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Interview with Liz Elting

By Lynn Fosse

CEOCFO Magazine - November 12, 2012

CEOCFO: TransPerfect is the leader in global language and business services. Would you tell us some of the more usual services you provide and something TransPerfect does which is unique or that people might not know was available?

Ms. Elting: We started as a language solutions provider, but we have definitely grown in many directions, and in areas that might not seem so obvious for a company that started out providing simply language solutions. Most commonly, we help clients with their global communication needs and those can include marketing campaigns, website localization, and translation of consumer-facing ecommerce content, handling legal documents, internal communications, and our training materials. In most cases, we offer both services and technology solutions to help our clients reach their goals. In addition, we offer interpretation services, which include in-person or simultaneous UN-style interpreting, as well as remote interpretation, both over the phone and via video. We also offer temporary and permanent staffing solutions with an emphasis on positions that have language requirements, cultural consulting and multimedia services, including voiceovers and subtitles. Beyond this, outside of language, we have a fully developed legal support division called TransPerfect Legal Solutions, and this group offers a full suite of legal support services from data preservation and forensics to eDiscovery, data hosting, court reporting, document review, paper discovery and production, and legal staffing.

CEOCFO: Do most of your customers come to you through the translation part of your business, and then utilize your other services, or do many of your various companies operate somewhat independently?

Ms. Elting: Initially, when virtually everything we did related to languages, or we were just branching out into other areas, our clients came to us directly through our language services. At this point, clients come to us for the services they need which may not be language services at all.

CEOCFO: Are there industries of focus for TransPerfect and would you like to have a greater presence in any of those industries? Where is the most opportunity in general?

Ms. Elting: We see significant growth opportunities across the board. As far as particular industries of focus, the retail and e-commerce space is a big focus area at the moment for us, because so many retailers want to find ways to compete and succeed in the global market. I think it is safe to say, as a retailer, the most important thing is brand integrity, and TransPerfect has a proven track record of helping maintain brand integrity across all markets for some of the world’s most famous brands. Fortunately, the way we set TransPerfect up with industry specific practice groups means we can devote additional resources to a particular industry without losing our focus on the other industries we serve. In some ways, we operate as many small companies drawing upon the benefits and resources of being connected as a whole. As far as areas of service where we see growth and opportunity, we really see that across the board in all the services we offer. In language services and technology, our website globalization business is growing rapidly thanks to the increasing number of clients who are taking their brands global, and the great fit with our GlobalLink technology suite. In the legal world, we have seen a great response to having our full suite of services available. Clients seem to prefer having all these different offerings from a company that also has the language services expertise to help them handle complex international matters.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the recent acquisition of Digital Reef? Are acquisitions a part of your growth strategy?

Ms. Elting: Acquisitions are definitely part of our growth strategy. We are always looking for new opportunities that enable us to meet our clients’ needs better. When we do acquire a company, we are looking for strategic partners. Digital Reef is a company that brings unique technology that we were not able to offer to our clients; we did not happen to own the technology, and we saw an opportunity to expand and enhance our service offerings to our clients, and we are very excited about it. It is a technology so many of our legal clients use or need. Digital Reef is an early case assessment application. The company that created the platform makes it available in both on-premise and SaaS versions. It is an enterprise scale solution used in legal matters, regulatory inquiries, and corporate investigations. Digital Reef’s facility is, to the best of our knowledge, the highest throughput eDiscovery data center in the world, with the capability of processing more than 17 terabytes of data per day. This capability has earned Digital Reef a reputation for being the industry’s fastest, most scalable eDiscovery software solution. We are only three weeks into the acquisition, but thus far, we have been exceptionally happy with the interest from our clients.

CEOCFO: How do you grow, develop and structure your network to ensure quality performance from your worldwide staff?

