Industry Magazine Get JACK'D Magazine Summer 2018 - Page 27
“THE KEY TO LIZ WAS A MANIACAL FOCUS
ON THE COMPANY GOALS AND THE KEY
ACTIVITIES NEEDED TO ACCOMPLISH
I REMEMBER meeting Liz Elting after a full day session in
NYC for YEO where she asked for fifteen minutes to discuss
her company. She was crystal clear on her intent—to be #1 in
her industry worldwide. Pretty ambitious I thought for a startup
business at about $4 million in annual sales with seven salespeople.
Here we glean the benefits of peeking in to her success as the #1
company in her industry.
When you talk with Liz, it becomes quickly clear that she pursues
her passion. That in itself is a key to success that I try to share from
the stage. With a background of living in five countries and studying
four languages all before the age of twenty, Liz discovered her love
for languages. After her bachelor degree and a couple jobs in the
translation business, Liz returned to school for her MBA. Given her
previous experiences, she knew the translation business could be
done much better, with a focus on “service and quality.” Right then,
she decided to start her company with a vision to be the world’s
premier provider of translation services. With a few thousand dollars
in the bank and a loan on her credit card, Liz started TransPerfect
Translations, working the first six months from her dorm room, then
a rental suite. For the past twenty-one years, 3 Park Avenue in New
York City has been the company headquarters.
With that as a backdrop, and with several startups in my own
personal and client history, I started with key hurdles encountered.
Liz started strong, emphasizing the need to be frugal from the start,
given the recession startup. The key to Liz was a maniacal focus
on the company goals and the key activities needed to accomplish
those goals. Specific growth through regional offices was a key
part of the goals, with new locations targeted every three months.
There was an intense focus on key activities such as phone calls and
direct mail. It was all about generating revenues while being frugal
with the expense side. Leveraging growth through variable cost
versus fixed expenses was an additional key. As we’ve heard before,
“the first million is the hardest.” No track record, no list of clients, no
employee infrastructure. While today the company benefits from
overcoming these obstacles, Liz emphasized TransPerfect’s focus
on key activities, cost frugality, and being revenue driven.
I remember in each of my businesses recalling when I “knew” we
were going to make it. I asked Liz the same. Immediately she declared
the key is to never grow complacent, always maintaining a strong
goal focus. When pressed, she cited 1997, going from $1 million to $6
million in sales after landing their first large client.
With such an amazing growth record, I wondered about highs/
lows and how to navigate. Liz first went to CASH—always staying
vigilant—and then growth, while taking on no investor debt. She
remembered being about a $10 million company and thinking they had
landed a new business client of approximately $15 million. Jumping in
quickly, they opened a new office in Florida and hired the people to
handle the business, only to find the deal collapsing. Liz viewed this
as a great learning experience, which has been part of the ongoing
culture at TransPerfect: don’t over celebrate and don’t despair.
Refocus is the key. As the company has grown, the key has been
diversifying risk: more than five hundred sales professionals; more
than one thousand clients; no one client greater than 1% of sales;
more cities; more industries serviced; and more services provided.
With a sales team of greater than five hundred, it begs the
question—how do you find them? It first starts with the base—
young, hungry overachievers with drive. Next is “the TransPerfect
Way” of doing business, followed by aligning compensation with the
company—low base, high incentive/at-risk comp. Culture is a “work
hard, play hard” culture, with a history of promotion from within.
Individual offices growth comes in tandem with revenue growth.
Plenty of internal conferences are conducted to ensure all are on
the same page.
As a highly recognized company receiving countless awards,
I wondered about an underlying strategy here. Liz admitted to
not knowing of any direct ROI from the awards. She felt certain,
however, of the awards aiding with company credibility and
branding. As well, they assist with recruiting and retaining the type
of employees they are seeking.
Internet—plus or minus for your business? All I heard here from
Liz was the benefits, which were significant. Client acquisition and
retention; talent attraction, both internal and freelancer linguists;
social media and a multitude of other new business opportunities.
This side of the business continues to grow and provide a myriad of
Her thoughts about technology were of a similar vein. Accomplish
more with fewer pe