Posts Tagged ‘Small Business’

I’m Reading “The E-Myth Revisited”

December 20, 2007

Do you find there are moments in life, when you need to perform a little introspection and to reconsider what you are doing?

I am reading The E-myth revisited – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber. It’s a bestseller in North America, but I’d never seen it here, although when I google it, I find that it appears to have been translated into French in 1992.

As I’m reading it, I’m fascinated by this book because it tells, in very simple words, just my story.

When I started, there were still a handful of in-house translator jobs around, too few to accommodate the constant flow of graduates coming out of translation schools. But with increased outsourcing, most of that is gone now. Many of us went into business, setting up an independent practice and setting off into the big wide world. Because we were young, and didn’t have much of a choice, we were confident. Some opened a joint practice, others went alone. In all cases, I’ve still to see a freelance translator who is having it easy, and that’s where this book comes in handy.

The E-Myth is based on a division of a business into its 3 dimensions : the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician. In a small business, the owner is most likely to play (or not to play) the 3 roles simultaneously.

I’ve just taken the free E-Myth Business Evaluation on their website. Interestingly, the mix of questions and answers means that although you might be successful in some areas (eg. earning enough money), the results can be seen in a slightly different perspective, but I wasn’t too surprised to discover that I am mainly “a manager

  • Planning and organizing projects
  • Facilitating conversations with partners, vendors, and/or contractors
  • Developing systems to streamline your workflow and deliver a more consistent customer experience”

Yes, that’s absolutely true, and it doesn’t even mention bookkeeping…

Surprisingly, I thought, the area where I did best in the test was in Customer/Sales, with:”

  • Your business has some success at converting leads into customers
  • In general, your sales are enough to cover expenses and generate a reasonable profit
  • Your sales presentations may be inconsistent”

although, all things considered, there’s a lot of truth in that. This is a very simple evaluation, and it would require more in-depth analysis to increase its validity. However, I think my results can be summarized like this, using my own words:

  • Entrepreneurship: nil
  • Management: main concern
  • Technician: well, that’s pretty obvious anyway, otherwise I would not be doing this after 29 years.

And now, if you’ll allow me, I must go and read on, in order to improve my entrepreneurship and to work on my sales presentations.

But I still think this book should be made Compulsory Reading at any translation school.

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Technology Wonders

December 6, 2007

The marvel of technology is that I can write and publish this post as I am sitting in a hotel lobby, waiting to go down to the conference room. The reason I’m not writing it from the booth itself is that my colleagues are using it, it’s their turn to work.

In a not-too-distant past, to be out of the (home) office meant for us freelance interpreters being cut off from the rest of the world. Other clients had to wait as we grappled for phones to call our secretariat, our answerphone… Nowadays, I can take my little wifi-enabled Sony Vaio with me, check on my e-mails, check glossaries online, or offline, etc. Provided of course that there is a wifi hotspot nearby, which is not always the case, unfortunately. But I had an assignment recently, where the entire team had their notebooks with them. We would get presentations on a USB drive from the speakers who didn’t have any printed copies for us, and follow the presentation on our own screens.

Of course, this is only a microscopic fraction of what business users can achieve with technology, but it’s already a huge improvement.

Have to go now. Thank you all for the attention, it’s great to see the stats.

Getting paid on time: a lifeline for small businesses

November 30, 2007

A recent conversation I had with a colleague inspired me to retrieve for her this very useful piece I had found some time ago in the New York Times’ Small Business section. I might as well share it here too.

Getting paid on time can be a nightmare for us freelancers. I have heard about every possible reason why a payment can be missing: a bunch of large bills was lost in the mail once, or a bill attached to an e-mail was lost with it, or the bill was mislaid, where, no-one knew and no-one knew where to look for it anyway, or the bill is somewhere in the pipeline, where? no-one knows, etc. etc. I would argue that the last proposition is probably the worst, because it discourages you to send a duplicate, since it’s there, somewhere.

In some instances, like some French government departments, bills can take up to 4 months (sometimes longer) to get finally settled, creating havoc in your accounts.

More recently though, I noticed that the situation was improving. I now have clients who have imposed themselves time limits, and all I need to do is send a gentle reminder if there is a delay. Much more comfortable than a letter of complaint.

But my attitude has changed, too. When I am inquiring about delayed payments, I am not an individual freelancer any more, I become “a business”, whatever the size of the business I’m trying to get my well-earned money from. There’s no point in pleading that my monthly standing orders -social security (mandatory), retirement plan (mandatory), income tax (super-mandatory), credit card, telephone bill, electricity bill, car insurance, etc.- depend on this little (or large) check. The employee I am talking to may express sympathy, but they don’t usually understand my problem, because their situation and the pressures upon them are different. But telling them that they are trying to kill my business usually works, because it puts us, them and me, in a different relation.

I wonder how translation schools take this onboard nowadays. How many include some training about participating in the economy? I was taught to produce the best translations, period. Not to go hunting for what is, after all, the due reward of my work.