“With Clear and Consistent Communication, I Guide My Company’s Growth”

- Q&A with Nina Martin, CEO of Graham Inc.

T.H.R.I.V.E. Participant Interviews

POSTED: 2 August 2022


What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

My entrepreneurship journey has actually been a success story of “promotion from within.” A wonderful lady by the name of Ruth Graham founded my company in 1984 as a woman-owned recruiting firm. She stepped away from her company due to her husband’s health in 2011, and I joined the team a year later. We recruit and place Sign Language interpreters for requesting clients, as well as temporary or long-term professionals in a wide variety of positions and job titles.

When and why did you found Graham?

The owners of Graham in 2012 hired me as an entry-level Recruiter in May 2012. Seven months later, I played an instrumental role in helping them transition out of physical office space into telework mode company-wide.

In early 2013, our Regional Manager at the time left for another company. Right then, Graham’s leaders asked me to fill the gaps she’d left behind and oversee the operations of the firm.

With the supportive company culture of Graham at the leadership level, I was given the chance to progress steadily from Recruiter to Regional Manager to Executive Vice President of Operations to Majority Owner/CEO.

While I was not the original Founder of Graham, since that day in January 2018 when my co-owner welcomed me as 51% Owner, Graham has been like my baby – something I want to nurture, support, encourage, and grow in the healthiest way possible.

We maintain warm communications with the Founder of Graham on a regular basis. She created something beautiful that our team is carrying forward into the future.


What does success look like for you?

We are honest in our dealings. To me, success looks like this:

  • I am healthy and clear-minded, with strength and resilience to support all those I care about.
  • ‌My company is healthy, financially, and strategically, with opportunities for others to come, stay, and be great.
  • With clear and consistent communication, I guide my company’s growth
  • With encouragement and active engagement, I encourage my team members in their individual self-development journeys.
  • Knowing actions speak louder than words, I embody the traits we need for success as a small business: positivity, responsiveness, problem-solving, professionalism, follow-through, care.

If you were speaking to a room full of new business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs in your industry, what piece of advice would you share to help them be successful?

  • PRESENCE – Consistently spend short spurts of one-on-one time with every member of your internal team, via phone call or video call (weekly, or every two weeks); then
  • ACTIVELY LISTEN and hear that person. Along those same lines, as your company grows (even if it grows quickly), make it a point to send a personal email or phone call to every new hire to your company; by doing this, the message you are conveying is, “I am a person just like you. I value you, and your contributions matter!” It is not enough to care about something; if you care about something or someone, you must give them your time. If care about my company, I spend time nurturing it. If I care about my family, I spend time nurturing the individuals within it. If I care about my community, I spend time participating and being active in it. Being there is vital.

How has the global pandemic affected your business overall?

  • The pandemic had one positive effect on our Sign Language Interpreting services in the sense that clients quickly began to accept Sign Language via remote video tools such as Zoom, Teams, WebEx, etc. Prior to 2020, most Sign Language Interpreting requests had to be on-site and in-person. But through technology, during 2020, we were able to shift into remote Sign Language Interpreting, which allowed Deaf consumers to still receive service, and allowed Interpreters to keep earning an income while so many states were shut down.
  • ‌The pandemic had a negative effect on our recruitment for temporary professionals, in the form ghosting us and our clients! After applicants had been screened, interviewed, skills-tested, background checked, and had accepted jobs at our client sites, they would simply “no-show” for their first day of work. This has been a travesty that basically amounts to an on-going type of unemployment fraud. They tell state Unemployment

What are your top 3 values as a Business Owner?

  • PROBLEM-SOLVE – clients face problems every day; employees face them also. I must focus on helping to solve those problems, and I must be grateful for the opportunity to help others with problems. Gratitude is a daily practice that helps me problem-solve with measurable results.
  • RESILIENCE – we have all learned that unpredictable challenges will arise, so prioritize wellness of every kind to empower you to be resilient. Wellness of every kind includes: physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, professional, spiritual. Is it possible to be physically unwell? Of course. Is it possible to be intellectually unwell? Yes! (If you don’t read or feed your mind, you begin to become intellectually depleted!) Is it possible to be professionally unwell? Absolutely! (If you feel rudderless or feel that your work is not valued, you are experiencing the feeling of being professionally unwell!) I must exercise resilience and encourage wellness and resilience in my team. If it matters to me (and resilience truly does matter to me), then I should give it my time.
  • HONESTY – with open communication and transparency, the trickiest challenges of a company can be overcome. Without open communication and transparency, which boils down to simple honesty, no challenge in a business can truly be resolved. Every time a problem arises, we have the chance to create raving fans of our stakeholders depending on how honestly and effectively we resolve the issue. If we botch that chance to problem-solve, we leave people unsatisfied and embittered. If we go above and beyond to complete turn the situation around, we can make life-long fans out of our clients.

What are some of your focus areas for the company for the coming months, years?

  • Since we recently received 8(a) disadvantaged small business status from the Small Business Administration, for the next 8 years we will focus on obtaining 8(a) contracts serving the government.
  • Another focus area for us is to expand our Communication Access services in for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, beyond the Sign Language Interpreting and other services we currently provide. There is so much we can offer through technology to provide access to those who need it.
  • In the recruitment side of our business, one focus area is to create a Graham Legal division to help law firms with their personnel needs. We used to serve many law firms with staffing services over the years, but took a break from accepting new law firms as clients because they were notorious late-payers or non-payers. Now with steady client management and a close-knit team, we can grow this arm again and place qualified professionals in law firms. Now law firms know they can count on Graham for their temp-to-hire needs, and even their Sign Language needs when they have Deaf clients.

What do you hope to gain from the SBA T.H.R.I.V.E. Program?

  • I am honored to be part of the SBA T.H.R.I.V.E. Program because of the learning and application of new knowledge that is naturally built into the program.
  • The SBA T.H.R.I.V.E. Program feels like an accelerator for Executive Coaching and self-development, which is such a gift. As someone who graduated college with Bachelor’s Degrees way back in 1995, and did not feel that the world of graduate study academia would give me the practical skills I needed, all my learning since then has been self-taught through online courses, books, and self-study. This program is far more structured, methodical, and robust than any self-study I have done over the past two decades!

Graham Inc.

Graham, Inc. is an 8(a), Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business providing quality support services and consulting for the federal government. We specialize in Program Support, Sign Language Interpreting, and Staff Augmentation for agencies around the nation. Established in 1984, Graham has a stellar core team with a combined 165 years of hands-on client expertise. We are committed to the success of our clients.

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