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Are You a Translation Agency or a Language Service Provider? [You Might be Surprised]

Recently our localization industry hero Renato Beninatto (I already wrote about him here), with a help from his buddy Tucker Johnson has written a book called "The General Theory of the Translation Company".

Finally, someone who knows and understands this sh..t is writing about it, I thought.

And You won't be disappointed.

This is not a review of the whole book. If you need the complete wisdom go and buy the book, it's sold here. Well worth reading. (No, I don't get anything by promoting it. I wish I did, but I don't. It's just worth it, seriously). 

And the book - because we share a lot of the same values - is the reason for this post. 

The part I particularly want to talk about, well, actually two parts... so, anyway... the one thing I want to talk about, is the one that has been annoying me the most in the last 10 years. Namely: every translation agency, company, or God forbid LSP presents itself like a leading provider.

You know what I think? Double-facepalm. That's what. But it's a huge topic and I'll write a different post on this.

The second one is about the mindset, or mind-shift between a Translation Agency and Language Service Provider. This post is about the Agency vs LSP thing.

And why is it important to know which one you are.

Or which one you want to become down the line. 

What is a Translation Agency 

(and what is the reason freelancers hate them, "outsider" companies hate them, and even the people running them are not really sure why they should be happy about them)

I know, sometimes its hard not to think of yourself as a cool Translation Agency because it has been hard-wired into our minds. In the mind of people in the translation industry, the word Translation Agency means something beautiful and nice. Something really cool. Like a Creative Agency, which generally is this great hipster company that comes up with slogans for Uber or AirBnb, or makes great commercials explaining every tv ad is actually a tide ad:

Awesome right?

Well, no.

Unfortunately, people who are at the two other ends of the translation cycle: clients - and here I mean end-clients, and freelance translators alike, think that Translation Agencies are the representation of everything that is evil and wrong in this industry. 

From (some) clients standpoint, Translation Agencies are: 

  • check
    Not worth the money (either Expensive, or we don't "get them": what do you mean you want to be paid for numbers in translation? aren't you just copying them?)
  • check
    Slow (what do you mean 20,000 words on scanned PDF of highly technical text without refrence material by tomorrow is impossible?)
  • check
    Too complicated (what do you mean you don't like translating our software strings taken with no purpose out of the code and randomly put into something we call translatable Excel?)
  • check
    Too demanding (what do you mean you want to be paid in 30 days? Our standard procedure is 90 days after seven layers of approval. I don't care that you finished your job 6 months ago)

Sounds familiar? Thought so. But there is the other part too.

From freelancer's standpoint, Translation Agencies are: 

  • check
    slave driving machines (do you really want me to translate 3,000 words a day for such a low fee?
  • check
    unnecessary and evil middlemen (why aren't you answering my ambiguous questions at 11:10PM, I need to work, the deadline is tomorrow! I wish you were a client, they would understand my questions immediately
  • check
    who charge 3x the fee to their clients while paying peanuts to freelancers (you get so much money for nothing, and expect me to have no typos in the text? What is your editor being paid for? You should work a little too! )
  • check
    don't pay on time (what do you mean I don't get my money immediately? I don't care that you are being paid 90 days after the invoice has been approved)

Some of this holds ground, and yes I can imagine there are agencies who really are just unnecessary middlemen who's only work is sending files and questions between clients and translators. But on a long enough time scale, those who work like that are not really good at the "survival" game. The market has it's way to filter out bad apples. If that is even a thing.

I want to think there are more of these: normal companies with good staff, good people, and a genuine mission of helping their clients while treating their colleagues right

If you are here, deep down in your soul you know you are not one of those bad agencies, not just a simple agency. Not an agency by default.

So why is Translation Agency a Bad Thing?

Again, it's not the "nomen est omen" sh..t. It's the thing that we the people who work in this industry, think of translation agencies like the next coolest things after mp3, but to the outsiders, we're more like a bad Travel Agency. 

And that is not the picture we want to present about ourselves. Not to our clients. Not to our freelance or in-house colleagues. 

Because what do (bad) Travel Agencies do? Well... nothing. They are the typical unknowin' middlemen with underpaid and undereducated stuff, acting as an intermediary between buyers and sellers, for a hefty fee. There is no added vallue whatsoever. They connect big hotels (or something) with people who need vacation and best case scenario, they also help you with your airplane ticket. For 30% more money than you'd pay if you'd just do it on your own.

Now, before the wrath of Travel Agency people come and slaps me in the face, it's not the best travel agencies I am talking about. The best ones are getting you a better deal, giving you a representative at your destination, make your trip easier, make your insurance active and working, talk to you, give you directions, and treat you like a queen (or king, you know).

What I'm trying to say is, there's several ways of looking at this, and unfortunately, there's too many active players in both tourism and translation, where - unless you are very prepared - you can easily chose a bad one to work with, and, lo and behold. You get burned. 

This kind of attitude and business model could be rare. Nevertheless it's still present. 

And that is why it is super-important to have a pro-active attitude, to rise above the noise as they say. To be the best among the good ones, and it also doesn't hurt if you do a little branding, and go the extra mile (or couple of them) for your clients. Finally, they will feel that you don't act like a wise-ass with your clients but rather do what they ask you to do.

Which is the whole point of the Servicing industry. Hence providing the language services, and not only translation. Yes, translation is important and we can think about it as the most important one, but it's always a question: to whom? To the client? To you? To the translator?

There are many more steps in the LSPs life each and every day, and we need to understand that each step is important. 

Okay then, what's a Language Service Provider?

Many freelance translators will argue that the difference is non existent, that we (LSPs and their owners and PMs) are ruthless slave-drivers and that we should all vanish into oblivion and leave all the work to them. I'm in several Facebook groups that have more people with this mindset, than there are stars in the sky on a bright Midsummer's night.

Well. Ok. Freelancers preach their own thing because they want all the job for themselves. But what jobs? Translation only, of course!  

