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CEO Spotlight: Glossarium

By: GALA - 504596977

26 February 2014

Discover the challenges and opportunities that have led to Glossarium's success. CEO Marta Carapeto shares the story of her start at IBM, her early business strategy, and more in this quarter's CEO Spotlight. 

Name: Marta Carapeto
Company: Glossarium – Traduções e Serviços de Informática, Lda.
Date Established: 9th August, 1999
Location: Lisbon
Company Phone Number:  + 351 217 972 159
Company E-mail:  glossarium (at) glossarium.pt
Company Website:  www.glossarium.pt
Business Hours: 9am-6.30pm
Number of employees: 10 employees
Employee Breakdown by Position: 2 Business Managers, 1 Administrative, 1 Production Manager, 4 Project Managers, 2 in-house translators, 1 trainee translator

Description of Company Products / Services:

Glossarium is a translation, software localization and testing service provider from/to all variants of the Portuguese language (European – for Portugal, Angola and Mozambique - and Brazilian), offering integrated management and production services to global industry leaders and corporate Portuguese clients that are seeking to expand their businesses internationally, selling and placing their quality and innovative products in foreign markets. We also work in close partnership with other translation agencies across the world.

We have a core team of highly skilled Project Managers led by a Production Manager and supported by a carefully selected and reliable operative base consisting of translators, editors, and subject matter experts.

Until recently, we worked only with English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian as source languages and European and African Portuguese as targets. The recent economic crisis motivated a shift in our business towards expanding our offer to include transcreation and localization/translation services from Portuguese (European and Brazilian variants) into any other of the major European languages, and beyond, through a staged translation process, using English as the “intermediate” language.

What prompted you to start your own business? 

It had been an early ambition, but the actual push was driven in 1999 by the encouragement from IBM's TSC (Translation Services Center) Manager, following a corporate decision that impacted IBM offices across Europe, to have their translation services outsourced through third-party agencies working from their own facilities. My associate Margarida Frazão and I were invited to create our own small office/company to continue delivering translation/PM/testing services to IBM, while being given the opportunity to launch our professional careers. In fact, this was the push we needed to realize an ambition that had been growing in both us for some time, which consisted of developing and owning our own business based on our know-how.

What is your educational and career background? 

I have a degree on Humanistic Sciences: “Línguas e Literaturas Modernas” (“Modern Languages and Literatures” - English/Portuguese), from Faculdade de Letras (FL) da Universidade de Lisboa (UL) and the CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) from the British Institute in Lisbon 1985.

I started my career working for three years with the Medical department at Glaxo Farmacêutica Portugal, branch to Glaxo Holding. It was there that I had my first contact with translation activities; I was responsible for the translation and distribution of industry review articles of interest to the company’s medical sales representatives.

After that, my career shifted full-speed into translation when I joined IBM Portugal’s National Language Support Center, as a freelancer. I started as junior translator and then worked my way up to Project Manager, responsible for the team work on several IBM key projects, like ThinkPad series, OfficeVision VM, IBM Workgroup, IBM FlowMark 2.3, IBM MQSeries Workflow 3.1.0 to 33.6, IBM Visual Document Library for Windows and OS/2, IBM Lotus Workplace Client Technology, IBM Websphere Portal from v5 onwards.

How much research did you do before starting your business? 

Not much, really. The creation of Glossarium resulted from external motivation, as I mentioned before, although it was the realization of an entrepreneurial dream.

What makes your business stand out from competitors? 

The key points that make us stand out from our competitors are three-fold:

From the client side, it is our offering of a complete service package that includes different activities - from translation to quality assurance, transcreation, and testing - with a good price/quality ratio; our focus on customer service, both internal and external; and our flexibility to adjust our team size and skills according to each project requirements.

On the staff/resources side, it would be our concern for people, recruiting resources from recent university graduates with majors either in translation or linguistics; preparing them to evolve intheir professional careers, by providing them with both soft and hard skills training. Our focus has been on building a strong responsive in-house team able to cover, if needed, all the activities required by a translation project: from project management to translation, editing and QA, while nurturing good proactive and communication skills to manage challenging client accounts and external teams.

