Bottom Line for Translation Entrepreneurs

by Translation Guy on November 13, 2012

They know green chili in Denver, so close to New Mexico, so far from God.

One relleno per margarita is the ancient law of The Land of Enchantment, a tradition I am proud to uphold as I stab my fingers at you, pushing up against the  guacamole-greased touch-screen of my iPad.

I’m in Mile High for some client grooming on behalf of 1-800-Translate and to get my next business off the ground. (Still top secret, but this sneak peak is a good opportunity for me to come out to readers: I am a serial entrepreneur.

I know many of my readers share the same dark secret, since the translation business is rife with independents. Tip over any corpus and you’ll see a swarm of  sole proprietors and micro-businesses squiggling  their way to profit.

Oh yeah. Profit. Anyone as bad at  languages as me knows that the literal meaning of “entrepreneur” in French is “cash-flow problems.”

In the fairy land of Profit and Loss, black is good and red is bad, so it’s no wonder that most entrepreneurs develop a green-laser focus for  greenbacks. That’s how we keep score. Now a  sad-faced mime steps into  this essay and draws  two fingers across his chest as he asks this question:

Q.  “In the  rat-race climb to the top, does the one with the most money always win?”

A. Wait a minute. Mimes don’t talk! So bum’s rush for this fraud. After I kicked him down the stairs I got to wondering if I really was just an overworked  entrepreneurial drone with mime issues? Hmm.

On this trip, I spent some time in Denver with my high-school pal John McDonough, now an entrepreneur coach with Crankset. He was talking on the entrepreneurial  life lived beyond the bottom line. How we spend the precious coin of now  is is much more bottom-line than the number on the earnings statement. Better to live a living while you earn a living.

It’s particularly tough in the translator’s trade. Small-timers who start punching their own time clock quickly learn the first rule of business success:  Identify a profitable transaction and repeat. Ka-ching! Do it often enough and the money begins to add up. For the pennies-a-word translation tribe, that can take all day and all night. So lots of money means not much time. No time to learn, to plan, no time outside the box of day-by-day

Bottom line-dwellers may scoff, but just grinding it out can devolve into some pricey hidden costs. Question #2:

Q. Just how smart are you really working?

A. Not as smart as you think you are.

Most of the translation operators I know work alone. Either at the kitchen table with only a laptop, or alone at the top, in a little management cocoon of deference bubble-wrap that staff wisely refuse to pop.

John uses the Crankset program to gather in these entrepreneurial undead  into a council of Three Musketeer peers, all for one and one for all. Then add a simple system of management best practice to improve efficiency and performance. The group has the emotional authority to get a lone entrepreneur saddled up even if he/she isn’t ready  to admit he’s/she’s a  horse’s ass.

Thus lone-wolf entrepreneurs learn to run with the pack and are compelled to keep to timelines of accomplishment through group support/peer pressure.

Interesting. This kind of work is important for the personal development required for entrepreneurial success. My own work with Gary Cohen on similar issues has been the key to my own happiness and a more balanced life. I did my work one-on-one, but the benefits of a group approach are obvious. Thoughts?


  1. Wilber says:

    Whew! I’ve read it 2.5 times and my mind is reeling with the Joy of Parsing. I’d love to be as fluent as you, Ken.

    BTW, this “sneak peak” that you mention. Would that be Pike’s Peek? Ol’ Zebulon, of course, was a celebrated voyeur.

    When is the unveiling? Of the top secret I mean.

    • Ken says:

      Keep on parsing, Wilbur.

      I had to read your comment 2.5x times before I finally got it. Here’s how the Dragon dictation tool parsed my LOL, “if if if the the the the the the.” Very funny.

      My secret will have to wait just a bit yet.

  2. Sounds like some of our lengthy and wide ranging ramblings did take seed, for which I am pleased. The death of the rugged individualist, as it relates to business, is a powerful shift. But experiencing the transformations and growth that comes with the committed community of others giving “outside eyes” on our little worlds is proof that while we might be completely able to go it alone, together we move forward like a snowball down Everest. And why shouldn’t we build a business that throws off time as well as money?

  3. Caroll says:

    This is the second mention I’ve run across of Crankset in a week or so, I really have to explore these guys.

  4. Oh, alone at the kitchen table with a laptop is eerily accurate at this moment. Grea article, there is good stuff here and the Crankset website certainly looks interesting.

  5. Gudrun says:

    There is no entrepreneurial life beyond the bottom line, money s how you keep score in life.

  6. This work/life balance people talk about is for people that don’t enjoy their work, or can’t hack long hours.

  7. Billie Moss says:

    This concept of the entrepreneur as something more than a lone wolf is really quite interesting, how exactly does it work this collective approach?

  8. Everyone should strive to make as much time for burlesque and beer as possible.

  9. Ruben says:

    I find this all for one and one for all cocept approach to entrepreneurship a little silly, but also somewhat compelling, it’s at the very least worht a look.

  10. Always wondered if there was a better way to go about it than grinding it out on your lonesome, not sure there is based ff experience, but you raise some interesting points and worthy areas of exploration.

  11. Robert says:

    Always interested in innovative approachs to entrepreneurship, and this one does seem to be rather compelling, especially the but about improved efficiency and performance. Man needs every edge he can get in this economy.

  12. Jeff says:

    Certainly an interesting avenue to wander down, I will explore the Crankset link and giv what I’ve read here some thought, maybe it’ll benefit me in the long run.

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