Running A Translation Company: 7 obstacles preventing your business growth
I had the opportunity over the past few years to talk to many colleagues, friends and business owners in the translation industry, and I concluded that there is are common problems is facing most translation companies in terms of growing the business. And what I thought to address in this blog is to define the issues, because I believe “a problem well defined is a problem half solved” and to all my readers I have to apologize in advance if some points I raise here you don’t agree with. It’s just my personal opinion only.
For an example of a well run company I personally recommend http://www.cls-communication.com/ if you are looking for translation service provider that you can trust and has what it takes to meet your current and future demands as your business changes, you should check out http://www.cls-lexitech.ca/
Identifying business growth problems:
1- Sales and Marketing: finding translation opportunities can be a problem for companies with no sales and BD staff or have the wrong sales and marketing approach to their target market. To elaborate a bit on this, since the DNA of Translation Company is the translator and the project manager, many translation companies lack the basic understanding of sales and marketing in general. For example, in one of my discussions with translation executives they draw direct comparison between a used car salesman and an executive sales person promoting translation services. This underscore the behavioral differences between a growth company which value and promote executive sales teams and a company that sees business as a status quo which leads to an almost conflicting behavior between growth strategy and status quo of the company, resulting in flat revenue and in some case degradation of revenue. Transforming your organization into a sales organization is the answer, this need to happen to face the revenue challenges ahead.
2- Lack of sales and Marketing: Some translation CEO’s, operation managers, and translation professional in general are under the misunderstanding that sales growth can happen from “thin air” without any effort on their part, or investment. Many of the same executives still living in the Dot.com days where the idea was: “build it and they will come” unfortunately this didn’t work for the IT sector in the late 90’s and it will not work for the Translation sector now. Unfortunately these CEO’s and translation professional earned the nick name (and I am not revealing any secrets here because many of you already heard it before: “Pre Madonna’s”) for a good reason. There ought to be a serious and genuine effort by the owners of Translation Companies to understand the shift in market demand and redesign their internal processes and offer services that will meet client demands. This change absoultely need to take place in a proactive manner not wait to the market forces you to do so, you will loose the element of being ahead of the curve/ competitions. Let’s get something straight: You should always operate with the mindset that there will be no situation under which the client/market will shift their requirement to meet company’s capabilities anyone who thinks otherwise, in my humble opinion they shouldn’t be managing companies they should subcontract that job to an experts (and I am not talking here about what file type your client send you the translation work). Look and develop detailed understanding of your current and future client base requirements and deliver on these requirements: Price, service process etc…
3- Lack of growth decision: Some of you might say, are you crazy? who doesn’t like more revenue? for some, revenue is a good thing on the other hand for some others, revenue is a nightmare, why? because they lack the fundementals of managing a business. Some translation professional decided that the size of their business is sufficient and they are not comfortable growing beyound the current size. While I respect these decisions, we also should be aware that: if you are not growing, you are on your way out…sorry business 101
4- Brick Wall Syndrome: Most translation companies were not built to sustain the strain of growth that usually accompanies business growth. There is a defined and sometime predicted limit to how much one of those organizations can grow before cracks starts to show in the fabric and the DNA of the business. And that limit I call it: “The Brick Wall”, because it would be near impossible to grow beyond what this business is design to handle.
5- Wrong Operation team for the growth job: This is a very common, let’s face it we all know or have met some of these individuals who manage and run day to day aspect of the service, in some cases they are the owner of translation companies. These individuals have done well in the past, but they are not suited for the next phase of the business progress and plans. Let’s pretend company A is sitting comfortably operating at the edge of the “brick wall” The management team served well for years during the first growth sprint before the company arrived to the “brick wall” I talked about in point 4. And now that same management team is being asked to run another marathon and achieve another growth target. This is less likely to happen as you can imagine. They are tired, exhausted, and generally coasting to retirement. I personally recommend re-designing the management team to match the current phase of the business plan. This step will ensure the right skills are used to achieve the right and current business goals. Just think of Bill Gate, great idea person but he realized that he is not the best in running Microsoft so he hired Steve Ballmer to run the company, it makes sense in my opinion!
6- Lack of flexibility when designing and implementing client solutions: Some translation companies/ professional’s idea of doing business is to design a box with well defined dimensions and if the client / opportunity don’t fit the mold then they lose the opportunity, remember: the nature of Translation business is a “service” not a “product” services should offer a higher degree of flexibility in customization. This is problematic for Services Company in the translation industry, which absolutely needs to be flexible and to large extend needs to offer much highly customizable solutions.
7- Lack of knowledge of macro economics and general economic state: here I call this “Stick your head in the sand” and hope for the economic storm will blow by! These types of companies with this similar strategy could end up being a bargain basement acquisition targets. Here is why, I believe these companies will lose substantial revenue and profitability similarly and what’s left of them by the end of the storm will not be able to survive and invest to re establish their market presence. Hence they will become the acquisition vulture’s snacks!!! (Sorry harsh but real)
For an example of a well run company I personally recommend http://www.cls-communication.com/ if you are looking for translation service provider which you can trust and has what it takes to meet your current and future demands as your business changes, you should check out http://www.cls-lexitech.ca/
The Translation Business Growth is an extensive topic which will take more than my humble blog here to cover… As you can note, I didn’t get into issues like staff salaries, price of services rendered, client and staff issues etc… because I fundamentally believe that if you have the right management team in place they will take care of these issues, and I also believe that “Revenue cure all illnesses”. However for now this should give you an idea, as to what to watch for and how to get organized to face and achieve growth! And if you like to discuss solutions or ideas please don’t hesitate to email me.