(Originally Posted on June 20, 2016)
Back in 2001, a small group of entrepreneurs in the language industry got together and formed the Association of Language Companies (ALC). Every one of those intrepid individuals did a great service for those of us who joined the ALC since then, and without exception, they represent the best of what it means to be a business owner, mentor and competitor. To stand out among a peer group like those Founding Members requires something more. Much has already been written about Bill Graeper and how he was so influential in many member’s lives, way beyond a mere business or association relationship. His willingness to drop everything and help people, whether over the phone or flying across the country, was just one hallmark of his character that made him so memorable. The duty falls on each of us to try and live with the spirit and zest for life, passion for the language industry, and desire to share with others that made Bill a legend.
ALC President, Doug Strock along with the ALC Board asked Sandy Dupleich, Partner at Dynamic Language in Seattle, Washington, to write a few sentiments as one of the founding members and friend of the Graeper family. He was known as Uncle Bill and he will be missed as a friend and a mentor and as the father of the Association of Language Companies.
In Honor of Bill Graeper
I first met Bill Graeper over twenty years ago while he was working with Maria Antezana, my mom and CEO of Dynamic Language on an advocacy project in Washington State. I remember thinking at the time – “Why in the world would a language company owner from Oregon want to help companies in Washington?” Thirty years ago, in the early days of the language industry, there weren’t many options for language company owners to associate much less to gather and share ideas. In fact, it was very unusual for competitors to look at each other with anything other than wariness and mistrust.
Bill baffled me because he was the exact opposite of what I had envisioned a competitor would look and act like. Bill had this broad, infectious smile and boisterous laugh and underneath it all, he was all business.
We were invited to attend a conference in Oregon to meet other language company owners in the spring of 2002. I reluctantly agreed to attend. What happened during that first ALC conference was nothing short of a miracle. For the first time in my career, I experienced what it was like to be amongst my peers. We shared ideas, we shared the traumas and drama of running a language company, we shared laughs, created partnerships and over the years, we’ve developed deep and lasting friendships along the way.
Bill Graeper was truly a visionary. He understood the simple truth that together we are stronger than we are apart. His passion for our industry knew no bounds. He gladly shared his vision, his knowledge, his experience and his boundless energy with anyone who was willing to listen. He was exceedingly generous in sharing his knowledge of worker classification issues and when so many of us were audited by various state agencies or even the dreaded IRS, it was Bill Graeper who unselfishly jumped on the phone or even on a plane and was there to coach you through it.
When our company was audited by the IRS, Bill made me believe that we could not only get through it but that we would win. And we did. He gave me the courage and the encouragement to fight for our rights to run a language business with an independent contractor model and thanks to him we are able to do just that. I know many other ALC members who Bill assisted over the years. Bill helped to pass legislation to protect businesses in Oregon who work with independent contractors and until his passing, he was a fierce advocate for our industry in Washington DC along with his daughter Kristin Quinlan and a great friend to our industry, Bill Rivers.
Of the many things that Bill taught me even into his final days is that the fight must go on. He asked that we carry the torch and continue working together to advocate for our industry at both state and federal levels. He asked that we continue to work together with other language associations for the betterment of our industry.
Bill believed that the success and longevity of our industry is critical. In the end our companies offer our clients the ability to communicate and to connect in any language.
Communication matters. Words matter. Connecting with others matters.
When I last saw Bill at the ALC conference this year (2016), I felt as though there wasn’t enough time left to say all that I wanted to say to him. He was my mentor, he was my friend, he was for so many of us, our Uncle Bill. I feel very fortunate that I was able to see him one last time and get one last bear hug from him, too. The next day I sent him an email sharing my gratitude for all that he has taught me over the years and for all that he’s done for our industry. I later learned how significant that message was to Bill.
He was so proud of his ALC family and all that we’ve accomplished and he shared with me his vision for our industry. Please join me in making a pledge to carry forth Bill’s legacy into the future. Beyond the worker classification advocacy he firmly believed in bringing together all language associations so that we can learn from each other and continue to work together no matter what issues or challenges we might face in the future.
Thank you Bill for all you’ve done and will continue to do through us – your ALC family.
Closing Remarks by Kristin Quinlan, Certified Languages CEO
There were few things Dad was prouder of than the ALC. His vision for an industry association where businesses could meet each other, share ideas, and maybe even collaborate, has had such a significant impact on so many.
He loved to unify people. He almost had a childlike vision; boundaries just didn’t make sense to him. There was NOTHING we couldn’t do if we worked together. He was so incredibly happy that he was able to make it to San Diego for the ALC Conference this year. He had an absolute ball seeing all his BFF’s. He passed away, quite suddenly, just four days after he returned.
A lively panel discussion at the 2016 ALC Annual Conference, San Diego. From left to right, Kathleen K. Diamond, Bill Graeper, Kristin Quinlan, Lexie Casie, and Bill Rivers. May12, 2016.
Dad left his legacy in all of us to do more, be more, and support each other individually, in our businesses, and our industry associations. His light will always shine. I will….we all will…miss him deeply but I know we will continue to make him proud.
Certified Languages CEO