Except, that there is no way they can do all the tasks themselves. Someone has to get those files "into motion". Someone has to pick them up from the software that is to be translated, or from the webpage. Someone has to prepare the terminology, the check the usability of a previous memory, to not forget translation is not only translation but at least TEP (*), and very often much more than that. To attach the right Style Guide to the reference materials in TMS, to create queries for clients, to know who to contact with what questions, and hey, to organise a team of people who will make all this happen. (*) If you're not sure what TEP is you might be reading a wrong blog 🙂

We didn't even start talking about clients who need translation done fast, into 26 languages, with a single point of contact. Because no, usually clients don't have huge corporate translation departments (well, some of them do), and they don't want to be bothered with it. With every small question if this dot goes there or over there. If the file they sent is really the final file, or it's just some draft that was already rewritten twenty five times.

Good clients know what they don't know. And that gives them huge advantage. They can outsource the translation process headache to professionals.

This is where a good LSP steps in. Language Services Provider companies are those who are here to utilise the best Translation Project Mangers or teams of PMs, to make the work smooth even if it has 15 steps along the way, even if it is for 17 languages and not just for one, and with a tight deadline. All that in order to make their customers happy, and hopefully a world a better place.

Within budget 😉  

tight budget for lsp work

Enter the World of Small Translation Agencies, or LSPs or better yet, Single Language LSPs

Personally, saying that you're a "small agency dealing with Balkan languages" (which is, for example what you do) has no negative meaning in my mind. 

It's all relative. Maybe you are trying to pinpoint the fact that you don't have 40 people on staff, only 7. But in this industry, having 7 employees is not a small company (most of the translation companies have only 1 or 2 people employed, the rest are freelancers or partner companies). Maybe you feel fine with dealing with only a handful of languages, and you don't want to grow to be the new Lionbridge or God forbid, to the magnitude of Mexican Soap Opera Queen Company (with a name that has Perfect in it, but is probably far from perfect)

However, there is no need to call yourself small. Because it stops you - in your mind - from growing beyond your wildest dreams.

The negativity of the word "small" is all in our minds of course. Note to self: there might be a need to re-think the main messsage of miniTPMS. I mean, being the sexiest translation management system for small agencies is a pretty accurate explanation of what we are creating. Because generally, any agency with up to 10 people on staff could be considered small. On the other hand an agency of that size could process millions o words and make millions of USD in revenue.

So the real problem is, nobody wants to be small, or they don't want to look small when talking with potential clients. Just like guys at their first date, right? (even if size doesn't really matter... or they say it doesn't, anyway, that's another topic again)

Being small doesn't necessarily mean you are not good enough, don't sell enough, but it is true that it gives your whole company a little of a mental obstacle. It's like driving a Porsche but having your foot on the break the whole time. 

It's not what you are.  It's what you think you are. Because, let's face it, with a help of a little software like miniTPMS you could just as easily run projects for 15 languages as you do for one. 

What's the bottom line? "Which one is you"?

Sometimes we need to reinvent our own companies, and recreate the good images in the eyes of our clients. If it means we'll stop calling our companies Translation Agencies and move on to the Language Service Provider nomenclature, so be it. Your core values and your working style doesn't have to change.

It doesn't have to, but it might, once you realize there is much room for growth. 

Instead of being "just an agency" you can become the cool LSP. A professional machinery in the Translation Industry. A single point of contact to several large end-clients, with technology and Project Management in place to serve their needs, with contacts with other LSPs - mostly Single Language Service Providers - and other freelance experts, and now you really can be on the way to become the next Lionbridge. 

Well, once you employ a smaller army of sales personnel, but that's a story for another time...


(and if you are still here, and alive, thank you for reading, now please share, tweet, comment and print this blogpost out and give it to everyone in the world.)

Almost forgot: 

Do you have a TMS? "Mini" is being created especially for companies who employ 2-10 people, who work for big LSPs and End Clients alike. Making project tracking a child's game, invoicing easy and tracking beautiful. Sounds good? Here's what you need to do:

Click here now and join other colleagues who are reading my tipsFind our deepest secrets on the idustry, and get a special discount on minitpm.

Translation Management System? Don’t need one! My Excel table is enough

Before people from big corporations want to see my head on the stick, let me tell you: I love Excel. Seriously. It's a great piece of software, and you can really do amazing things with it. 

It is a mature product, that also has initiated a hoard of lookalike, wannabees and similar products. All of which are good (or at least okay-ish) in some way. All of which do the same thing, in some way.

And yes, if you are tracking your own private finance for example, it's a great piece of software where you can put your income, expenses, and see how you will come out at the end of the month. 

My problem is not with Excel itself (nor any other spreadsheet software). 

My problem is with people who think it is suitable for The Translation Industry


Because it's not. Maybe it was a Translation Management System replacement back in 1989 or even 1999 but today? Sorry. It just won't work like that. 

So in the first post in our "WTF" series, I'll try to go and understand people who say that it's enough for their company. 

What is really scary, is that these people are not 80 years old "bring back the typewriter for translations" type. It's not the technophobes who hate CAT, who don't use MT, and often even mix those two. No! It's the Gen X or even Millennials - read - still the majority of the powerful working force in their 30s-40s and early 50s...

People who come to me and say: "I can do fine with my excel. I just hate that I have to spend 3 days every month with finance, invoicing clients, checking for errors in vendor invoices... " but when I present them with my MiniTPMS card, they continue: nonono, I don't need TMS or TPMS (call it like you want) because we're a small company and there is no use for it. 

Now if you don't value your time enough to try and save those 3 days each and every month and spend it on your kung-fu lessons, or with your kids, or with your partner I'm not the one to tell you there is a problem in the Universe. 

Even if we step outside my - probably too American - way of valuing my time too much - sorry, I really like to play with Lego more than group tasks and write invoices. That is the simple truth! And the thing is, I LIKE writing invoices! It's the best time of the month. But there are things better than that. Like binge-watching The Punisher or something - so even if we say that you are extremely organized and even more disciplined... 

