When I meet translation company owners I often hear them say, “We are a small translation company”. There are so many of them who have great potential, are great leaders and have great teams. But still, they decide to stay small. One may say that growing is risky. Maybe, but staying small is even more risky. If you stay where you are, competitors will overtake you and you will shrink to an even smaller size. Growth is necessary, and should be one of your company goals. Let’s analyse the roadmap for company growth in 6 steps.
One-man show. Most translation companies start this way. A Translator sells his own services. As the number of projects grows, the Translator works longer hours. Next, some fellow translators start helping with excess work. At the same time, our Translator needs to spend more and more time on administrative work, project management and finances, apart from his regular translation work.
Delegate and measure. One day it becomes clear that further growth requires more staff. It is necessary to hire your first employees. Yet that is not enough. You also need to start delegating. That’s not so easy, especially when you think it means losing control. Well, the main idea is to delegate but keep control . That’s why it is so important to precisely define the processes that you will delegate. You also need a way to measure the results, so that you can be sure that the processes you delegated are done correctly. Enter the metrics! These are often called Key Performance Indicators (KPI). By analysing the KPIs you can make informed decisions and process corrections, coach your employees, etc.
Structure.You have grown and hired more employees. It is time to put them into teams that specialise in different business areas and have specific responsibilities. Now you are building an organisational structure where each department provides unique value to your clients. At first the structure will usually be flat. All the people will report to the company owner and managing director at the same time. Later you should think about building a mid-level management layer and forming a hierarchy. This means that not all employees report directly to the managing director, but the structure becomes scalable.
Sell actively. At this stage there is often a barrier to further growth. Till now most clients were brought on by the owner using his personal contacts and sales efforts. Now, the company needs a defined sales strategy and a dedicated sales team . To be successful in sales you have to define the target clients, the value they are looking for, what your company can offer and how this offering is different from your competitors. If all that is clear, the rest is down to effectively communicating it to your target market.
Budget and controls. When the company is actively growing or has achieved a considerable size, it is absolutely crucial to be careful about finances. Of course, you should always watch your cash-flow and ensure your financial stability. But it should be proactive, not reactive. It means that the finances should be planned ahead, in the form of yearly or quarterly budgets. Having defined the budget, you can implement financial controls, which are ways to monitor if things are going according to plan. It’s the best way to grow safely and stay informed of potential risks well ahead of time.
Constant improvement. As already mentioned, a company cannot stay at the same level. No matter how big your company has grown, you should always be repeating the same cycle: define new goals, measure results, analyse them, improve your processes to get better results and introduce controls for the improved processes. If you keep repeating this cycle, you will always be discovering new opportunities and ways to grow your business further.
You cannot stay where you are. You have to make a decision to grow. It’s not only safer but also makes for a much more rewarding and interesting journey for the business owner. Dare to grow, and as Steve Jobs put it, ”Stay hungry and stay foolish”.