Language technology company Paras and Associates was sold by its owners to the company’s employees as an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) on October 1, 2019. The sale comes ahead of founder and CEO Melinda Paras’ planned retirement on December 31, 2019.
The California-based company, which was founded in 2006, specializes in developing video technologies to connect healthcare providers with trained interpreters. Paras first saw a need for qualified interpreters in hospitals in the 1980s, when she worked as a health commissioner in San Francisco. “We had children interpreting for family members, clerical and housekeeping staff with no training pressed into duty as interpreters,” she told Slator.
Paras also ran an advocacy group, Health Access California, which received a grant to pilot videoconferencing technology that enabled trained interpreters to provide services remotely to two Bay Area hospitals.
Three members of the team involved in the successful pilot project went on to establish Paras and Associates, which has since grown into a company that generates USD 6m in annual revenues and allows a national network of hospital systems to share trained, remote video interpreters.
Paras explained that their goal is to help “healthcare systems exchange interpreter services with each other to expand access to a greater number of languages, and utilize their own interpreters in the most productive fashion.”
Now that Paras and other stakeholders have reached retirement age, the founder said they decided that transitioning the company to employee ownership, rather than selling to a competitor, was the right move. “We are mission-driven and focused on quality, and our employees all share that commitment,” she said.
The EOT model, which is currently more common in the UK than in the US, stood out as more affordable and less complex than the standard Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) model. All nine full-time employees with Paras and Associates will be eligible to participate.
Paras will continue in her role as President of the Board throughout 2020, during which time she plans to help guide the company in deploying emerging video technologies. The company is also eager to expand into the field of legal interpreting, having completed a successful pilot project with the Judicial Council of California.
Within healthcare, Paras and Associates is working to grow the network of healthcare systems interested in insourcing their interpreter services, and worked with Parkland Hospital to develop their call center.
As a language technology company, Paras and Associates does not directly employ any interpreters, but contracts primarily with language service providers (LSPs) to deliver interpreting to clients.
The company is on the lookout for possible changes on the horizon due to California’s gig–worker bill AB5. According to Paras, “While language interpreting is not our core business, we know this is affecting our whole industry and we are very concerned about the hundreds of freelance interpreters who would be negatively affected by these requirements.”