7 lessons learnt from 25 years in the translation industry

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7 lessons learnt from 25 years in the translation industry

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We’re celebrating 25 years in the translation and interpretation industry and marking it by reflecting on what we’ve learnt so far.

Back in 1993, when Language Link UK Ltd launched, we communicated very differently to the way we do now. Mobile phones were quite a rarity – and the size of  bricks – and the world wide web was not really worldwide at all. Despite the fact that Tim Berners Lee wrote a proposal for an ‘information management’ system in 1989, four years on it was merely a dial-up service that BT offered to 150 UK customers and the word ‘internet’ wasn’t even coined until two years later, in 1995.

The pre-digital age meant that business was also done differently. The fax machine, post and the push bike courier were frequently used. Back in 1993 we spent a lot of time hanging around an overburdened fax machine as it dialled and whined and spat out reams of curly fax paper which then had to be stored in huge box files.

Language Link UK’s Managing Director, Robert Manik, has been in the translation industry for almost 30 years and reflects on the changes. “The major change that we’ve witnessed over the last quarter of a century, is the arrival of the internet and the ease in which we can transfer files,” says Robert. “When we acquired ISDN in 2000, it changed our business greatly. Now we have our secure portal, which allows greater safety and security for the transfer of confidential files, and of course, end-to-end encryption. We no longer need to worry about standing over a fax machine to ensure client confidentiality.”

“But back in 1995, when I first started working for Language Link UK, the one thing we did an awful lot more of, was use the phone. The birth of email has been good, but people hide behind it. I actually think communication was better when people spoke or met each other more.”

Tips for business longevity

So, having been in the translation business (which is, at its core, a communication industry) for well over two decades, what are Robert’s tips for other business leaders who are looking to stay the course, too?

“We, as a company, have been trying to bring back these old values which helped us grow in the early years. Technology has brought fantastic changes, but the one thing that needs to be re-enforced in the business world is that relationships are built on speaking and meeting clients and suppliers,” says Robert.

Here are his seven top tips for business longevity:

1.Put your customers first 

Work out early on how you can offer a service or product that is indispensible, makes their life easier or benefits them in some way that they will keep coming back.

2.Work out what your company values are

Every organisation has an ethos: a thought, feeling, purpose or reason for existing and method of operating, that everyone shares. Focus on encapsulating these and communicating them widely to staff, suppliers and customers. They’ll hold you steady during rocky times and help drive you forward.

3.Move with the times

Never rest on your laurels. Embrace new technology; keep up with all current legislation and changes within your industry; read up on issues that affect your customers and suppliers. Stay informed and current – and know your competition.

This is a strategy advocated by multi-nationals, like JP Morgan Chase: “To experience lasting growth and prosperity, a company must be able to adapt to market changes and the disruptive emergence of a competitor’s products or services. Business longevity then hinges, in part, on how well an organization adjusts to evolving customer demand and a dynamic marketplace.”

4.Build good relationships

Whether it’s clients, staff or suppliers, business longevity relies on building good relationships. So know who you’re dealing with. At Language Link UK, all our translators and interpreters are thoroughly vetted and security checked and a lot of time is spent carefully selecting and marrying the right person for the job. Energy is invested in ensuring we only use the very best language experts and that they understand us and our customer’s needs – and our clients know and understand this.

5.Learn from mistakes

Every business experiences hiccups when they’ve been in existence for decades. But what’s the difference between a new start-up and a long-standing business? Invaluable experience. So:

  • Be honest – own up to mistakes
  • Don’t choose to view a bad decision negatively
  • Learn from it – a mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow
  • Move on

6.Email less, talk more

“Sometimes it can be quicker and more effective to discuss an in-depth brief, tackle a tricky topic or sort out an issue with a face-to-face meeting or phone call than to fire off an email,” says Language Link UK Managing Director, Robert Manik. “Obviously, often you need a paper trial to show what has been discussed and agreed, but too much time is wasted toing and froing with emails when a quick conversation can clear things up quickly.”

7.Chart your own course

While it makes sense to keep an eye on competition, never lose sight of what you’re about and where you want to be. Keep forging ahead, looking for new opportunities and don’t rely too heavily on one single client.

Robert Manik is Managing Director of the 25-year-old full-service translation and interpretation agency, Language Link UK Ltd and he’d love to hear your thoughts on business longevity. Drop him a line here