I’ll be speaking this year at the Association of Translation Companies conference. It will be held at Manchester United‘s ground (Old Trafford) on the 24th and 25th September. I’m very excited about it and it should be a great gig.
The slides aren’t finished yet (no where near actually, since every talk I do is unique) but I do have an outline of what the talk will be about. I want to share that here in advance to give you an idea of whether you’ll want to attend (hopefully you do), and if you do want to attend, then to help you prepare any questions/comments well ahead of time.
The Business Side
The title of the talk is ‘The Business Side’. It came about after a conversation with the organisers of the TTT Conference last year in Slovenia. The dream was to develop a 1-hour framework which showed people who were exceptionally good at translation what running a business was like. It’s often a problem any talented person faces, i.e. as their business grows they need to work on their business and not in their business, and translators are no different.
I’ve since developed it and this version will give the attendees a toolbox to help them understand the current business environment, how to quickly appreciate the opportunities you have in front of you and some of the common pitfalls all growing businesses face.
SWOT Analysis is not Analysis
Beware of it. It’s used all over the place by lots of consultants and even taught on MBA programs. I get annoyed when it gets passed of as analysis. I’ve wasted countless hours going round in circles listing out ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats’ and then arguing what box to put them in. It’s pointless because there are no boundaries. I have literally sat on planning meetings (in my business and others) where the facilitator lets the discussion go around and around and around.
For it to work at all it needs to be a slightly better development framework, one with boundaries. The best one I used by far is the 9 box SWOT. I link to a template I’ve made for this later in this blog post and I’ll be showing you why SWOT doesn’t work and why the 9 box one does on the day.
Get a Consultant or an MBA in
I have a lot of time for consultants, business coaches and executive education. They all offer tangible value to today’s business. So why are we all familiar with the scenario of a consultant being accused of borrowing your watch and then telling you the time? Scott Adams sums it up better than I ever could (funny because it’s true).
I think it all starts because there are a few bad ones out there and we often make the mistake of believing their sales pitch, especially when we have all the challenges of a growing company to deal with. To see through this and to empower you to spot the bad ones I think its important to introduce you to some tools (ones that work).
To develop a strategy we need these tools to help us quickly understand the economy, the industry and our own company. We then need a methodology for innovation and not least the knowledge of how important pricing strategies are for our the long term success of our businesses. This is basically what my talk will cover.
Understanding the Economy
I’ve called this the Economy, but in the business world its called the Macro Environment. I want you to think of it as the area that surrounds the industry. It surrounds it and so has a profound effect on it. The best tool to analyse this place is PESTLE.
PESTLE is an acronym which stands for Political, Environment, Social, Technology, Law/legal and (last but not least) Economy. I use PESTLE to help me to quickly see through the universe of information and present what’s important at this particular point in time. It’s easy to understand and therefore use. It can be used in a team environment or individually. Personally I use it by reading publications like The Economist, Harvard Business Review, INC magazine, Wired and then summarising what I find into this framework.
I’ve created a blank google doc version of the Pestle and 9 Box SWOT template. Feel free to use it (just give me a credit/link/beer if it’s of any use to you).
Whatever industry you’re in (or think you’re in) you need a tool to analyse it. For this I’d recommend Porter’s Five Forces.
The model is taken from a paper Porter wrote in 1979 called ‘How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy‘. It encourages you to looks at the following;
- the threat of new market entrants
- the bargaining power of suppliers
- the threat of substitute products
- the power of suppliers, and,
- the rivalry in the industry
The wording of each of these is important. For instance its the threat of a new market entrant that will determine how that force affects your ability to make profits in a particular industry, I think of it as a kind of Nash Equilibrium. For extra points you can use this model to help you to determine where value creation opportunities are for your clients and then position yourself to make best use to exploit them.
Using this model you’ll be able to ask yourself profound questions such as ‘what does the bargaining powers of suppliers look like in our industry?’ and ‘are there any opportunities for our clients to backward integrate?’. You’ll then be able to develop strategies to best defend or even maximise your position.
Your company is complicated. I know that, I have one as well. I don’t have any magic answer apart from saying that you need to stop working in it (you don’t take all that risk so you have a day job right!?) and start working on it. Easy to say, difficult to do. To help here are a couple of concepts.
Disrupting your own Model. I won’t go into what disruptive innovation here, if you don’t know what it is here’s Clay Christensen explaining it. Once you understand this model you’ll notice it happening in our industry and you’ll be able to predict who will win when two companies go head to head for a particular market segment.
Build your Brand. You might think that you don;t have a brand, you do. Everything you do is branding and a reputation of 20 years can be destroyed in a day. Its often this reputation that your customers use to decide who to purchase from, there is a lot of research to suggest that this decision is sub-conscious and then backwards justified (especially with large ticket or luxury items).
In 2005 P&G paid $57 Billion for Gillette an enormous amount of money. Looking at the combined balance sheets they only actually acquired $6 Billion of tangible assets. But why? did they make a mistake? didn’t they know how to value a company… the answer is that they were happy to pay $51 Billion for the brands.
Last but by no means least you have to manage yourself, and by extension your team. Running a company is great fun. You get to make decisions about yourself. You get to meet lots of people. All of a sudden you become responsible for many people’s livelihoods. With this comes stress, lots of lots of stress. If you’re not careful it will kill you.
I’ll close the talk by talking introducing the importance of emotional intelligence (not IQ), how fitness correlates to recovering time from stress/injury and how to use the JoHari Window to understand how your team gels together.
I do hope you can attend. You can register here > ALC Conference Registration <. Please leave me a comment below and I’ll be happy to amend the talk to accommodate.
Thanks, see you soon. Rich