As a small business, we don't follow the traditional top-down hierarchy. We’ve embraced and put into practice the concept of “open management,” where we make the majority of our decisions and management procedures transparent to our team. At the same time, we use input and feedback from the team to improve processes and identify new opportunities. In this transversal scenario, everyone feels engaged while the organization benefits from more effective and innovative decision making. Also, inspired by industry leaders and global companies’ best practices, one of the initiatives we are currently working on is to obtain the ISO quality certification by establishing and documenting our processes for every workflow, administrative or operational, from accounting to translation jobs assignment to external resources.

Who is your target client/customer base? 

From a business development point of view, our target client base is the “end client,” so we are targeting both Portuguese SMEs as well as global corporate clients. With the former, we have identified a huge opportunity that is arising from the current economic crisis, with the limelight now focusing on entrepreneurship within new generations and on exportation efforts of existing highly technological and service-oriented Portuguese companies. This is where the offering of translation services from Portuguese into the major European languages is especially relevant. With the latter, we have identified Brazil as an emerging market not only for Portuguese-based clients but also for global clients. Therefore, we are investing in taking a share of the Brazilian market by building an in-house PTbr team that can respond to large projects, while maintaining promptness and competitive rates, leveraging the time zone advantage of being based in Europe.

What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?

In the early days of this business, we realized that starting off with a big client had an up and a down side. The first challenge came up in the form of a conundrum: because we had annual volumes proportionate to our size contracted with this client, we needed to build a supporting structure that would guarantee that Glossarium was not only able to cope with these volumes but also that we were a reliable and soundly based partner that would not “collapse” overnight. Building this structure represented an investment, so we needed to make it profitable by putting it to the service of a client base and, at the same time, expanding the business.

Another big challenge we had to face was that if we wanted to grow, and actually survive as a company, we would need to work on making our client base grow. The issue was, if we played it safe and stayed small, we would limit our capacity to accept work from more demanding clients, in terms of volumes and tools. On the other hand, if we wanted to grow, we would need to invest more in creating a technological infrastructure, building a process-based workflow, recruiting and training more people, and basically “changing” from translators into business managers.

Finally, the third major challenge consisted of proving to the Portuguese companies that working with Glossarium would improve the quality and the ROI of their outsourced translation services, through service quality, flexibility, and completeness at a good price, and capacity to work on large volumes, compared to other providers in the market.

What trends are you seeing now in the world of localization, and how is your company responding?

As Nataly Kelly (VP, Market Development at Smartling and Co-Author, 'Found in Translation) wrote, “The translation profession is shifting from craft to science.” In the past years we have seen major developments in the translation industry regarding tools and processes. With an increased demand for translation, as companies grow global, there is a great pressure from clients to speed up the translation process, while maintaining quality through additional QA steps, and still to get the most competitive rates from a choice of industry players that offer a wide range of services. A clear technological trend is the partial or full automation of the translation process for large contents intended to reach a growing mass audience with more people getting access to the Internet.

Although this is not Glossarium’s core offer, we respond to this challenge by offering post-editing and spot checking services, taking advantage of our team of multidisciplinary and qualified people. Nevertheless, we believe that there will always be the need for human translators. Also software, in the form of CAT tools, is helping to accelerate this shift. With the development of new and more powerful tools, the translator will have to add computer and technological skills to his linguistic skills to become competitive in this profession.

Do you have any advice for future entrepreneurs?

Striving to succeed in a very small yet competitive market — where the translation providers range from local big MLV offices to a large rank of freelance translators — is not easy, and you have to collect and monitor management information very closely to find the right balance between quality and price. Also you should know that different clients have different needs, so you should develop customized offers based on different types of services and prices, rather than having a “flat” offer. Above all, you need to have a strong knowledge of your market to be able to identify in advance the need to adapt your business plan and/or your operational plan to the challenges you face and to your goals. The way you respond to the changes in your market’s requirements and expectations can make or break your business.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

It has to be the fact that we are celebrating our 15th anniversary this upcoming August and that we are proud of not only having maintained but also grown our client base over these years, responding to their translation needs by delivering quality, innovation, and flexibility. Our attention to detail as a service to the client has enabled long-term and trusting relationships between Glossarium and our client base. Additionally, we feel that we have successfully “built” a highly skilled and motivated team of professionals on which we can rely to meet the most demanding client requirements and help us move the company forward.