Lately I’ve been blogging about super-fast-growing companies that are ready to move their home successes to new markets. Specifically, I’m writing about key attributes of roles in the three-way partnership responsible for taking the company global: the globalization manager, the rising star company itself, and this week: the localization vendor.
Rising stars are accustomed to moving fast in their home markets, like a single adult navigating an airport. Add four or five young children to that experience, and you’ve got an idea how adding new markets can change things. It’s still very possible to move quickly, but you need agility and a tight game plan to avoid complications and delays.
Leading localization vendors have extensive experience delivering localization solutions for top global brands, but clients shouldn’t assume every vendor has expertise supporting rising stars who are new to international markets.
Some of today’s hot companies are tomorrow’s Facebooks, Googles and Amazons, but from the perspective of many localization vendors, blue-chip global brands are a safer bet. Sales people may fawn over your accomplishments and your potential, but you need to look for executive-level commitment to rising stars in general, if not your company in particular. In recent memory, one of our rising-star clients processed more words in two top-tier languages in a two-month period than any of the blue-chip global companies — which we were in position to support because our executives recognized the client’s potential and committed early on.
You’re not like everyone else, and that’s part of why you’re growing fast — so consider it a red flag if a vendor tells you to discard everything and adopt whichever “industry standard” solution they’re selling. Whatever you’re doing now is part of the success you’ve achieved, and therefore deserves consideration before it’s tossed out with the bathwater. A vendor should work with you to understand your process and take an iterative process toward improvement. This deepens the partnership and creates an environment for innovation within your existing processes that may be unique to the industry.
Willing to Adapt
In a fast-moving company, priorities are constantly changing. Your vendor needs to pivot along with you. Large localization vendors may have a hard time adapting their delivery framework to meet the unique needs of a client whose present-day “spend” is too low to justify the effort.
Rising stars have grown quickly, so they probably don’t have all the tools or processes in place that the vendor wants to see. Unique challenges will crop up. Does the vendor ask you to sacrifice turnaround time, quality or budget — or does the vendor propose a creative workaround that preserves all three?
At the project level, you need confidence that the vendor team is assimilating the rising star’s nearly constant changes in real time. How do changes get documented and populated across the entire global team? Good knowledge-sharing at the project level may be an indicator of cross-pollination across the company — sharing best practices and innovations among divisions and accounts (not the client-proprietary ones, obviously!) to improve service across the board. But you should nonetheless ask for examples.
Many roles in globalization are clear, task-oriented, linear, day-in/day-out jobs, supported by a lot of existing infrastructure. Rising stars are constantly inventing the structure they need to achieve extraordinarily aggressive goals. To support a rising star, the vendor needs to supply project managers, engineers, and other account personnel who are not only specialists, but who also bring broad knowledge, tight relationships, rising star experience, and powerful mojo. You need a vendor team whose passions and abilities are on par with your in-house team.
This is a very exciting time to be involved with taking products global: A little over ten years ago, global giant Facebook was just a startup. Even more recently, companies such as Buzzfeed, Airbnb and Uber have taken the public by storm. With the right supportive partnerships, going global can be a huge positive impact for your business, and for you professionally.
After some exciting rising-star successes in 2014, I have my eye out for the next great globalization manager and rising star company to work with in the new year. If you’re lucky enough to be on the fast track to global markets, I hope you’ll find my recent blog posts helpful in preparing for your global journey.
What other qualities do you look for in a localization vendor supporting aggressive global goals?