Translation Services – Our Way to a Virtual Office

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Growing translation services business = growing real estate?

It felt weird, at first, and I think I finally figured out why. When I started our translation services business in 2007, we had a tiny office space. As the years went by, we moved several times. And each time, we went bigger. We needed more space to accommodate the growing team.

The growing real estate around me felt like a sign of success. When a new, more expensive lease was in front of me, I felt a little worried about the jump in expenses. My husband always said, “you will grow into it, you always do”. And we did, just like last year, when a neighboring suite became available and we grabbed it and had it connected to ours. The office felt luxuriously spacious. And we made it look just the way we wanted – with bright orange tones, stand up desks, multiple gathering spaces, including a “chill” room with a couch, yoga mats, and bean bags.

But now we have been in the middle of a pandemic for over 170 days. Like most, we have spent limited time using our beautiful office. And when we did, we each spent the day holed up in our own, respective offices. The space lost its main purpose – the daily team building and camaraderie, sharing of a meal, or just stopping by someone’s desk to ask how their weekend was.

This much is clear: it is my team who makes the business of language services work. And they make our space work, too. Without them, the large office is not a sign of success but an empty and cold container in which we are doing what we could just as easily do from home, perhaps with less anxiety.

On our road to a virtual translation services office, we learned a few things:

First:

We are good at working virtually. But it did not come without obstacles. Shortly after the initial lockdown started, I fired three people. I have never fired three people before, all at once. There were some problems before the pandemic but once we started working from home, a sleuth of issues emerged, almost immediately. But since these disruptors have been gone, it has been smooth sailing for the rest of us.

Second:

We replaced the dismissed employees with new ones. And we went virtual here, too. Instead of focusing on local talent, which has always been limited in our industry, we opened our eyes to a nationwide search and found people whose creativity, experience, and willingness to give the job their best shine every day.

Third:

As we work with large corporations, we have been hearing an increasing number of voices telling us they are not going back to their brick & mortar office at least until the end of the year. Or even later. One of our clients will not go back, ever. The lesson here is that if a much larger organization can embrace virtual, manage the change, and thrive, so can we.

Fourth:

When we added up all expenses related to our physical office, aside from rent, we got to a shockingly large number. Wouldn’t it make more sense to be saving most of that money and create a “rainy day fund” or “future headquarters fund”, instead?

Fifth:

Realizing there are teams who have always excelled at working and cooperating remotely, like software engineers, we have charted a new course for learning the methods they have been using for a long time. We are on the path to implementing Lean Methodology (Kanban, specifically, for workflow management) and incremental changes that will result in big differences in our work.

The next 6-12 months

Our lease was up at the end of last month and as you may have guessed, we have not renewed. We packed up and moved most of our things into storage. We are getting an office at a beautiful space with access to a large number of conference rooms and many amenities.

When someone wants to work outside of their house for a day, they will have a wonderful place to do so. We will have a physical address and a place to meet with our translation services clients if need be. At the same time, our office-related cost will go down by roughly 75%.

And that is the plan, for the next 6-12 months or so. We look forward to seeing you in all the usual places – online, on the phone, or in our email inbox. Or, bump into us (by appointment only) at our new address:

5049 Edwards Ranch Rd. Floor 4, Fort Worth, TX 76109

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