Secrets of success – Joyce and Bob Zaro: Have desire to learn and be a team player

Joyce K. Zaro, RPR, and Bob A. Zaro, RPR, are owners of Zaro+Zaro Realtime Reporting, LLC, and they live in Tigard, Ore., a town nine miles southwest of downtown Portland. Bob and Joyce have worked together in every aspect of reporting. As official reporters in state court for 23 years, they sometimes shared trials, proofread for each other, and even shared an antique double-sided desk in their courthouse office. In 2002, when the state’s layoff of officials began, they jumped into the deposition world, with Bob working as an employee for an established reporting firm and Joyce working as an overflow deposition reporter for multiple firms, a CART reporter, and a broadcast captioner. Prior to working together, the two met at Bryan College in Los Angeles, Calif., where they completed their education in 1979.

What made you decide to start your business?

Bob: Ten years ago, owning a business was not at all in our long-range plan. We both were very happy in this new experience of working outside the courtroom, which gave us quite a renewed enthusiasm for reporting. It was refreshing to have our skill and experience appreciated after fighting so long to try to convince the court administration that we realtime reporters, an integral part of the court’s team, were more efficient and useful than electronic recording, despite the impending budget cuts.

Joyce: A great benefit of my being an overflow deposition reporter was getting to know and work with many reporters, from one-reporter firms to the large national companies, all of them run with their own style. I learned a great deal during those first five years A.C. — after the courthouse, as we now call it. I know now those experiences prepared me for what was in store next. In 2003, I was blessed to connect with a wonderful, respected reporter in Portland, and I become a regular sub for her. She had built her business over the past 20 years by giving personal, friendly service and providing an excellent product. The clients she attracted were similar in personality, and it was a delight to report for them. When she decided to retire in 2008, I was presented the amazing opportunity to take over her business.

As business owners, what have been the challenges? The rewards?

Joyce: Since Bob was still employed with the other firm, my first challenge was just hoping I could continue my mentor’s previous success. The learning curve was steep as I navigated scheduling, invoicing, and paying reporters who were now subbing for me, and general organization of the business. Bob finally joined me, and we started working together again, which is the biggest reward!

Bob: Working together again is indeed the best reward. It has also been rewarding to build our team with like-minded reporters and production help so we can provide the best service possible. One big challenge we face daily is trying to balance work and everyday life. Because we are so used to working on transcripts at all hours of the day and night, weekends, and holidays, there is not a nonreporter spouse who says, “Okay. Enough for now. Let’s go do something else.”

How important is networking to building a business and becoming successful? Can you provide some examples of good networking that could help court reporters?

Bob: Networking to find fellow reporters to help you is a crucial part of building your business. We know this because Joyce and I benefitted from it when we left the courthouse. If we hadn’t participated in our state association as official reporters, we would have missed out on meeting and forming great relationships with the deposition reporters in our state, who graciously helped us make a smooth transition out of court.

Joyce: Unless you happen to arrive at the same deposition, freelance reporters generally don’t see each other outside of state or national association conferences. As a result, relationships formed while we network and learn and share are so important, such as when we need help covering a job, an answer to a procedural question, or if a student needs mentoring. Our common goal is to provide excellent service to the attorneys, and if we can work together to accomplish that, it helps everyone’s business succeed.

How important are credentials and continued education in becoming successful?

Bob: Keeping current with technology is the cornerstone of being a successful reporter. We started by typing transcripts on onion skin paper with carbon paper for copies. We now can wirelessly transmit our transcripts to an attorney’s iPad. Without continuing education to keep us informed of new developments and helping us implement them, we would have been left behind. Learning never ends with this job, and the challenge keeps it interesting.

Joyce: Absolutely. And, like Bob said, the interesting challenge is what has kept me taking tests. I do not enjoy it, like some, but the personal realtime challenge I gave myself was enough to keep me going. I believe it makes a big difference when another reporter or a scheduling paralegal can see that you have met standard requirements for competency. Even though Oregon is not a state with mandatory certification, we encourage all new reporters to keep taking those tests until they pass them.

What few adjectives would you use to describe a successful court reporter?

Joyce: Someone with keen attention to detail, who is self-disciplined and motivated, with a desire to be a team player.

Bob: Possess good common sense; be professional, yet friendly; have a desire to learn; believe in service before self.

Any final comments on getting where you are today?

We will be forever grateful to Nancy Patterson and our dedicated teachers who poured their experience and knowledge into us to prepare us so well.

 Do you want to nominate someone for the “Secrets of Success” series? Send your pick into the JCR’s Writer/Editor, Linda Smolkin, at lsmolkin@ncra.org.