Buying A Translation Company And Growing It To $4M/Year

$365K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
17
Employees
product
DEMAN Übersetzungen
from Düsseldorf, Germany
started May 2015
$365,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
17
Employees
6.24M
alexa rank
436
followers
market size
$49.6B
avg revenue (monthly)
$683K
starting costs
$17.6K
gross margin
50%
time to build
6 months
average product price
$25
growth channels
SEO
business model
Consulting
best tools
Udemy, Yoast, SemRush
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
34 Pros & Cons
tips
1 Tips
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platform
email
social media
productivity
payments
analytics
advertising
blog
design
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freelance
education
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Start A Language Translation Service

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, my name is Cédric Sigoire and I am the owner of the DEMAN Translations group.

We are a translation agency specialized in high-quality translations for business customers.

We cover all types of translations, technical, legal, marketing, and IT as well as interpreting.

I took over the company on May 1st, 2015, exactly 6 years ago, with 6 employees and a turnover of 1.5 million euros.

My strategy was based on acquisitions: we acquired another 11 translation agencies (Kosmos, AFT, JM TRAD, Lemoine, A4 Traduction, Bangard, MediaMate, Visavis, Massanetz, MediaMate, ISSA) to grow the business up to 3.5 million euros of sales in 2020 with 17 amazing team members! We are not backed by private equity and grew only with our own financing.

We will reach more than 6 million euros in the year 2021 and our target for 2022 is 10 million euros!

buying-a-translation-company-and-growing-it-to-4m-year

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I am a French citizen who has been living in Germany for more than 10 years, and I feel European. I studied as an exchange student in the USA, I studied in Germany via the Erasmus programm and gained a double Master’s in Business from a German and a French university.

I started my career as an export area manager in the casual shoe business. I liked my job, but wanted to be on the field close to the customers and so I left to join a safety products producer as Export Manager. There I really learned what selling means: To understand the needs of your customer and deliver the best product to ensure customer satisfaction. Selling is a win-win. Once I knew how to sell, I joined a producer of massive oak furniture as Export Director.

After this, I wanted to return to Germany and took on a position as Country Manager for an eLearning company. I am living proof that a salesperson can work and be successful in many different industries.

Why did I decide to take over a company instead of staying in my comfortable position?

I worked with distributors and was always convinced that the best way to become independent, wealthy and accomplished in life is to have your own company and CREATE VALUE!

As a father of 3 children, I was financially not able to take the risk to set up a new company (and have no revenue for many months) and therefore decided to take over an existing business. I had had this idea since 2007 and started looking for an interesting company to take over.

I learned the importance of having a business network. Had I known this, I would have networked with other startups or joined professional networks earlier.

The search of my “company-baby” took me 8 years and I finally acquired the translation agency DEMAN Translations in Düsseldorf, Germany in May 2015. I had just separated from my wife and only had about 50K€ in savings as a starting capital. This along with some love money from my family meant I managed to raise the 80K€ I needed to get a 7-digit credit and become the owner of DEMAN Translations.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

We are only working in the B2B field. 80% of European companies have a need for translations. It is not always a big demand, but even a restaurant sometimes needs an English menu.

We are not offering “off-the-shelf translations”. We always look for the best translator profile to be able to SPEAK THE LANGUAGE of our customers.

We have a very strict selection process for our translators: We only use native speaker translators with at least 5 years of experience. They need to have a specialization in one field and need to pass a translation test in that field. Their mother tongue needs to be the target language, which is the only way to ensure that all the nuances of the language can be properly expressed.

The company needed to be modernized. There had been few investments in technology since the former owner had wanted to sell it for some years. I was very grateful to find a team of young and competent employees, willing to grow and learn new technology like CRM or workflow-management systems. We moved fast and with a lot of enthusiasm to implement new tools to be even more customer-oriented!

Our first big new project came in February 2016: 403.000 words to be translated within 28 days. A huge challenge! As Napoléon Bonaparte said: “THE WORD IMPOSSIBLE IS NOT FRENCH !” We won the contract at an attractive price. And you know what? We delivered on time and the customer was very happy. The greatest success was the fact that the team learned that we are able to do (almost) everything and even things that we thought were impossible!

The owner of a little company not only needs to be a specialist in his field, he needs to be a good manager, a good salesman and be able to support his team.

I have full trust in my employees and give them a lot of freedom in their job. I believe in macro-management, not micro-management. This is especially important for the younger generation, which is more independent and able to access all information and every training materials online.

Describe the process of launching the business.

The company was for sale on a business-for-sale platform. When I approached the seller, I was an employee with 40K€ savings in my account and competed against private equity funds and translation agencies with millions of euros of equity.

Why did the owner choose me?

