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