Brave new world of international networking - from managing director Andi Catt

I have always loved networking. I find people fascinating and am always interested to hear what they have to say.

And I have never particularly minded public speaking so standing up in front of people isn’t a big deal. However, there are limits! And last week I pushed myself way outside my comfort zone.

I have been working remotely for about a year now – my husband retired last year, and we decided to relocate to a small town near Córdoba in southern Spain.  I return to England each month for a few intensive days of meetings and the rest of the time I work via videoconference.

Our new home is well off the beaten track and nowhere near the tourist trail. In fact, over 6,980 of the town’s 7,000 population don’t speak English! I have been learning Spanish, but it is slow going and I didn’t anticipate needing business Spanish at all.  Much to my surprise, I was approached by a Spanish friend whose family want to expand their business across Europe and need multi-lingual business development support.  So, with the help of an English-speaking Spanish friend, I took a brief, wrote a proposal and we are about to sign up our first Spanish client!

This has had a ripple effect. Following on from International Women’s Day, I was invited to speak at a local Equality Event alongside two other women entrepreneurs. That’s fine, I thought. Till I realised that no-one in the audience would understand English and I would have to do it in Spanish – eeeeek.

But I decided to put on my big-girl pants and give it a go. Generally, if I speak in public, I just stand up and talk, without notes.  But that was obviously never going to work in Spanish: I simply don’t have the vocabulary.

So, in the end I wrote down what I wanted to say, reviewed it to remove slang and then using Google Translate and my English-speaking Spanish friend, ended up with a Spanish version.

I wouldn’t generally ever rehearse anything like this, but I am bloody glad I did. The first thing I discovered was that, whilst I can count from 1-10 in Spanish, I had no idea how to say 2013 (dos mil trece) or £15,000 (quince mil libra) in Spanish! There followed a frantic burst of further translation and the re-writing of all numbers as full words. Then I discovered that loads of really short English words are really really long in Spanish!

To be honest, on the day, I was terrified. I would love to tell you that I was cool as a cucumber, but sadly not, especially when someone thrust a microphone into my hand. 

I confess, I did mispronounce ‘mensajería instantánea’, ‘conocimientos especializados’ and ‘predominantemente’ and I totally lost my place when some kind soul brought me a glass of water. But I got through it, and I told them the story of The Call Business and they understood me. 

There were encouraging noises and nods and smiles when I said that I didn’t go to Uni, left school at 16 and was over 50 when I started the business.  I had some really positive conversations afterwards, in my rather stilted Spanish. One lady said she was encouraged to press ahead with a venture of her own, which made it all worthwhile. And to my surprise and delight, it has now been suggested that I meet with the organisation who provide export support to businesses in the Córdoba region.

So, as if there was ever any doubt, I can assure you that networking works in any language.

Andi Catt