Because I was fast and transparent: I don't have the money, but I want to be independent and buy your company! I informed him about every step and even gave him the name of my bank adviser (thank you, Mr. Phlipp Witkamp, for helping me realize my dream). I wrote my business plan in one weekend (and I can tell you that there were a lot of mistakes in my German LOL) and we made the financing come true within 3 months!!!

When I took over the company, I was seriously overdrawn: I exhausted my overdraft limit of €10.000 and was virtually broke!

However, “no risk, no fun”. Of course, the risk needs to be a calculated one because I am responsible for my credit until 2027! If the company cannot pay it off by 2026, I will personally go bankrupt!

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The first and most important point is to THINK ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS!

You need to know exactly WHO your customers are and what their needs are!

My advice is the following:

  1. Turn customers into ambassadors!

Recommendations are very powerful. If you do your job well, your customers will recommend you. If you ask them for active recommendations, they will think more about you and speak about you!

  1. Cold Calling is not dead

Make 100 calls per day and be happy after 50 “NOs” because you will be closer and closer to a “YES”.

  1. You have the customers that you deserve

You will not gain all the customers you approach. You will gain the customers that are the best fit for YOU! Pay attention to what they say and find common interests. Be ready to adapt to your customers. Have a chat with your customers and get to know them.

  1. Price is not the main argument: be an advisor!

Create a strong relationship with a potential customer from the first call! Explain your what your added value is and your unique selling proposition (USP). Impress your customers and show them that you can help develop their company!

  1. SEO is your long-term value

I recommend investing in SEO for long-term and stable lead generation. Never forget: “content is king”. Give relevant information to your visitors and try to rank for many long-tail keywords first. Try to regularly write posts about your sector to improve your visibility and netlinking (backlink). We started again to push our French website in January 2021 and the first results are showing a good trend.

buying-a-translation-company-and-growing-it-to-4m-year

We are getting more and more leads thanks to our French website. We just started the same work for our German website and hope to see some results within 4 to 6 months.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today I am still 600.000 euros in debt, but I feel free! I set the direction of the company, and I decide how it is managed.

We are now stronger and stronger in Germany and we gained a foothold in the French market with the acquisition of a4traduction.com in January 2021.

Of course, machine translation is growing and will disrupt our industry. And we need to adapt to it. It is also a big opportunity, since there is more and more need for data and it will allow us to translate even more words and make the world ever smaller!!

We plan to expand into France and the United Kingdom and want to reach a turnover of 10 million euros by 2022!

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I learned the importance of having a business network. Had I known this, I would have networked with other startups or join professional networks earlier.

I don´t believe in “luck” in business, I believe in giving opportunity a chance. You create your own future and your own luck. Of course, it’s great that you met a mentor at an event, but you made that happen by going there! Of course, you are lucky to win a new customer after a cold call, but you create this opportunity by calling in the first place!

BE THE ACTOR OF YOUR LIFE AND CREATE OPPORTUNITIES as much as you can!

I was very sad to miss an opportunity to buy a company in 2013. However, thanks to this missed opportunity, I was better prepared when I took over DEMAN Translations in 2015. I already knew where to go and what to do to get the financing.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We are using Microsoft Office 365 and TRADOS (Computer Assisted Translation) for internal use.

I used Fiverr.com to find texters, as well as WordPress and SEO specialists.

I use Udemy to acquire new competencies. It is a fantastic platform with numerous online courses in all kinds of sectors. I like to watch the videos at a speed of 1,75 x in order to be more concentrated and focused on the subject and to save my time.

I open Linkedin many times a day to connect with potential clients and find out about the trends in my industry.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The One Minute Manager taught me to do things with a KISS: “keep it short and simple”.

I also try to apply the 90-90-1 rule: For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your working day to the one best opportunity to grow.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

It is always possible to finance a project if the concept and the team are good. Draw up a realistic business plan and learn a KISS (keep it short simple) way to present your company.

Focus on sales (for B2B) and on brand awareness (for B2C). Use SEO to create your success for the future.

You need to be clear on this question: Is it a business or a hobby? If it is a hobby, go ahead and enjoy it, but it will never be a sustainable business.

Work on your mindset: “Be the best version of yourself”.

Create the opportunities you deserve! Go out there (virtually or physically) and meet people! Do not just stay in the office. I recommend the Junior Chamber International (JCI) to meet other young entrepreneurs.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We want to increase our online marketing. The world is getting digital and the interaction with the customers changed during the COVID time: You need to draw the attention of your customer where they are: ONLINE.

I am looking for good professionals to develop an online concept for the group and push our visibility and generate leads.

I am looking for good French and German texters to improve our SEO positions.

Where can we go to learn more?

I would be very happy to help some founders to develop their business and I could be interesting to be a business angel or a mentor.

You can reach me:

Or my company:

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Cédric Sigoire,   Founder of DEMAN Übersetzungen
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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