businesses grow via export and international trade, as well as a Trustee of Centrepoint Outreach, which supports homeless, lonely and vulnerable people in the community.

I believe that great things happen with true and transparent collaboration between people, regardless of their language, location, or culture. For this reason, we launched the Celebrating Cultural and Language Diversity Campaign in March 2019, with the aim of championing good understanding of cultural differences and providing the opportunity to connect and discuss the concerns and challenges of business, and to receive practical advice on how to engage and communicate effectively. It is important to me to give back, by building stronger communities.

My Grandfather, who was a Second World War veteran, used to repeat these wishes for me „Idź przez życie tak, aby ślady twoich stóp pozostały wieczne”, which translates directly as “Walk through your life so that your footsteps will remain eternal”.

Personally, I want to leave a positive impact on people. Whether it is through my company’s mission, enabling real relationships between people from different countries and cultures, or my charity work, or my interactions with society, friends, and family, it is important for me to make a positive difference. Meaningful relationships, transparent partnerships and building bridges between people from different countries and cultures matters the most.