The List of SpreadSheet Disadvantages is Just too Long


Maybe it's enough if you just go and put the one row in your spreadsheet every time a new task comes, and at the end of the month combine them somehow, and make invoices... maybe.

What if you have more clients? 

You need to filter your clients, then make a little table for each of them separately, with all the good numbers and dates and prices and wordcounts or whatever units you are working on... 

Which reminds me, how will you put the different units, prices, dates, all in one spreadsheet row, especially if it was a huge job and you had to outsource it to more colleagues, and what if the unit you get from your customer is A, and the one you pay your outsourced vendors is B (for example: words / characters, words / pages, etc. as every country, vendor and client has their own liking). What then? 

filtering vendors requires good TMS

Try to filter vendors the right way in a spreadsheet

Even if you have all that sorted out by some magical tricks... tricks that only you and nobody else in the universe understand, there is still a ton of things we need to address.

What Spreadsheets are
NOT good for

  • Workflows - there is no way to create a normal Workflow in a spreadsheet, and if you have a two step translation, you are doomed.
  • No way of invoicing to your clients - even if it's just a "fake" (pro-forma) invoice, because you need to create a new one from your accounting program, it's much easier to copy the end sum to your official invoice and write a note on it that says: "Based on pro-forma invoice No: XY" than to enter 400 rows of tasks in one.
  • No way of creating Purchase Orders for your External Colleagues, Vendors, etc. You can filter the tasks in your spreadsheet by date, and copy and paste and whatever, but it will never be so cool as it is from a TMS system.
  • No way of having combined data to see which tasks are on which Client Invoices, and same goes for Vendor Purchase Orders. 
  • Very limited possibility to filter the colleagues to find the best one that suits your project based on several criteria. 
  • You have no way of showing your clients or your vendors just the data you WANT to show, unless, again, you create yet another 10 copies of your spreadsheet and distribute them well.
  • Vendor portal where they can see their data, invoicies, tasks they worked on, working on, etc. What? In spreadsheets. Yeah, when Blue Monkeys will be Flying Jets to the Moon. 
  • Your Client's StyleGuide upload so that in every new project at every moment you know this is what you need to use (I hope I don't have to convince you how great that feature is)
  • Scaling of your company is on par with Science Fiction. If you have more than 10 clients and more than 20 external colleagues, you are already doomed

Heck, you need a separate spreadsheet for each and every task. Maybe even multiple ones for each task. And when sending them to different people you really need to pay attention not to do more harm than good. And Sharing is a myth. (Okay, to be fair this is possible in some versions of spreadsheet software - but it is still very very far from ideal) 

spreadsheets in translation agency

We don't need to go so far as: 

  • automatic e-mail notifications,
  • requesting Vendor feedback,
  • requesting Client feedback
  • SFTP or some eve more sophisticated way of secure data transfer (in spreadsheets? what?), 
  • colleagues assessment based on done tasks (or a list of those), 
  • "normal" commenting possibilities for you and your colleagues on projects, tasks, 
  • etc. 

This list is just too long.

So what is the solution? 


I deeply believe it's a mindset thing. Not having a TMS. It's just in your head, because you think it's useless, it's expensive, and it will complicate your life. 

But what if it isn't? What if it helped? 

The solution is to embrace technology and not fear it. To accept that our work has become harder, faster and cheaper, and we need more sophisticated tools if we still want to be able to kick in the ball in the translation game. 

When you are a PM or an owner of a translation company that has 7 Project Managers and deals with hudreds of thousands words a year the price of ours will be less than your phone bill.

When you look deep into your soul, then the only thing you will say is: 

"I don't need a TMS. But I want one!"

If you want one, I have a proposal for You:

Click to read a little bit more about the concept, and for some serious discount possibilities! (subject to some really harsh cowboy sheriff criteria)

How Technology Helps You Get Ahead of Competition and Thrive in Translation Business

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

You know what’s the most hurtful thing in the translation industry? Besides reading something with bad grammar (yeah, sorry for mine). Or typos you correct in every Facebook feed you see? Well, it’s when you get a 2 weeks’ notice from your top employee. Who is at the same time your best translator and reviewer. And doesn’t have a stand-in in your small company.

She was the one who knew all the processes, all the tools. She was the “go-to” person for linguistic and technical question alike. And now she’s off to persuade other adventures. To build hospitals in a hidden African village. Or run marathons. Maybe become a PM for a druglord. Or, as it turns out, work for your competition. After a kick like that it’s not so easy to get back “in the game”. You feel you’re back on square one. Sounds familiar? Maybe not. Maybe not yet.

People leave 

For different reasons. They feel they have achieved what they came for. They got the experience they needed. They get fed up with your Christmas Dinner party you throw every December. It's like that.

Corporations have it easy. They avoid the situation by employing more people they need. Have “expandable” employees. And a pile of cash in their bank to compensate for any kind of loss. And could be, also parties with more alcohol. But you? A small company owner? You must use better tricks.

One of them tricks, is, lo and behold: technology 

Unless you live in prehistoric era of the early 2000's and still use a macro-filled Excel sheet for tracking translation projects, you will have to rely on the real technology of the XXI century. 

translation management system hand in hand technology with humans

Technology, if you take it by the hand, is the one thing which will save you from panicking: “What do we do now, Mel was the one who knew everything about Acme”. And the strategy is simple.

Show your customers that your company is technology based, rather than employees based.

Show technology and processes as the key factor of reliability, control, and structure. Small company owners rely too much on the knowledge and “features” of their best people, which is a mistake. A Hungarian entrepreneur, Ákos Barazsy explains this in a cruel way. But he is right. He said: “Don’t make people the product, make your technology the product”. How? By building, or implementing one.

Remember when you were a kid? 

