Women Entrepreneurs Are Flying High


Women Entrepreneurs Are Flying High

The number of women starting their own businesses is surging as never before, and alumnae of the Stern School of Business are shining examples.

Excerpted From Innovation Review - Fall/Winter 2004 - A Publication of the
NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business

Liz Elting, TransPerfect Translations

What moved you to found your company?

After I graduated from college with a degree in modern languages and did an internship in Venezuela, I moved to New York and got a job at a translation company. During my time there I saw a real gap between what clients needed and what was available in the industry. I felt the Fortune 1000 and world's largest law firms needed top-notch quality, top-of-the-line service, and a one-stop shop for language services, particularly as globalization was increasing, I went back to school (at NYU Stern), got my MBA, and met my business partner, Phil Shawe. He was also interested in starting a business and saw the value of starting a language services company and transforming the industry. Together, we came up with a vision and goals and proceeded to found our first company, TransPerfect Translations.

And when precisely did you found it?

We founded it in November 1992, shortly after I graduated from NYU Stern.

What have been the greatest obstacles that you have encountered so far?

It's been 12 years, so we've encountered plenty. But the biggest obstacle has been and will always be finding and keeping great people. The key to the success of any business is having the best people. The faster we are able to do that the faster we can achieve our ultimate goal. Another challenge is the need to continually strategize and reinvent ourselves as the market changes. With intense competition, price pressure, and commoditization, we need to continually be several steps ahead of the other companies in our industry.

What factor or personal strength do you view as contributing to your success?

It probably depends on what stage of development our company is in, which would determine what is most important. However, if I needed to focus on one factor it would probably be ambition. Ambition results in the desire to build something, not being complacent from year to year, the commitment to set goals, and finally the self-discipline to hold myself and others to those goals.

How does being a woman affect your business?

I really see being a woman as neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. Perhaps there are glass ceilings in major companies, but fortunately I am not affected by them. For me, and for all the women who work at TransPerfect and Translations.com, it is a meritocracy. Success, new opportunities, promotions, and increases in pay are all completely related to results. Performance speaks for itself, whether one is a woman or a man.

Looking back, what role has your Stern experience played in the success of your venture?

Stern has been helpful in many ways. First of all, since I majored in languages in college and took no business courses other than economics, Stern provided me with the business and practical base that I did not get to enjoy at my small liberal arts college. Second, Stern offered a great number of extracurricular activities which served me well in preparing to start a business, namely the Entrepreneurs' Exchange, which had a mentoring program as well as many fantastic guest speakers. Third, upon starting my first company, having the credential of an MBA from Stern opened the door to a lot of opportunities that an early-stage entrepreneur would not typically have. Fourth, since graduation I have been involved in seminars, panels, and networking events with Stern, and I have benefited greatly form all that I have been able to learn and gain from them. Above all, I met my business partner at Stern. Had that not happened, I am confident neither of us would have ever started our companies.

What does the future hold for you and your company?

Our vision is to become the world's premier communications, staffing, and document services companies with offices in every major gateway city. Currently, we are located in 24 offices on three continents. We intend to accomplish this goal by adding more offices, five of which will open over the next 12 months, by further developing related lines of business, and, finally, by making strategic acquisitions.

AT A GLANCE: TransPerfect Translations

WHO: TransPerfect Translations, co-founded in 1992 by Elizabeth Elting (Trinity College, NYU Stern)

CLOUT: Entrepreneur Magazine's 2004 Woman of the Year.

WHAT: Translation, interpreting, typesetting, graphics, voice-overs, staffing, multicultural marketing, and document management for law, finance, life science, manufacturing, retail, advertising and marketing, and information technology.

WHERE: Over 20 offices in America, Asia, and Europe

HOW: Network of 4,000 certified linguists provide fast turnaround, highest possible level of accuracy.

CLIENTS: Include ABC, AT&T, CBS, Coca-Cola, Dreamworks, IBM, Marriott, Pfizer, Revlon, Sony, Standard & Poor's, Time Warner.


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