How I Started A Professional Translation Business

Published: July 16th, 2021
Ofer Tirosh
Founder, Tomedes
from Beaverton
started January 2007
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Ofer Tirosh and I am the founder and CEO of Tomedes. Tomedes is a translation services company that supports the global growth of our clients. We work with businesses around the world, from startups to Fortune 500 companies.


Over the past 14 years, I’ve grown Tomedes from a one-person start-up to a global enterprise, but the business remains true to the principles on which I founded it. I’m really happy about that.

Today, we have over 100 team members spread across four continents, which allows us to serve a global audience. We’ve worked with over 90,000 business clients to date, while Tomedes’ revenue has grown year on year.

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

I didn’t have a background in the translation industry before founding Tomedes. However, I had seen a clear need when in previous roles for reliable, accessible translation services that delivered localized and globalized content.

I’ve learned a lot. I think the most important lesson has been that positive communication is critical. It’s essential to be clear and transparent at all times and in all channels.

I felt frustrated that I could see just what a difference high-quality, rapidly delivered localization solutions could make to the bottom line of the businesses I was working for.

Back then, in 2007, the solutions on the market just weren’t good enough in terms of their turnaround time, quality, and price. My idea was to solve this. I envisioned a B2B service that companies could rely on, no matter which language pairing they needed or what local knowledge they needed to tap into.

I didn’t have first-hand knowledge of the language services industry, but I saw that there was a big gap in the market and a real opportunity to provide a solution that was light years ahead of those on offer at the time.

So I set about filling the gap in the market. I worked hard to get to know the language industry inside out, and the more I learned about the interesting and challenging world of translation, the more excited I became about the opportunity that is presented.

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

I started Tomedes off in a very lean way. The business is still quite lean today, actually.

Looking back, I do think our first product was very basic and immature, though of course, it was very exciting at the time. I built a basic website and set about seeking customers to test the service. It was just me doing everything myself in those first few months.

I definitely learned a lot about the value of persistence in those early days. I must have made hundreds of cold calls to land Tomedes’ first few dozen customers! But it was obviously worth that investment of time.

I targeted legal firms and other business clients relating to this area of work initially. I understood that providing highly targeted, niche translation services would give firms access to the specialist expertise that they needed. Over the years, I’ve expanded this to ensure that Tomedes can meet the needs of all businesses.

I also spent a lot of time in those early weeks and months building up Tomedes’ network of translators. I needed a global network of linguists to be ready to respond to clients’ needs rapidly. That took some work but again it paid off. Some of those translators are still working with Tomedes today.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I started with a soft launch – no bells and whistles. I wanted to test the product and service first. It was a one-person show; just me working hard to network with professional translators and businesses that might require their services.

I was very focused on understanding the pain points of my clients and how Tomedes could make a difference to them. I still remember getting the first online order. It was a job worth about $19 and I was so excited!

As my list of happy clients grew, I redoubled my marketing and sales efforts – once I understood that product was good enough.

Trust your gut. When you run your own business, the buck stops with you, so have the confidence to run with what you feel is right.

Since then, I’ve gradually built a team to support that core service provision, with developers, customer service representatives, project managers, and more coming on board to help ensure we remain focused on delivering high-quality language services that meet our clients’ needs.

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

Customer care. The client has been my focus at every stage of Tomedes’ creation and growth. The business exists to support companies to solve their language and localization problems, but we do so with the client in mind throughout.

I believe that if you provide superb customer care, everything else will fall into place. It serves to retain existing customers and also encourages them to recommend Tomedes to others, thereby attracting new clients as well.

When it came to attracting those first, all-important clients, I did things the traditional way - I jumped on the phone and began cold calling. It was hard work, but I stuck with it, establishing personal connections over the phone and by letter. I also attended meetups and conferences, networking face-to-face where possible.

These days, we have a marketing team running campaigns and analyzing which channels are the most effective. The company evolved a great deal over the intervening years!


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

That past year has been a challenging one due to the pandemic, just as it has for many businesses around the world. But we’ve learned some good lessons – the experience has made the business more mature, and we’ve focused on our long-term vision and goals.

The future looks very bright. We have some interesting plans and the pandemic has taught us a lot about what’s the important and best way to operate the business.

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

I’ve learned a lot. I think the most important lesson has been that positive communication is critical. Whether it’s internal comms, communication with translators, or the way we liaise with our customers, it’s essential to be clear and transparent at all times and in all channels.

This approach has been one of the keys to Tomedes’ success; it has enabled the business, our professional relationships, and a host of ideas and innovations to flourish.

As Tomedes provides a 24/7 service, everything and everyone needs to work together properly. Communication and constructive feedback are key to facilitating this.


What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Tomedes serves clients around the globe, while also working with linguists who are spread across the world. As such, communication tools are very important to our smooth workflows.

We rely on several instant messaging tools, understanding that different tools tend to be used in different regions. And the same with video calling tools.

Obviously, we have a CRM that we rely on, and we’ve also developed our own tools to facilitate and improve our business processes. We supplement those with industry-specific, professional tools to automate and facilitate workflows. Generally, our focus is on tools that keep the business lean while ensuring that we can work as smoothly and effectively as possible.

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

One of the most influential books that I’ve read is Measure What Matters by John Doerr. It contains some great insights into using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to help guide tough business decisions and set goals appropriately.

No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings is also a fascinating read, with plenty of inspirational takeaways. As is The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger. Made in America by Sam Walton is another book that I found to be very inspiring – I find it really interesting to understand others’ experiences and insights when it comes to business and management.

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

Don’t over-plan. Having goals is good, but you have to be able to respond swiftly to changing circumstances, which means that plans can change.

Also, trust your gut. When you run your own business, the buck stops with you, so have the confidence to run with what you feel is right.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always keen to hear from talented translators, particularly those who have specialist knowledge, such as medical translators or legal translators. They can register interest via the Tomedes website.


Where can we go to learn more?

We have an active Facebook page.

And we’re busy over on Twitter as well.

We have a YouTube channel as well.

Plus we regularly publish articles and insights on LinkedIn.

Finally, we share our expertise on the Tomedes blog, where we publish a weekly post on a wide variety of language and business-related topics.