Your mom comes into your room and the mess of Lego bricks, Monopoly money, Barbie dolls, Ken’s, drawings and pens and papers and shoes and red socks and green socks, all is gone by the time you say "Poughkeepsie". She re-creates the beauty out of something that was, in lack of better word, piles of stuff.

The books are on their shelves. In ABC order. The boxes are at the exact spot where they need to be. And all socks are paired.

In Translation industry, there’s no Big Momma to do the trick. That's pretty bad.

But there’s the next best thing called TPMS (translation project management systems, or as some call it, TMS). It is a piece of software (technology! See?) that helps you organize data. Structure them. Automate. And create order in an otherwise chaotic business.

Using TPMS is like having your own never-sleeping, never-hungry, never-sick minion person/robot/assistant/slave. Someone to look over your projects, vendors, finances, tasks, calendars. The whole business.

And You can’t trick it into messing up anything. In the past, your sister, brother, friend could come into your room and throw all your Lego boxes on the floor. But TPMS knows how to stop the chaos. It doesn’t allow throwing things around. It watches over you and your flaws, and makes sure no mistake is made. Because it works based on rules. Rules that help you save time in doing repetitive tasks, checking and double-checking.

And when someone leaves your firm to persuade their long-forgotten dream of becoming a Shaolin Kung-Fu warrior? It's like nothing happened.

You’ll be sad a little, sure, but in a blink of an eye you will have the next person take over the responsibilities of the martial-art wannabee. At the same time, you can hire a junior colleague, and start the process of teaching them the ways of Your company.

The best thing is: Clients won't notice this transition

Yes, most of what TPMS does, you can also do manually.

Exactly. You can create data handling rules, e-mail templates, quotation templates, invoicing templates. But when the data needs to put to the right place? Are you sure the invoice is right? No errors in the last quote you sent? You can do it manually. But it makes a big difference if you need to spend three days doing it, or you have a technology that can do that in 4 minutes.

Maybe you want to complicate your own life by managing your business with a paper, pen, and an Excel table. Or, you could be ready to start using TMS systems and in a couple of hours start decluttering the "messy basement and get to the top floor".

The Way of Success

TMS technology is the recipe on how to be profitable even if you’re on a shoestring budget. It saves time in administration, that you can use to find more customers to translate for them. It could automate your data entry. Projects, vendors, vendor selection, CAT tool analysis, e-mail sending, deadlines, workflows... 

And in the end, it deals with financials. Accounts payable, receivable. With late payments. With chasing that Client to pay, or that Colleague to get them to send you an invoice finally...  

That beats Excel every time!

On a long run, you'll have lightyears of advantage over other companies.

Stay Ahead of Competition

They are still in medieval times.

Focused more on chasing invoices and trying to remember their resources last name.

They have no idea how much a project really brings in, or costs.

They don’t know how much cash they will have in two months, three months’ time. 

They don't have a business. They have a hobby that might pay their bills. But it's still a hobby.

And You have a real business. Your future looks bright, and they are thinking to bring the curtain down.

It’s good to be You, isn’t it?

If you want your own copy of miniTPMS (in tha cloud!) then here is my proposal to You: 

Click to join the list for some serious discount possibilities! (subject to some also very serious cowboy and sheriff criteria matters, like sheriffness, and cowboyship. And many other non existent words)

Do What The Customers Want, Not What You Think They Want

They say: "Smart people learn from their own mistakes. Wise people learn from other people's mistakes."

As much as I'd like to think that I'm smart, or want to believe I could be also wise one day (just lack that 10,000 hours of meditation in the depths of some cave in Tibetan mountains), sometimes it doesn't work out.

You know when you are deep in a big-big project, lots of "moving parts" as they say, and somehow you miss to see one important client request. 

What translation services buyers really want

Your customers will either tap you, or crush you 🙂

You keep them in the palm of your hand (or, for that matter they keep you there) but you are so busy doing your ting, that you forget to fix all the details...

Which in our case was a miscommunicated case of whether we are to provide a native editor for the translation, or they will.

It wasn't the end of the world, and we soon realised this mistake and were able to still fix it (read: find a suitable colleague who can do the job), but I hated the feeling.

And I hated it that a small mistake like this can break the trust of your customers, and have them reconsider if you and your company is reliable enough for bigger projects.

An unhappy customer is no child's game.

All because of one information that was skipped.

These are the moments when You realise something in your process has to be changed.

Improved.

Fixed.

And the best way to start is to create good communication channels.

Why is this important?

My personal experience shows that Sharing information often is easy, but it is tricky.

We know that it is important, and you are on alert: you get an important mail, you read it, try to remember it, and try to also remember to send it to your colleagues.

And then comes the tricky part:

Having those information SEEN is much more important.

And by sending only a short e-mail about it, especially if you deal with more than three projects, could lead to the information to be skipped, forgotten, deleted, misplaced, turned off, marked as read, archived.

Especially on Friday when your colleagues are already in the Bar in their minds, while their bodies are still glued to the wrong chair in the office.

Is there a problem with your colleagues? Translators? Vendors?

Of course NOT.

The problem is the e-mail correspondence.

You're getting e-mails from 20,000 places daily, and they are all important and urgent and great (like the mails from MiniTPMS, khm!), but it's just so easy to skip over it and leave it in oblivion.

Because another one comes and it's even more important. "Importanter".

Solution?

This might sound to you like a broken record, but the solution is to put this information into miniTPMS:

  • Either as special instructions.
  • Or as a discussion on the project page.
  • Or as an uploaded file.
  • Or as something else... 

Because once it is there, it is visible, and all the parties involved are able to see what needs to be seen!

Oh and, did you just realise it totally eliminates the need to write another 54 e-mails to your colleagues, vendors, clients, etc? All the people involved in the same project will automatically see this.

How's that for saving you time (and electrons)?

You wanna it? Click to find out how you can get some serious discount!

Why You Should Not Allow Duplicate Data in Your TMS

Let me ask you something: When will it stop. The madness, I mean?

