KISMET, the Language Enterprise, and You
Last weekend, I gave a keynote talk at the first-ever all-Ukrainian translators conference (UTIC) in Kiev. One of the questions I asked some 400 attendees – Ukrainian and Russian freelancers, translation business owners, educators, and others – was, “Are you in the business that you want to be in? Are you satisfied with the income, size, scope, reach, or other aspects of your business?” To my surprise, only a dozen hands went up.
Later, when I spoke with some of those “satisfied” business people, it turns out that they had answered a little too hastily. After all, anyone who is completely satisfied with their business probably won’t be in business very much longer. Business is all about striving – to be better, bigger, more successful, always improving. If you stop striving in business, you quickly stop existing.
It seems to me that the commoditization of language and the technologization of workflows are pressuring companies more than ever to ask themselves this question, to decide which part of the industry landscape they want to occupy. Translated words are the raw materials of our industry and – for better or for worse – are often seen as interchangeable commodities. To provide more value among customers and create more loyalty, language companies must work harder now to provide real business services and solutions, or, better still, become system integrators who are valued by customers at the strategic level. A very few companies may even be able to become genuine partners with their customers, fully integrated into their business, providing a customer-care “experience,” not just services and products.
The higher the value that language companies want to achieve in the eyes of their customers, the more they need a set of assets one might call KISMET – Knowledge, Integration, Sales, Management, Expertise, and Technology. (“Kismet” is the Turkish word for “luck,” which they will also need.) Just providing top-quality translations (whatever that even is) is unlikely to create lasting loyalty and devotion among customers today.
In addition to focusing on their own business and offerings to acquire more KISMET, businesses also need to reach out – beyond their four walls, beyond their specializations, beyond their borders. Language has gone from being the cottage-industry craft that it was decades ago to a full-fledged global Enterprise. This Language Enterprise includes individual professionals, product and service companies, educational and research institutions, clients, and associations (like GALA). All have an important role to play in helping build and transform the language business into the engine of global commerce we know it can be.
So, are you satisfied in your business? In the language industry, like every other industry, you need to decide what business you want to be in, then get busy striving.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.