By Elaine Pofeldt
Inc. Magazine - October 24, 2013
TransPerfect specializes in helping clients bridge communication barriers, but that doesn't mean it never faces any of its own. The New York City-based translation company has grown to more than 80 offices on six continents and had $341 million in revenue last year. And that has created a problem for co-CEOs Liz Elting and Phil Shawe: how to stay in touch with more than 2,600 employees, 600 of whom were hired in the past 12 months. The company also relies on 5,000 freelancers.
Their solution: small teams and training. Lots and lots of training.
To help with that training, Elting and Shawe tap longtime employees to lead new offices--particularly those who embrace the company's entrepreneurial mindset. Nearly all of TransPerfect's executives were promoted from within. Most have been with the company--which started in Shawe's dorm room at New York University in 1992--for at least a decade.
Also helpful: These office leaders divide up their business units into smaller groups, to ensure that all employees get close contact with their bosses on a daily basis. "We don't have a bureaucracy," says Elting. "People feel like they're part of a team and can really make an impact."
Once new workers are brought on board, the learning begins--an education that continues throughout their careers. A certification program helps linguists boost their translation skills as well as their knowledge of the industries TransPerfect serves. Sales people attend a yearly intensive, three-day training conference. A dozen professional development groups within the company encourage growth in areas such as managing and leadership. Another group provides a place for female employees to share tips on issues such as balancing work and family.
It all adds up to a business that feels as much like college as it does a fast-growing company. "There's a ton of energy, because we're growing so much," says Matt Hauser, TransPerfect's vice president of content solutions. "I feel like I'm in grad school every day, rubbing elbows with cool, new, interesting people."
All of those programs, Elting says, have helped TransPerfect win big projects from clients such as the U.S. Postal Service, Nestlé, and the American Heart Association. Meantime, employees who stick with the company can be richly rewarded for their service. High achievers who stay at least three years are eligible for a big salary bump. One employee who recently hit the 10-year mark wrote a thank-you note to the CEOs--not just for the Tiffany clock he got as a gift but for the unannounced bonuses and raises that allowed him to purchase a home.
TransPerfect also offers litigation support, staffing, and technology services. To make sure it excels in all areas, the company runs an internal innovation contest to solicit employees' best ideas for improving their departments. Many relate to boosting efficiency and using technology more effectively. The chance to innovate, says Elting, is another draw that makes people want to stay. Indeed, Hauser says a great thing about his latest job is the freedom to try new sales methods. "If you want to chase something," he says, "the company is not going to hold you back."
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