When will the madness stop?

So all those TMS systems and their developers that thought that everything in the world is just another project can go somewhere and sit in the dark in silence. You know. Not to annoy any more people, because they might end up beaten up.

Truth is, internally between us best Translation Project Managers we still call everything that we work on "a Project" so maybe in a way, they are right. But in our hearts, we know that a Project is actually something much bigger than that 44th iteration of the same Agency, same PM, same EndClient, same Software to use, same Workflow to use, same everything except that it's now called: 

Fragus 45.1 and has 300 untranslated and 271.35 weighted words, and the five similar things before were Fragus 45.0, Fragus 44.9, Fragus 44.7, Fragus 46 and Fragus 45.5.

Why am I so pissed of, then? Well hardly all of them Fragus things (btw, I have no idea if there is actually a company named that, or if it means something - hopefully it doesn't mean anything in the line of offending someone to death), so hardly is every of the Fragus things a new project. 

They are just iterations of a long time ago established Bigger Project... 

Here's a real life example

My colleague Ivana who is in charge for coordinating projects for our very small but beautiful company has got one project the other day. For one language. Let's pretend it's English to German.

Then a couple hours later, same project came for another language. Let's say it's English to French

Then in 3 hours same project came for English to Bulgarian, the third language that we still cover for this company...

And all that is great.

Except the fact that 99% of TMS systems are not capable of spotting duplicates.

And we used to use one of those systems.

So instead of having one project with three languages, we had three projects with a same name, for one language.

Which is Redundant. Stupid. Time Consuming. Counterproductive. Annoying. Poorly executed. And bad programming.

Ivana asked me how big of a deal it is, because in the end, she can delete the duplicate projects, and put new languages (and all their data, again) to the one created initially but I said no, we already spent too much time on these things, so let's just leave it like that.

Just imagine the time lost entering all the data again and again: Project name, Client, End Client, Project Manager, Prices, Start dates, Due dates, etc. 

Three times. Everything. That's a lot of "empty" if you ask me. Empty being, you know. Useless. 

Now if you are covering one language or two, you can get away with it.

But if you are covering 15 languages (the biggest we ever had to cover as a small company that offers only 6 languages by default, was 17 languages), this thing would have been entered 15 times! Even choosing the favourite Italian PM by the name Managero Favoritto is painful. 

And also, it creates a lot more work for the owner (if it's a really small agency) or the Finance department when the Purchase Orders need to be filled in - you need to enter it 17 times again, and then when invoicing your Clients... but hey, we lived through it.

But only because I have this vision.

    • The vision of a system that doesn't allow duplicates;
    • a system where you don't need to enter the name of the same project manager 11,000 times;
    • a system where you don't need to switch to five different new windows when you realized you forgot to enter your new customer in it;
    • simply put, it's the vision of a System that ROCKS

And yes, it's the vision of miniTPMS in its full capacity.

So you probably can guess, this kind of redundant work, this kind of overhead, and time-wasting process will NEVER be allowed in miniTPMS.

Because what we are creating is aimed to shorten the time you work on your administration, and not triple it. Because it is supposed to have all the relevant data on one place and not in three projects with the same name. And finally because having them all on one place makes it easier to spot patterns (more on that later). 

Apart from the fact that we're grouping work in a different way than all other TMS systems combined: those miniTPMS Users who work for same clients a lot, clients who send them similar projects, or small 44th and 45th iterations of chunks of one big project, those will really have a blast.

In the immortal words of Chandler Bing: OH, MY, GOD!

If you are working like this, "mini" could really change your life.

And...

If you start using miniTPMS, I need the cheezy cliché here: it's going to be The First Day Of the Rest of Your Life.

If you want to know how to do that, all you need to do is Grab our e-mail series with all the explanation and see if it's a good fit.

How To Avoid The Greatest Mistake Any Servicing Company Is Exposed To

Howdy, my cowboy friend - you know that we around here are all cowboys (and girls) and I'm the Sheriff, but one of those kind types... you know, not killing people immediately when something isn't to my liking. 

That doesn't mean I don't talk dirty, though, and this one today might sound a little harsh for many of you, but hey, if you weren't aware let me break it down for you:

The translation industry is one of the most competitive industry in the world. Well, apart from weight loss probably and you know, that industry of looking at naked people doing weird things with one another.

But after that, I believe we're quite good in the "let's kill the competition" department. 

So, yes, competitive. Very competitive.

In order to make it in this world, where everybody is a translator and every client believes everybody is a translator... "hey, you speak two languages, can you translate this German to Tagalog for me please? I need it by tomorrow, it's only 43 pages...", well, you and me we definitely need some serious tricks.

Or some serious marketing.

The good news is, you and I are aware of this. Lucky for us, most of the servicing companies aren't. Just look at their websites. All they know is to say: "we provide best quality for our clients".

Boring!

And commonplace.

As we already talked about, quality should be given. It's not a competitive advantage anymore. It just simply is not enough.

Clients care much more for other things:

  • reliability (if they cannot count on you to deliver on time, you're doomed),
  • single point of contact for all their language needs (they already have way too much overhead, why should they contact 15 more companies to work with?),
  • using the right technology and delivering in the right format (if you can only deliver bilingual RTF files then don't expect to get much work in the future).

But what is even more important, they just want their things 100% done, all the time. And for sure, they don't want You, and they don't want Your people... why?

Because people are - unfortunately - unpredictable. You never know when they will leave pursuing other adventures in life. Or they get bored and lose interest. Or they just have a bad day. Or they turn into psychopaths.

Clients, on the other hand, still need their things done.

Even when you're sick, or you took the kids to school. Or you are on vacation.

Clients.

Don't.

Care.​

And they get mad, and start yelling at you:​

angry client yells a lot

So what if you could offer them something else then just you or your people. Something with rock-solid reliability based on proven methods and not "Peter will get this done, he's our best guy" kind of a deal?

