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CyraCom translates to success

• The Tucson company provides language interpreters through special telephones.

LORRIE COHEN Citizen Business Writer

No one could misinterpret the intentions of CyraCom International, a Tucson-based company that can provide an interpreter for more than 100 different languages to customers at any time: Its owners want it to be big.

”Our strategy is to expand globally,” said Kenneth D. Anders, CyraCom’s president and chief executive officer.

And it looks like their vision is becoming a reality.

Since the company started fine-tuning its marketing strategy several months ago, sales are expected to be in the millions of dollars by the end of the Century.

CyraCom’s main product is the CyraPhone, which has separate handsets to allow two people to talk simultaneously on the same phone with an interpreter.

On this phone, a person calls an 800-number and punches in a security code. In answer to prompts, the caller can select a language.

Most common languages are two-digit codes. Less common ones, such as Punjabi, an India dialect, requires a three-digit code.

An interpreter will come on the line, generally within 60 seconds.

”We will add more languages and change languages if there is a need,” Anders said.Among them the language for the Tohono O’odham Nation near Tucson.

CyraCom subcontracts to more than 5,000 interpreters nationwide. A few live in Tucson. But it’s just not enough to be fluent in another language.

All interpreters must be certified and some have specialized knowledge – in medical terminology, for example.

The CyraPhone is already starting to make life easier for local companies such as University Medical Center.

Adaline Klemmedson , assistant to the CEO at UMC, is one of only two Russian interpreters at the hospital.

”I was called quite regularly and they’d have to track me down,” she said. ”The beauty is that with this new system, you can be on the line with the patient, caregiver or doctor simultaneously instead of handing the phone back and forth.”

About 20 phones are expected to be installed in various units at UMC soon.

Other clients here include Tucson International Airport, Holiday Inn City Center, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Center of Tucson , Health South Surgery of Tucson, Canyon Ranch Spa, Burr Brown Corp. and Jim Click auto dealerships.

Other companies and organizations interested in the service or that have signed contracts include Chicago-O’Hare International Airport and the National Cable Television Association.

Generally, most of the industries CyraCom targets are in the medical- and health-related fields, law enforcement and the travel industry.

But it took time before CyraCom officials knew what to do with a product that was developed by Mark Myers, the company’s vice president.

It started while Myers, 40, was a broker in Tucson for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. in 1995.

”I was happy with my job and the company but just took the initial idea of interpretation and expanded on it big time,” Myers said.

To make a prototype, Myers and a Chicago high school chum, Kevin Carey, took off-the-shelf phone components to modify an existing phone.

”It looked really funny,” Myers said. ”We went to McCormick Place Convention Center (in Chicago) to see if it would generate any interest.”

It did.

The next step was to seek out a patent lawyer. Then they came up with the name Kevmark Industries.

In the next two years, Myers spent about $100,000 of his money and another $100,000 through a small business loan.

He continued to build his infrastructure by doing marketing surveys and hooking up with his subcontractor, Telephonic Interpretation Service.

But that wasn’t enough. He needed more expertise in the telecommunications field.

”We saw this as being a large business venture and in order to attract bigger dollars you need bigger people,” Myers said.

He got it in Anders.

For more than five years, Anders was manager of corporate telecommunications for Walt Disney Co. Anders’ previous telecommunications experience was at General Electric Co. and Hughes Missile Systems Co., now Raytheon Systems Co.

”I thought it sounded intriguing coming in on the ground floor of a start-up company, and I was tired of corporate America,” said Anders, 39, who had a four-hour commute every day from San Bernardino to Burbank, Calif.

He also wanted to spend more time with his wife and two small children.

Anders’ first job was to change the marketing and business plan to include the move from trade shows to the target groups. He also restructured and reincorporated the company from Illinois to Arizona .

In January, the name was changed to CyraCom, after French writer Edmond Rostand’s big-nosed hero Cyrano de Bergerac.

”Cyrano was an interpreter, so we liked the name because it had a story behind it,” Myers said. ”But it also had to be high-tech, so we added the Com.”

CyraCom also is developing and deploying new services including:

- A calling card for travelers. So, for example, if a person is shopping in Italy and is having a language barrier problem, he can use his card to get an Italian interpreter on the line.

- Web site translations. The company will translate a Web site, download it and then give it back.

- On-site interpretation. ”One time, Bill Gates was giving a speech to primarily a Japanese and Portuguese audience,” Ander said. ”We handed headsets to everyone who needed them and they received a simultaneous interpretation.”

- Document translation.

- E-mail translations.

”Basically, anything or any case where you think a translator may be needed – we will be there,” Anders said.

Q&A: Mark Myers and Ken Anders

1. What is the best business decision you ever made?

Taking a risk and leaving a secure position with a well-established corporation to lead and develop a start-up company with an unknown product.

2. What is the worst business decision you ever made?

Recruiting a primary team manager located in a different state when the company was not ready.

3. What is the best business advice you’ve received?

If you have a unique idea like the CyraPhone, patent it to protect your interests.

4. What is the worst business advice?

Someone told me (Anders) years ago not to invest in U.S. Robotics. When I realized it was a mistake, stocks were trading for $27 a share. I could have bought it for 27 cents a share.

5. How do you advertise?

Currently through trade shows and direct marketing. However, we are developing a multiple strategic advertising campaign.

6. How do you keep good employees?

By providing a good management structure, growth and opportunity. Our employees know what the company vision is and they are focused on their individual roles and will share in the success of the company.

7. What is the secret to your success?

Our flexibility and hard work, which enables us to adjust to the dynamics of today’s business environment. In addition, we have a top professional team that places our customers’ needs above our own.

8. Where do we see yourselves in five years?

As having a major global presence, with the CyraPhone service accepted and used around the world. As a recognized leader in the interpretation-translation industry whose high degree of quality and integrity is the yardstick that other companies use for their own programs.


Business: interpretation translation company.

Address: 5546 E. Fourth St., Suite 113. Moving to 7332 N. Oracle Road this fall.

Number of employees: 9

Years in business: 3

Money invested to date: more than $1 million

Projected sales:

1998 – about $250,000.

1999 – close to $10 million

2000 – more than $20 million

PHOTO: SHARA R. WELLS/Tucson Citizen

Adaline Klemmedson, an administrator at University Medical Center, and Ernesto Ochoa, triage registered nurse, demonstrate the two-handset phone.

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