Each industry has its specifics. But running a good business often comes down to following a narrow set of guidelines. Here are the 7 most important ones that are directly applicable to the management of a Translation Agency.
Define your processes. Think about the tasks that you do in your company and the way you do them. Looking for new clients, qualifying vendors, managing quotes, managing projects, issuing invoices, etc. These are your business processes. List them and describe how you accomplish them. Now that they are written down, you can look at them again and decide if there is a way to do them better and faster. It’s hard to improve processes which are not clearly described. Once visualized, you will see what could work better and will be ready to make proper improvements.
Delegate. In the early days of a business, the owner does a lot of the work himself. As you grow, you need to start delegating. First of all, your day only has 24 hours and there will always be a limit to how much you can do. Secondly, you need time to reflect on your business, improve processes and think about where you want to take your business and how. You have to work on your business, not in your business. Describing your processes will help you to delegate their execution to someone else.
Measure efficiency. Having delegated, you still need to ensure that things are being done right. That’s why for each described business process you should define a way of measuring it. You can measure the time it takes to complete a process or how many of its elements (e.g. projects) are completed during a specific period. You can measure how many positive feedbacks you receive or how many complaints you get. You can measure a whole lot of different things, but make sure that you measure something that shows whether things are going right or wrong. Such metrics are called Key Performance Indicators – KPIs.
Grow your sales. Even when you have the running of your company well under control but you want to grow, you still need to get more business from clients. You have to actively sell your services or products. It’s a huge challenge for every business. Where to start, then? The best way is to define your niche, your best market fit. With this aim, look at your present client list and decide which are the best clients and why? What is so unique about them and the way you cooperate and what makes you prefer them. Now write down those characteristics and think about where and how you can find similar clients. In the first place focus on them, and nobody else.
Optimize internal costs. As you grow, you should regularly revisit the list of your business processes and how you complete them. You should constantly look for optimizations there, to keep your costs down. Ideally, you want each hour of your time (and your employees’ time) to be billed to your clients. That will never be entirely possible. However, you can always get rid of the tasks that do not generate value and are your internal costs. The smaller your internal overhead costs and the less manual work you have, the higher your margin will be.
Optimize external costs. Buying is also crucial to your profit. The better and cheaper you can buy, then more margin you can generate when you sell. This is why it is so important to efficiently manage your suppliers and work with those who provide you with the best service for the best price. We all have vendors that we like and we want to work with them on almost every project. But as you grow, such strategy will be far from optimal. You need to prepare for more projects, shorter deadlines, tighter budgets and you need to have choice.
Track your profitability. There are different periods and strategies when growing your business. The margin is not always the main focus. Sometimes the goal is to grow the customer base or turnover. But generally in the long term, a healthy business must generate profit. That is why it is important to analyse the profitability of each project and for each client. Those metrics can change over time, so it’s crucial to track them regularly. Again, you and your team only have 8-10 working hours a day. You have to focus on the clients that are of the highest value for you and your business.
Managing a successful business is both simple and hard. Simple, as it all comes down to numbers and basic rules. Hard, as it is a challenge to apply those rules to a complex reality. That is why management is an art as well as a science.
Let your passion and deep understanding of the language industry help you to apply those guidelines. The results will show not only in your bottom line but also in the resulting satisfaction. The satisfaction experienced by your clients, your partners and you from being part of a well-managed business.