Yes, I'm talking about the help of modern technology, about specialized software that can register, administer, and streamline all your and your clients data so you don't have to depend on anyone. Not even yourself.

Because let's face it, sometimes You would just rather stay in bed!

We all have days like that.

But clients don't care.

And if they get annoyed too much, they will go shop somewhere else ...

Unless they are not aware of your "days off" when you are either bing watching "The Sopranos" on DVD or play golf with your buddies from The Banking Sector.

If you have a system that replaces all the flaws we humans can make, you will have their love, and you will have your company all set to serve more and more clients.

So?

"Don't Make People Your Product, Make Technology Your Product"

Don't give "Jenny" or "Bob", your favourite Project Managers to your clients.

Give them assurance that both Jenny and Bob can do the same thing in your company.

Give them your processes, your tools, and mostly your technology. 

Technology you can rent for peanuts if You follow one simple thing: 

Click to join the list for some serious discount possibilities! (subject to some also serious cowboy and sheriff criteria matters, like sheriffness, and cowboyship. And many other non existent words)

Sleep Deprivation Brings The Best Translation Out of You

When we were kids, well, college kids, we used to be great philosophers.

For example: We called every person with bags under the eyes "the Devil". Why? Well, because "the Devil never sleeps", hence the bags...

Oh those were beautiful, relaxed times.

Nowadays, the sleep deprivation I hear the most is about being a (young) parent. Which doesn't mean you're young. No. No-no-no. You could be as old as fuck, or, as we like to say: as old as Mick Jagger (he has a new baby at the age of 73) and then, you know, not sleep because your kid has a different kind of thoughts what can, should, and must be done at certain times.

For example, my beautiful crazy lovely daughter. She wouldn't go to sleep until 10PM, because why not to play with mommies nerves and daddies wristwatch. She's kind of crazy about my watch - probably because it's awesome, and it shows time too. Then when she does go to sleep there is finally a little time to do some administrative work, or maybe catch up on my reading (I promised myself to read at least 2 books a month, well, so far I'm not really doing a good job).

Trouble is when you do stuff late at night, things can get forgotten or skipped or you just write them down on the wrong place. It's kind of losing a little control over the whole damn process.

At 2:00AM there is still a little text to be translated - and your family is already too mad at you, but you have to finish it, because you have a deadline. So at 2:30 you finally finish in hope of a quick sleep and pray to God that nobody will wake you up until at least 9:00AM. Because 6,5 hours of sleep is more than enough, right?

But hell-no, the kids, as You already know, have their own thoughts on that. And in these times they like to wake up at 6:00AM and yell. And demand breakfast. Or yell at the breakfast because they didn't want that kind of breakfast.

translator who doesn't sleep enough

translators never sleep (enough)

Ah, the beauty of life.

But at least you can now start working again, if you could remember your notes and where did you put them... because if not you just feel like those alienated people who don't understand the world around them.

It's a mess.

Unless you have minitpms, because there, everything is on one place, easily trackable, easily accessible, and never misplaced.

So even if you don't get enough sleep, you can still be at the top of your game.

And that for sure, makes it awesome.

If you want to be the top player, I have a proposal for You:

Click to join the list for some serious discount possibilities! (subject to some also very serious cowboy and sheriff criteria matters, like sheriffness, and cowboyship. And many other non existent words)

The Translation Agency Owner, Manager With The Lowest Salary In The World

"I worked 10 hours a day to become a manager. Now I can finally work 14 hours a day" (Every manager, ever)

There's a ton of interesting topics on how to be a manager, to be a leader or to be the boss. What to do. How to do it. The problem is, all those fancy inc-com magazine publications are created for hipster manager wanabees, moreover, for those who want to manage a "startup" of 500 people or a Fortune 500 company and have a salary of $1,200,000 a Year. You and I know there is only a handful of people who can do that.

Despite the fact, that the thought seems interesting at certain times, small business owners could never really grasp that, or implement in their lives.

What it would be like? To be the CEO. A real one. With hundreds of people that report to you. Well, You won't find the answer to that question in this post. Let's leave that to people who are born to be "slaves to corporations" (not that I have anything against corporations, don't get me wrong).

On the other hand, the small business managers are the backbone of the economy. It's the small business that makes the world go round, we represent a much bigger part of the working force than the top CEOs and their employees. 

And often, we own our businesses. Which means every decision is crucial. You can't go wrong and get fired. You go wrong here, and both you and your colleagues are fired.

We're definitely not paid enough for all the crap we do day in day out (read: too much stress​)

Do you know who is The Manager With the Lowest Salary in the World?

Let's hope it's not you. Hear this:

In any company, it is always the Manager who's time is the most expensive.

It's not your consultants, the best Project Managers, the best colleagues etc. Even if it might seem so, because your top tanslators made 3x more than you did in the last two months (which is sometimes the case), even then, You are the one pulling the strings, and driving your company forward without stopping.

Or driving it into bankruptcy. ​

You know, like you have a V6 Aston Martin without the Break pedal. Forget that pedal. There's only Full Throttle ahead! And it's very important to know, which direction you are driving towards.

But, working like that requires sacrifice, requires determination and in the beginning, requires a lot of time.

So you are willing to work overtime, doing tasks that could easily be outsourced, or, automated. Tasks that could be finished faster if you had a software to help you with that.

Tasks you hate, but you do it. Because it has to be done.

real managers of translation agencies use TMS systems

Tasks that are same, month in, month out, and you know it inside out but it still takes you too much time to do is.

Time, my friend, is consuming you.

One day at a month. Or two. Or more.

That's 24 days a year. A month a year that went into the gutter...

Fight the mediocrity and think like a real business owner​

So what if some of that time could be bought with a simple system that won't cost you an arm and a leg?

What if you could buy time like a Boss and go play with your kids, or watch the 3rd season of The Affair instead of working until 22:00 in the office. On Weekends.

