Lessons from Entrepreneurs


Lessons from Entrepreneurs

Excerpted from Executive Travel - April 2006

It's difficult to pinpoint who an entrepreneur is. Some are risk-takers looking for an idea to run with, while others are risk averse, but believe too much in something to let it go. Many are business school graduates, while others learned business out of necessity. But there are common threads running through the tale of every entrepreneur--a mixture of hard work and cleverness, the grit to overcome challenges and the willingness to take advantage of what good fortune comes their way. Executive Travel spoke with entrepreneurs, ranging from young to old, from modest means to fabulously wealthy. In each of their stories are lessons for entrepreneurs and those who have the vision to become one.

Towering in Babel

When Liz Elting tells people she owns a translation business, "Most people imagine I'm a translator working out of my apartment." The reality is that her mastery of French and Spanish isn't good enough to make her a living. But that hasn't stopped Elting from building TransPerfect Translations into the world's third largest translation services company, with $75 million in annual revenues and 400 employees in 30 offices. Since founding her company in 1992 with fellow NYU business school grad Phil Shawe, Elting (who is now 40) has separated the firm from thousands of competitors by focusing on expertise needed by businesses in areas like telecommunications and pharmaceuticals.

After college, Elting worked in sales for a translation company, where she recognized that corporations weren't finding the professional level of service and quality they required. After NYU and a brief, uninspiring stint in finance, Elting decided to exploit the opportunity she saw years before, pooling $5,000 with Shawe to start the business. "It's very difficult to think of something that hasn't been done. Instead, we thought, 'What do clients need that needs to be done better?'" The philosophy continues to benefit the company, which has expanded to include document management and transcription services. "There are so many things out there that can be done better. That's how we continue to build the company."

—Brendan Coffey

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