How does an SME grow from an owner-managed one-man business to a globally impactful player? I don’t mean the generic theory of market penetration and market development, I mean the practical changes you make to your company as you take that journey and the achievements you record as the key milestones. How do you know if you’ve missed an important area that’s covertly becoming a barrier to your growth?

One answer to these questions has just been published by Slator in the form of Anna Wyndham’s Pro Guide which includes a growth roadmap for language service companies. The map looks at the operational decisions LSPs tackle as they grow (e.g. deciding on an organisational structure, reassessing technology strategy, implementing data security).

When Anna interviewed me for her field research, I was inspired to look back at Sandberg’s 21 years as an incorporated company and discovered that we went through an operational reorganisation in the company on at least four pivotal occasions.

Years in operationIn-house staffMilestoneAction taken
16100+Production hub reorganisation· Expanded global footprint
· Wider qualification criteria for existing roles
1580+Business management reorganisation· New CEO
· Data-driven management
· KPIs and performance measuring
· ISO certification
1240+Service offering reorganisation· Tailored services
· Linguistic QA
· Process management
820+Structural reorganisation· Management team
· Department structure
· HR structure
· Role descriptions

Structural reorganization

In the late 00’s, Sandberg’s most pressing need was to retain staff by keeping them happy. Our translators and project managers were craving structure and professionalism in our operations and wanted to see progressive career paths laid out for them. In response, we formed a management team around the owner-manager and designed our first organisation chart. We also drew up contract templates, job descriptions and a staff handbook, and established our first company policies on topics like remuneration, family-friendly practices and remote working.

Service offering reorganisation

A few years later, it was time to reorganise the service offering to our clients. We separated our Account Linguist concept from the standard translation and localisation service and set it apart for the repeat business from our key clients. Implementing continuous localisation seamlessly into our internal workflows required new automated push/pull functionality in our business management system and deployment of new API collaboration with our biggest clients.

Business management reorganisation

After 15 years as a limited company, a new CEO was appointed at Sandberg in 2015. With that change came a change in leadership style.  The company moved into data-driven management and all department heads starting tracking ingeniously set KPIs and reporting the results and quarterly improvement plans at management meetings. The first translation-service-specific ISO quality standard was published in the same year, and Sandberg was one of the first UK companies to be certified.

Production hub reorganisation

The following year we took our first steps in offshoring by opening a production hub in Bulgaria. The new company hosted project management, vendor management and technology staff and required a full HR presence to comply with the local labour laws and regulations in a region that was unfamiliar to us. We also formalised a shift in qualification criteria for these roles and started hiring applicants from commercial backgrounds for the positions that had previously been filled by Nordic and English translation graduates.

Do you know where your company is on its operational growth journey? It’s one thing to be able to look back and identify past milestones, but quite another to know what is still ahead. Slator’s roadmap is invaluable to language service companies because it delineates a growth journey specifically for us, taking into account the global nature of our business, our access to a world-wide talent base and the critical role language technology plays in our service provision. You may already know your next business goals, but to see them described on a map next to the actions other LSPs have taken to reach that goal is very helpful.

Laying an operational growth roadmap next to your revenue growth plans and scrutinising them together is a worthwhile exercise. They feed off each other, inform each other and provide you with a healthy reality check. Together, they should inspire you with a constant desire to keep going on your journey, which is essential for protecting you from the complacency that can easily start to stunt any company’s growth.

Director’s Cut