You know how we are creating funny memes about people in the translation business working 0-24? Well who's fault is that?

But this is not the time for memes. This is the time for decisions...

Time to decide whether you want to invest in a company management system or not. I'm not talking about miniTPMS only, you can invest in any other translation management system too.

So you go and bite the bullet and decide to pay the $97 a month, or $197 a month (with "mini" we're still not there, but that seems to be a pretty acceptable ... actually very small price to pay)​

Now that might seem like a lot of money, but compare it to your Phone bill, Netflix, Electricity. This is just another utility bill you need to pay. And instead of taking away your time, this one buys-you-time.

I sound like a broken record, I know, but for me, time is very important. Especially since my baby girl was born - you know, trying to spend the most of the time together until the moment she starts hating me for no particular reason.

Because puberty happens.

Whether you are an employee or an owner, time is the only thing you can't get back. Ever. It might seem too "American" to calculate time with cold hard cash, but in the end, this is what it comes to.

Because if you can't make enough money, and you can't even have enough time for your beloved ones - and I fear this is often the case with small translation agency owners - ​then you have just became the most expensive liability of your own company

You have just became the Manager with the Lowest Salary on Earth.

As a manager, if you are overworked it is a huge problem

You are the one in charge of better marketing, client acquisition (hey, let's call it sales), client relations, and everything else that might/should/would push your company forward at least a little bit.

Sure, you can do it with pen and paper. Or with an excel table of some sort.

Then you just clone yourself, like Michael Keaton in the movie Multiplicity and all is good.

But if you are somewhat a realist, you know it's either living in the fantasy land, or knowing you need business decisions right now. ​

And better sooner, than later to realize you need a tool to organize your agencies work completely. ​You need a TMS. Why?

Because you're the boss, and every serious company has some sort of an ERP.

Because it's cool.

Because it shows you all the current works. And past ones. 

And income and revenue and expenses and it has fancy little graphs​. 

Because it automates e-mails for you.​

Because it organizes your complete business and you can watch cute cats on Facebook while your system works day and night for you... and sends those emails too.

Or you know, You go out and play with your kid. Or with your cat. From Facebook.

Are You Thinking "I have no use of a system like this"​?

​Okay. You do all your stuff on your own. You don't need a paid system because you keep it all in your head. You have absolute control and you love it.

In which case, well, you ain't gonna go skiing with us in Austria, because you will be stuck between the four walls of your office forever. Doing tedious tasks you hate.

Is that an answer to a common question of: "where do you see yourself in 5 years"? I don't have time for TMS because I need to write these invoices manually?

Is this how you want your life to continue? "All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy"

The decision is yours:​

It's either skiing in Kaprun, or you stay up late with your laptop.

It's either fishing with your kids (while they are still interested in you), or working overtime on Saturday because the Accounting team needs everything by Monday Morning.

It's either taking the afternoon off and going to a late lunch/early dinner with your husband/wife - because love knows no boundaries, and doesn't care 'bout business hours - or it's another day when you are late for dinner because someone misplaced a file and you can't find it and the Client deadline is approaching...

It's either You get it, or not.

It's simple as that.

Click here to join the group of other awesome people who also get it. Like a boss. And they also get some discount on "mini" ! (subject to some also very serious cowboy and sheriff criteria matters, like sheriffness, and cowboyship. And many other non existent words)


You Never Forget Your First

I certainly didn't. It was back in 2007, only a year after me, the "Corporate robot" left that world, and started working "on my own" or you know, as they like to say "I started working for myself" (what a load of crap... I'll tell you why later).

Anyway, so, the first one... yes.

A client approached with a project, small one, and urgent. Like there was any other projects in the world we know (do you?). And an additional requirement.

Trados.

Now, we have been using a different CAT tool in "my previous life", and it wasn't any news that companies wants us to use it. It's helpful. It's ok. I hold no grudges against CAT tools.​

But I never thought how hard it would be if I had to buy one. For my own company.

My first company. My first Trados.

Little did I know what "investment" means.

Ok, of course I knew. But it just didn't work that way in my mind.

Being the first generation of company owners is tough. When it doesn't run in the family, it's not so easy​. When your dad can't teach you that it is okay to spend thousands and thousands on software, or people, or other assets, you kind of feel like you are being robbed. At the time we didn't have project managers, coordinators, we didn't have savings in the bank. All we had was a little faith.

With that setup it's not so hard to start thinking, why would I spend that much - hard earned, or better yet, not even earned - money on something that will either be used, or not.

It's a mindset thing

While today I know that it was a very good idea to do so, at the moment I was both annoyed, angry and very scared.

Like, why in the world would they require us to use this (at the moment I thought: "stupid") tool? Who do they think they are? Also, the cost was like EUR 800 or something, and I knew it's not the end of it. Since then at least 6 major new releases came to life, and I'm talking only the simple "translators" version, not the Server. Why would anyone buy that? Why? WHY?

When you go from being paid immediately (like in the "salary" model) and having that "secure job" and not giving a damn... at 5PM "the pencil falls out of your hand" and you go home to watch TV and drink beer...

The switch from that to the "uncertain client jobs" and 60 day payment terms, and contracts, and ISO stuff, and audits. When you are just starting out, well, 800 EUR is a helluvalot of ca-ching.

And of course, the revenue on the first project we got didn't even scratch the surface of "it will pay for it self" sentence - even at the beginning, clients used to send us very small projects at first, and the "normal" projects came only later...

But down the line it was one of the most profitable decision I made.

Eventually, it was something I could explain as growing a pair, and taking a calculated risk - at least it seemed so at the time. When you wake up one day and say "okay, let's do this and figure it out later". And I took the plunge, and spent the money, and... the rest is history.

Why?

Because in came other projects

Contrary to popular beliefs, Trados is a pretty good tool and it did save us a lot of time, money, frustration.

And it saved us a lot in the end too, because I could use our own memories for repetitive projects from one of our end clients.