Ms. Elting: Our full-time employees handle everything from production of language products and quality control to HR, accounting, IT, and operations. The main requirement we have for all our employees, including in-house, full-time employees, and our network of freelancers – is to have an unparalleled commitment to service and quality. The company has grown significantly. It is practically impossible for my partner Phil Shawe and me to manage every single decision and every single person we employ, but if we hold our people accountable to the standards of service and quality that we have established, then we trust that our managers around the world will meet those requirements and enable the company to thrive. The other point I’d like to make about our employees is, because so much depends on them, that we conduct testing for all of our fulltime employees, and certainly employees that are doing language work on projects. We have very specific tests such as: language tests, proofreading tests, and writing tests. Anybody who works here, either full-time, or our network of freelancers, takes a language test. We have actually created our own certification called TransPerfect Linguist Certification (TLC). For every language that we test in, we have eighty different tests we offer. We offer six or seven in the financial area, six or seven in the pharmaceutical areas, six or seven in the technology area, and the reason it is so very specific is so we can really ensure that the linguists working on a project know the subject area terminology as well as necessary. We created the TransPerfect Linguist Certification to be the gold standard in certifying linguists because there was not an equivalent certification out there. In addition to quality, we are also ISO certified; we have several different ISO certifications. Finally, we employ a process that requires translation, editing, and proofreading for every language project, which also ensures top quality. So, many of the processes we follow in our work are designed to ensure quality and the best service.

CEOCFO: How do you reach potential customers?

Ms. Elting: We reach our clients in many ways. The first and best way is always through direct, one-to-one interaction. We have about 400 dedicated client service staff that interacts with our clients, and each client therefore ends up having a dedicated account representative they are in touch with as often as they would like. We also meet with our clients at conferences and industry events, and we also offer thought leadership opportunities, whether it is in the form of publishing articles, hosting webinars, conducting client events, or discussions. Our main goal is to engage our clients frequently and in a way that is most beneficial to them specifically. For some, that is through conversation, for others, it is through reading white papers, web resources, or webinars, and for others still, it is through social events and time spent together outside of the office.

CEOCFO: As the company has grown and developed, what have been some of the biggest challenges in putting it all together? What have you learned over time to enable the smooth operation at TransPerfect?

Ms. Elting: The biggest challenge has always been and continues to be finding, developing, and retaining the best people; but that is also the key to the success we have had. We work very hard to get better at this, and that is obviously critical in what we have achieved so far, and whatever future success we have. I think what sets us apart from the competition is our people, and how much they care about the quality of the work they do. Many companies have good services and good technology, but rare is the company that comprises people from top to bottom who can be counted on to deliver the highest level of service on a reliable basis. We would not have grown so quickly and steadily if we did not have these people in place, and I am very thankful to each of them. It is a constant goal every single day, working to make sure we continue to bring in these people, and motivate and retain the ones we have, because that is the biggest challenge, but as I said, it is the key to all we do.

CEOCFO: TransPerfect was named to the Inc. 5000 for the fourth consecutive year. Can you give me an example of something you have done in the past year, or something you are currently working on that can pinpoint how you are able to use innovation, a key feature at TransPerfect mentioned regarding the recognition?

Ms. Elting: Just one example of something we have done, as a company, is we recently held an innovation contest within the company. Our employees worked in groups of about four or five people, and their goal was to come up with an idea that would help the company. They came up with PowerPoint presentations, and presented them to the most senior people in the company. An initial group of finalists was chosen; and then an ultimate winner. The bottom line is, through that contest, our people came up with great ideas and programs, and we have since implemented those ideas. Many were related to technology as well as other operational functions.

CEOCFO: What is ahead for TransPerfect?

Ms. Elting: The business environment is evolving so quickly, we are working to anticipate our clients’ future needs. New opportunities come our way every single day, and it is very difficult to anticipate what is next. Last year, if you had asked me whether we would acquire Digital Reef and pursue all of the opportunities that came along with that, I cannot imagine that I would have said yes; but it happened, and we are glad that it did. This year, we have also opened offices in Moscow, Copenhagen, and Buenos Aires. Our future plan is to open more offices, and we are in the process of determining which ones and when. We see more offices, more mergers and acquisitions, and of course bringing in more great employees.

CEOCFO: Our readers are primarily in the business and investment community, and TransPerfect offers many services that many of our readers could utilize. Why pay attention to TransPerfect?

Ms. Elting: The biggest reason is that TransPerfect can help businesses achieve their goals efficiently and successfully. The services and solutions that we offer are extremely valuable to companies that are pursuing growth, either domestically or with new markets worldwide. We are here to help companies grow their businesses, and that is exactly what our services and products do, both globally and domestically.