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Issues with Starting a Translation Business

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One field in which small businesses have recently enjoyed rapid growth is in the business of providing translations. As barriers to international business continue to fall, more and more people are encountering language differences in the people they work with, sell to, and buy from. At the same time, advances in technology are providing avenues to deliver translations over the phone and over the Internet. TransPerfect is one of the success stories. The company, based in New York, started out when founder Steve Iverson, a French teacher, began translating documents for clients. Satisfied customers returned, looking for translations of patents and annual reports - even for court reporting in foreign languages. The company now provides translations in over 100 languages. It has offices in more than 50 cities spread over four continents.

CETRA Language solutions is headquartered in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. It started with a lawsuit: while founder Jiri Stejskal was working on his doctorate degree in Slavic languages and literature, a Philadelphia law firm asked him to translate thousands of pages of documents related to a case. Stejskal brought in all the Czech translators he could find, and his company was born. Now CETRA's 12 employees and hundreds of consultants serve the federal government plus companies involved in law, marketing research, and life sciences. The company's freelance translators and interpreters are located throughout the world.

LinguaLinx, based in Cohoes New York, handles more than words. It converts documents, Web sites, and multimedia into any of 100 languages. The company not only has to find qualified translators, it needs experts in technology to make state-of-the-art presentations. To recruit employees, LinguaLinx emphasizes interesting
work experiences, rather than fancy perks. The company's careers Web site describes opportunities to work with a diverse, multicultural group, including clients at leading corporations and nonprofit organizations.


Tanisha A. Sykes, "Growth in Translation," Inc., August 4, 2009,

Joel Dresang, "Iverson Language Associates Acquired by N.Y. Firm," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 2, 2008, Business & Company

Resource Center,

TransPerfect corporate Website, , accessed May 7, 2010;

CETRA Language Solutions corporate Web site, , accessed May 7, 2010

LinguaLinx corporate Web site, , accessed May 7, 2010.



1. What kinds of challenges would be involved in recruiting and selecting people to translate documents from
Spanish, Polish, and French into English?

2. Would those challenges be easier to meet by recruiting within the United States or by looking for talent overseas?

3. Suppose a small translation business asked you to advise the company on how to overcome cultural barriers
among a staff drawn from three countries. Suggest a few ways the company could use training and performance
management to achieve this goal.

Solution Preview

1. What kinds of challenges would be involved in recruiting and selecting people to translate documents from
Spanish, Polish, and French into English?

The first challenge will be to find adequate number of people who are fluent in any of these foreign languages as well as English. People with such bilingual skill sets are often difficult to locate. Further, it is a big challenge to find right people who not only have command over these languages, but ...

Solution Summary

Discusses various questions related to a translation business such as recruiting challenges.