Today, with long standing client relationships and several years of working together,  this couldn't have happened, I would have informed them about the CAT memories we could use 'n all. But for small jobs, this came in handy.

Being paid little, but doing it in 10% of the original time needed, makes the thing worth you a while. And you need to make money. You need to eat. So down the line, the calculation was right. The risk we have taken turned out not to be a risk after all.

Are you concerned too?​

This story reminded me of how people who are on the fence with miniTPMS must feel right now. Maybe you feel the same. You are interested, but not yet sure. Intrigued, but the risk seems big. Even though the financial impact is not even close to the types of buying a new CAT tool... 

The questions you probably are asking yourself are:​

  • "Is it going to do what it is supposed to do?"
  • "Is it worth it?"
  • "Does it really save time?"
  • "Will I really be able to have a good overview of all the projects?"
  • "Does it really remind clients that they forgot to pay my invoices?"
  • "Will it really be useful for other business/company expenses and not just Vendor invoices?"

etc...

It's always hard to bring yourself to a decision like this.

Because it's not a small decision.

I mean, what if it really does all that crazy stuff.

Man, it could really put your company to a path of ultimate success.

And you know, some people just can't handle so much success. But maybe you could. Maybe you are the one who can handle it!

The question is: Will you let miniTPMS be your first? Then: 

Click to join the list and be among the firsts to get some serious discount possibilities! (subject to some also very serious cowboy and sheriff criteria matters, like sheriffness, and cowboyship. And many other non existent words)

 

Why Devaluing Your Time is a Crucial Mistake

You know how people tell you, wait until you have kids, and your life will turn upside-down? I always hated those people. And I made it my mission to prove them wrong.

I failed miserably.

Not because my life actually turned upside-down. My life actually got better. Well, apart from the sleep deprivation, the "living with a toddler hell" and the fact that now I have two girls I have to wait while they are shopping for clothes (wife + our daughter).

But there is a very interesting, say valuable, lesson you learn once your child is born. You realize that "I ain't got time for that shit" is a very accurate sentence. It's real. It's a thing.

It brought me ways to get more organised and more productive, and also to the whole "how are You wasting Your time?" philosophy. When you need to chose between changing smelly diapers and finishing the project without any delay, it feels like you are walkin' on a razors edge.

So lately I've been thinking about how different people understand, perceive and use time. Some have very strict rules about time, especially when it concerns their "working" time.

For example two of my colleagues wait until it's 5:00PM, not a minute more, and "the pen falls out of their hand". The business day is over, and regardless if there was still something to be done, it will have to wait until tomorrow (with some exceptions).

Others don't mind staying late in the office, or doing overtime, late hours, even from home and finishing stuff even couple of days in advance. But maybe they're just avoiding home because of all the unwashed dishes that awaits.

Some of my friends who are in a similar business work 10-12 hours a day. Not sure if they are happy, or have no choice. Or they think they don't have a choice.

Which team are you on?

Many will agree that the Western culture (USA and Europe alike) have a completely different interpretation of time than, for example, people from the Mediterraneans or even more so from the Asian countries.

I'm not totally sure that the American overly obsessed approach is the best - if You work for Americans you probably have heard expressions like:

  • "I don't have time for this",
  • "Stop wasting my time",
  • "Time is money",
  • ...

Well, in general yes, they are right. But their obsession goes deeper, when they start to calculate everything by their own "hourly rate" and it's probably sick if they say that playing with their kids just "cost" them 300 bucks or something.

Those people are the ones who would constantly repeat that the time is the most valuable asset you possess. Or that you should "stop selling time" (translated to translation business: selling hourly services for money) and "start buying time" (invest in things that would make a 3 hour job done in 15 minutes).

Many say that lazy people are for some business much more efficient than others (in programming, for example), because they will find a way to automate things, or to do thinks differently which might bring the same results faster.

That idea is pretty awesome. If you could do something in 2 hours today, but it only took you half of that tomorrow, especially if it's a daily repeated task, it could make a world of difference.

Is time really that important?

To some people it is.

Personally, I'm a big fan of doing things on my own terms. Play with my kid when I want to (scratch that... when SHE wants to!), or go grocery shopping in the middle of the day while my blue collar buddies are down in the mines, minin' for their gold (ok, it's a metaphor, you get it).

Of course, in the Translation Industry you are always bound by the deadline, but until that deadline approaches, you do things when you want, the way you want it.

And if you can "steal" another hour every day, that's at least 1 more hour reading your favourite blog, 1 more hour on the treadmill, one more hour watching Breaking Bed re-run, or the precious time you can spend with your kids. Or ignore all that and get some sleep. Sometimes it's the only sane choice.

Still, it's amazing how many of us don't really care. You ask them what if you could work 1 hour less a day, and they look you in the eye and slap you with their cool, Humphrey Bogart's line: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn".

Where I'm going with this?

Well, maybe if You said to all Your colleagues that the workday starts at 10AM instead of 9AM, they would be much happier. Or if they could "drop the pen" at 4PM instead of 5PM.

Maybe that's not possible because Your clients still work late hours, small hours, and they are spread across three continents.

But what if You could finally spare yourself from working 12 hours a day as a Translation Project Manager, or you could spare your colleagues from doing overtime when they would rather be with their families? Who you gonna be? James Bond or Pablo Escobar? The sexy, or the dum beast? You want to be the Bond. Right?

Wouldn't that be a blast.

I know it's hard to wrap your mind around this maybe it's hard to accept the truth, but apart from organizing your business better, minitpms is saving you effective time. Actual time.

It's like it forces you to work less.

The nightmare of workaholics - The lazy man's dream.

Maybe at this point I should emphasize that I use the term lazy in context of "working smarter", not "not working at all". But you already knew that.

Are you ready to find out more? 

Click here to do so, and to hear about some serious discount possibilities! (subject to some also very serious cowboy and sheriff criteria matters, like sheriffness, and cowboyship. And many other non existent words)

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