Actually, we would be toasting with champagne at the tcworld conference right now! To what? To the 15th anniversary of berns language consulting! That makes me take a stroll down memory lane: Has it really been 15 years since I started my own business? Absolutely! And I would have to lie if there weren’t moments when I cursed it.
But much more frequent were the moments of joy, success and satisfaction. And by that I don’t just mean interesting projects (which were plentiful), but rather the development of services, ideas and processes with my team at berns language consulting. None of this would have been possible without any one of them: New, but also experienced colleagues who brought in new skills and ideas and helped us evolve. And even if I am always very reluctant to say goodbye to people, systems and procedures I have grown fond of, sometimes that was also necessary. And helped to shape blc as it is today.
But how did it all start?
In a training course for prospective managers at BMW: There, one of the trainers was self-employed and reported from his working life. Later in the afternoon, I curiously asked the trainer over a cup of coffee in a relaxed atmosphere: “How do you actually know whether you are suitable for self-employment?” and he said dryly: “By becoming self-employed”. Certainly, a little brief but not entirely wrong.
The first nudge towards self-employment came after I had worked as a team leader for a while at BMW. There were simply no independent consultants for translation processes, although I was supposed to find some. This problem never left my mind. At some point I asked my head of department if he thought I was suitable for self-employment. He said: “I can well imagine that for you, the attitude fits.”
Off to independence?
Some, mainly female, voices saw this differently “That will never work!”, “Why do you want to quit working at BMW, are you crazy?” just to name but a few. When my small business was founded, other problems arose, such as the civil servant of the city of Munich, who asked me: “Well, but what do you want to do with that little boy of yours while you’re working?” In other words: I had to prove that my son Moritz, who was 8 months old at the time, was taken care of. Otherwise I would not have received any support to start up my own business. To my question: “Do fathers actually have to prove that, too?” I did not get an answer.
Fortunately, my family and above all my husband always stood behind the founding of the company and gave me strong support, both morally and in word and deed. This is worth its weight in gold and not a matter of course (Thank you, Axel).
In order to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs…
Even after the foundation my limits as woman, mother and self-employed person were tested again and again. For example, after a successful pitch, the head of IT of a large corporation asked me if I had children and when I answered yes, he asked me how I could possibly manage such a job with two children. I spontaneously responded: “Well, they’re tied up in the basement, with water and bread”. – and then I got the job! Sure, that could have gone wrong, but humor helps sometimes. I still make that joke every now and then, a little attempt at rebellion in the fight against the windmills of the classic image of women. Please bear with me!
Last but not least
After 15 years I still love to be self-employed and do my thing, with my company, my topics, my people. And our customers also seem to like that. Therefore: Thanks for 15 exciting years to all my dear customers, colleagues, ex-colleagues, friends, fans, competitors and to my dear family, who still goes along with my madness!
And because I have been visiting the tcworld conference for over 20 years, even longer than berns language consulting exists, I am particularly pleased that we are participating in the digital tcworld-experiment this year. With our digital booth and a wonderful presentation by Jenny Seidel on one of my favorite topics ‘ontologies for millions‘.
Come and visit us, meet us digitally at the tcworld conference, come to the presentation and stay with us for another 15 years and more!
Here’s to another great 15 years! As for the champagne, we will certainly make good for it!
Yours sincerely, Kerstin Berns
Image Unsplash / @gaellemm