As part of my odd jobs to make ends meet, my work as a part-time interpreter for the Canadian Immigration Department peaked my interest in immigration cases, as this hit close to home being a new immigrant myself. Coupled with the entrepreneurial hunger in my belly that grew from my managerial experience at McDonalds, there was little that could get in my way. I founded my company CITS in 1989.
For the next few years, this was my baby. My business quickly grew as I was able to connect and build trust with my prospective clients through my work ethic, honesty and integrity. I’ve always felt a strong bond to my community and I volunteered, donated, and sponsored as many community events as I could. I quickly became the beneficiary of referrals and word of mouth. As my business grew, so did my family with the additions of my daughter Cherie and my son Andre. However, running your own business is not the glitz and glam as start-ups are presented as today. My main source of clientele from Hong Kong dried up after 1998, and times grew tough. I broadened my clientele to service. When things started to ramp up again, SARS hit and immigration dried up once again. I pivoted – this time to the internet and the phone to provide interpretation.
In those beginning 15 years of my business, my team and I learned quite a few tough lessons that I take with me every day. Firstly, is to understand that even when times are good, it is important to budget and control costs for the gloomy seasons, because they will come. Secondly, honesty and integrity are keys to maintaining relationships and building a lasting foundation of clients and employees. Thirdly, being quick to adapt to changes is the difference between surviving long enough to thrive again and extinction. Fourthly, strong communities are built on strong businesses.
The more I made, the more I gave back. I am a firm believer in what you put out into the world you will receive. These four tenants are what helped build and maintain my business for over 30 years, growing from just me and my wife, to now a full team of employees as well as satellite offices internationally.