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MY “WHY” A perspective from Jan Ballman
By Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS
Principal – Paradigm Reporting & Captioning, A Veritext Company
Major decisions are rarely simple, or quickly and easily made. That certainly holds true for my decision to sell my boutique court reporting and captioning agency, after building it for 28 years, in favor of partnering with a national player.
Paradigm Reporting & Captioning was doing great and growing strong. Reporters and staff numbered over 50, averaged over 15 years of tenure, and were engaged ambassadors of “Team Paradigm.” We enjoyed the position of being the local market leader. There were no plans on my part to exit the profession, and I loved my job as the Team’s “Coach.” Why then did I sell? And why to Veritext?
That question is fair enough. I’ve been asked it many times. Here’s the answer.
Over the past two decades, I have probably attended 75 industry conferences all over the country. In so doing, I have had the tremendous pleasure of meeting hundreds of incredible reporting colleagues from all over the globe and the honor of serving side-by-side with many of them on both state and national court reporting Boards and committees. As well, it has been an incredible privilege to be invited to collaborate within various industry think tanks and best-practice organizations. One of the many advantages that came out of these wonderful networks was the ability to confab with similarly situated, trusted colleagues who have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. Over the past couple of years, many of our conversations turned toward one growing reality: Like it or not, our profession is in a phase of major evolution. What exactly that means and how it’s all going to shake out is definitely an interesting conversation. But what this meant to ME was that I had best be looking at ways to set my firm up to successfully navigate these changing times.
Somewhere amidst this exercise in discernment I heard the words of Pam Borton, a dear friend and former Big 10 women’s basketball coach, ringing in my ear: “What got you here might not get you there.” I needed to open my mind to the fact that, while I may be an expert in court reporting, I am not an expert in today’s technologies, nor in data security, nor in the constantly changing local and federal rules and regulations that govern businesses of Paradigm’s size. I needed a long-term solution that would be great for my team and would take our clients well into the future…and it would be a big, fat bonus if it allowed me to continue doing what I love doing, and it would quickly turn into no-brainer status if it also relieved me of all that I didn’t love doing! Lo and behold, I found that solution in Veritext.
Paradigm was offered the chance to partner with the national leader in our profession; an opportunity that created significant upgrades for my reporters and captioners, my staff, and for our clients. At the same time, it provided much-desired reinforcement for me and my sister, who is our office manager of 20 years. HR, IT, IC vs Employee, and renewing long-term leases in downtown towers were just a few of the topics that were showing up way too often in our dreams. It became crystal clear that by combining Paradigm’s top team talent and industry experience with Veritext’s proprietary technologies, data security levels, internal resources, scaled efficiencies, and other considerable resources, we were stronger and better together. And when you have the chance to be stronger and better, why would you ever choose otherwise?
Lastly, anyone who knows me knows I am very competitive. Comes from years of playing all kinds of sports. And while I know it’s SO cliché, I always relate when athletes say, “I’m not just here to play a game; I want to be the best I can be.” So, in choosing a partner with whom I would boldly walk into the future of our profession—a future that I see as being so very bright for steno reporters and captioners alike….but for sure not being exactly the same as it is right now–I looked around to see who’s doing “The Best.” Where are reporters working …and why? Who is meeting the clients’ ever-changing demands in unique ways? And perhaps most importantly, who is supporting our profession in ways that are meaningful to me and others; i.e., NCRA, Project Steno, and the National Court Reporters Foundation’s wonderful programs (something particularly near and dear to my heart as a past Chair of the Board of Trustees)? Those were the definitions I used to determine Who Is The Best In the Biz? With 6500 reporters on Veritext’s payroll, many cool and proprietary front-facing client offerings, and tens of thousands of dollars donated to the above-mentioned organizations, I found my Who. And that, friends, is “My Why.”
One of my favorite quotes is, “At any given moment, we have two choices: To step forward into growth or to step backward into safety.” Just remember–neither choice is inherently right or wrong… but it IS ours to make.