Organic growth is a beautiful thing (although I do remember someone at one of Localization World conferences trying hard to convince me that I’m absolutely wrong and that it’s totally the opposite). You start as a Polish translation freelancer and when the things start to develop to the point where you cannot manage all incoming projects, you are setting up a team or a Single Language Vendor (SLV) company to cover your client’s needs. If things are further becoming the way you planned, you develop successful relationships with your clients and you reach your goals, your happy clients start asking you not only for the target language of your core focus they’ve been ordering so far, be it Polish, Czech, Hungarian or any other language of the world, but also for other languages.
The temptation is as high as the risk. On the one hand, you want to meet your clients’ requirements. On the other hand, you may not be actually prepared in terms of know-how resources and processes. For some time you’ve seen it coming, but you kept your focus on your single target language as this was honest with yourself and your clients. Business wise, your whole company image is built around your expertise in that one particular language, just as you build your credibility around certain fields of expertise, e.g. IT, audio/video, automotive, medical, security systems, to name only a few. And suddenly you would have to some extent deny that what you were saying about a Single Language Vendor being the best choice compared to a Multi Language Vendor was not really final. That e.g. a Polish translation SLV is a really great choice but in certain situations a Regional Language Vendor may be better. Or even worse – that for some customers an MLV is the optimum scenario. Well, to be honest, all of the above is true. For a Multi Language Vendor, a Single Language Vendor may be an equally good choice as an RLV. Moreover, in some situations it’s good for an MLV to choose another MLV. It all depends on many factors. Each project is different, just like each client is different.
To the point, though: to be(come) or not to be(come) an RLV? There is no easy answer. First of all, because sooner or later you will face the same dilemma but on a higher level: to move from an RLV model to an MLV model? And this question will be the root of the same storm in your head as the SLV vs. RLV dilemma triggered. Not long ago, I spoke with a CEO of one of the leading European Multi Language Vendor LSPs. We were discussing different topics in general, but the discussion went the way I didn’t quite expect. When they were asking me certain questions regarding how the work of a Single Language Vendor looks like, I thought that he just wanted to know how we work, to know if we were a good fit for their requirements. But actually that was not the case. “I want to set up an in-house team of translators for Dutch and act as an SLV for Dutch”. My first reaction was, “But you are an MLV already. You cannot be an MLV and an RLV at the same time.” We had a great chat and some good laughs over that really important matter and then it occurred to me how simple but smart that solution was. It was fair to the potential SLV clients and actually gave some of them an added value (some of the clients think the in-house resources can be controlled more effectively, but that’s the topic for another long article, really), and, at the same time, allowed the company to keep its credibility across both SLV and MLV profiles. It’s even more interesting if you notice that the situation was kind of reversed – that the company was not “upgrading” but “downgrading” or perhaps it’s better to call it “sidegrading” – after all, they didn’t want to quit their Multi Language Vendor operations.
So, to become a Regional Language Vendor or not actually remains an open question. It all boils down to two things: whether it is what you intended your business to become and whether your clients need that. The most fundamental thing in this is integrity. You can build on your SLV reputation and, at the same time, be responsive to the client’s changing needs by covering not only the single language you have provided them with so far, but expanding your pool of target languages to the other languages of your region. After all, what’s better than keeping your existing clients happy, your potential clients impressed and your business relying on its long-term foundation but growing at the same time? Read the full article here in Multilingual Magazine.