A crazy obsession with Leslie Cheung led this entrepreneur to Hong Kong where she set up her translation and interpreting business.

What’s your story?
As a CBC from Vancouver, I always loved languages, and being obsessed with Leslie Cheung at a young age in Vancouver has really paid off as an adult. Because I was an uber fan, I had to know my Chinese so I could know everything about him.  Tapes, magazines, posters, I had to have it all.  I even made pen pals around the globe the traditional way so we could chat about him.  This crazy obsession has made me a simultaneous interpreter today and founder of Tree Translations. Thank you Leslie!

What excites you most about your industry?
My company does all kinds of translation and interpretation but I personally specialize in market research.  I love simultaneous interpreting for focus groups, getting into character and acting out all the different emotions and fervent speeches people have about a beloved or hated product, service, advertisement or whatever.  It’s how I get my acting bug.  I get to hear a lot of industry secrets too.  However, I interpret so much my brain can’t store all the info so I usually walk out like a blank sheet again. Oh well…

What’s your connection to Asia?
My parents came from Hong Kong and I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada.  I loved home and never wanted to leave.  I only wanted to visit Hong Kong when I was younger to find out more about Leslie Cheung.  Well, after an exchange trip to both Shanghai and Hong Kong, I was hooked.  It was my first time away from home, and with all the excitement, hustle and bustle, I couldn’t get enough. When I moved here, I told my family I’d be here for two years.  I said that again after 2 years. It’s now been over 10 years!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’d have to say Hong Kong for sure!  I can speak both Cantonese and Mandarin, but my Cantonese is definitely stronger. It’s a fun language too since it’s pretty much a colloquial one and getting to interpret it is a great opportunity.  I always have to keep myself updated with the latest slang.  There are also tons of other cultures here which invite plenty of translation and interpretation opportunities for my company.

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What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I still remember the day I had a coffee break with someone I now call my mentor.  He was a visiting trainer at the corporate office I used to work at and I’d been attending his trainings.  At the time I had my day job and ran my interpretation and translation business in the evenings.  The hours were long and I often had to turn down day jobs as I was so busy. Then one day, he asked me, what do you love and what do you do best? It wasn’t my day job. The rest is history.

Who inspires you?
I love reading about people who take chances, really give it their all, and become really grateful and happy with their choices.  My dad inspires me. He is a feng shui master and also practices healing massages. He devotes so much of his time helping others.  I admire his passion. Another friend who inspires me is Jim as he would selflessly share his insights and tips on a business, paying his own fares to be present at places far from him, only to spread the word and benefit others.  While some people in business can be selfish, I only saw the opposite in him.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
As an interpreter and having to manage translation projects from all industries, I’m constantly reading the news from all over the world.  You never know what you may need to know!  I learned last night that these days, 1 is not considered a prime number.  Huh? Have I been living in a cave?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I think I have a pretty good work ethic, and in the past, I may have stretched that a little too much. I would have a meeting in a different country, return in the afternoon, finish up at the office, head to an interpretation project elsewhere, and manage translation and interpretation projects when I got home.  I also spent two evenings working on a translation piece on my honeymoon.  It wasn’t until I was married and had children that I realized, I needed to have a little more balance!  Go pro, but find time for yourself.

How do you unwind?
That’s easy.  I play with my kids.  Children giggling is the best remedy to anything!  I do get an occasional foot massage and blow some steam at a zumba class but nothing beats a little family time even though it’s probably more exhausting running after my two little monkeys with my husband.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, hands down.  I almost always stay at the Ayana resort.  It’s where I started dating my husband, where we had our church wedding, our babymoon vacation while I was pregnant with the first and then again later when I was pregnant with the second and didn’t know it!  I just love the friendly staff (we still keep in contact with one who worked his way up from entry level to the club room), the gorgeous villas, (out of this world), delicious food and spa.  Sometimes I don’t even bother stepping out of the resort.  I literally feel like I’m in heaven there.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Go Pro by Eric Worre.  Amazing insights.

Shameless plug for your business:
Ever want to get your message across the exact way you want it, or really speak your mind with all the puns and jokes intended?  Check out our translation and interpretation services.  Give me a ring!

How can people connect with you?
Email me or give me a ring on 94959061.  Email: [email protected]

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:


Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

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