Building with BRICS & MORTAR

If we reach back into our childhood, we’ll probably all be able to remember the story about the Three Little Pigs:  House of Straw, House of Sticks and then a House of Bricks.  The moral of this story runs deep within me and building using bricks and mortar is in the very fabric of my DNA.

Hardly surprising then—when the new internet generation of BRICS came into commonly used vocabulary—that I thought back to this story and produced the follow acronym of how to grow a solid overseas export strategy using BRICS & MORTAR:

B- Brazil
R- Russia
I- India
C- China
S- South Africa


M- Map
O- Opportunity
R- Research
T- Target
A- Action
R- Review

BRICS- These are widely considered to be the new growth areas of business. Unless you’ve been living in an Anglophile bubble, you’ll know that—despite their ability to speak English—most people prefer to conduct business in their mother tongue.  If you’re wanting to sell into these countries, learning a few polite phrases and having material published in both English and their language will take you streets ahead of somebody who doesn’t.

Quite simply take out a map and look at the geography of BRICS countries.  Can you get there easily enough? What’s the cross-country transport network look like? How many face-to-face meetings does it currently take to secure business in your industry?  How many more would you need when selling to a country that doesn’t speak your language? What would be the cost of these going forward?  Would it be easier to open up a sister company in that country or would partnering with a similar company in that country be a better option?  The initial step of taking out a MAP and understanding the geography of these countries will give you an indication of the size of the task you’re about to embark upon.

In some ways this goes hand-in-hand with the above, and in a lot of cases it will be the catalyst for beginning your export adventures. But just because one client likes what you have to offer, it doesn’t mean that others will.  Go on a trade mission to the country if you can… UKTI offers so many great deals and subsidies for all types of business which can really give you a feel of what it is like to do business there.  There are usually subsidies to help with overseas marketing too; my advice here would be to engage with a professional company who understands what it is you’re trying to achieve.  Explore each and every avenue you have available to you and if in doubt, ask.  Somebody out there will have the answer – and  if not, they’ll know somebody who does.

Of all the stages in an export strategy, this is the one you cannot do too much of, primarily because it is an ongoing process.  Is there a market? Who else is in that market? What are your strengths and weaknesses and how do they compare to those of your competition? What percentage of the market share do you have at home? What percentage could you realistically achieve overseas? Have others tried and failed? If so, speak to them and find out why.  Is there a cultural alignment? Are there political differences?  You know your business better than anybody else and only you can establish the answer to these and SO MANY other questions.

Once you have found your market(s) you need to set your goals and targets.  Without them, you are going to get distracted.  It might be a distributor network of five strategically placed re-sellers, or it might be a financial target of 10% of your company’s profits. Whatever they are, they need to be written down and a strategy drawn up to achieve them.

Get out there and do it.  Exporting for the first time is quite a daunting process but there is a wealth of experience out there and you won’t get anywhere if you don’t take the first step.

Annually, Monthly, Weekly…whatever it is, the review phase is where you take stock of where you sit in relation to your targets.  This is where the hidden things that you will most certainly have overlooked will rise up and show themselves.  Evaluate and revise, but most importantly, keep at it.  If you’ve done the groundwork, this is going to be one of the most exciting business journeys you’ll ever make and the rewards at the end will make it all worthwhile.

Would one common language help to keep the peace?

In a recent on-line debate the question was asked “Should there be one global language?” and one of the arguments delivered under the yes vote read as follows:

“If there was to be a single global language that all the world’s citizens would have the ability to communicate easily with individuals from different countries thus creating more equality. If the world was better able to understand each other than there would likely be a reduced amount of conflict because there would be no loss of communication when being translated. A single global language would also prove to be more efficient in the global economy because the worlds businesses and corporations would be better able to communicate.”

Reading through a number of both the Yes and No votes that followed there seemed to be a theme about global harmony and global peace being the result of a common language, countered by a number of others highlighting that many wars were waged despite a common tongue.

So what is it we want to achieve with a global common language?  Is it simply a way to communicate with another without having to contemplate too much about the language we use?  because if that is the case then there isn’t a language out there which is fit for purpose.  Is it to drive efficiencies into the supply chain? because if so this language already exists and it is in Bits and Bytes.  The problem here is everyone reaching an agreement on standards, ANSI X12, Tradacoms, XML, CIDX, PIDX, etc. not to mention the multiple transfer protocols, ERP systems, constantly evolving pack sizes….. and the list just goes on and on.

I can’t honestly answer this question because I personally do not believe that a single language will be able to deliver the expectations which everyone is already placing upon it.  I don’t think that by taking away the different ways to express yourself in different languages would in any way harmonies the world, in fact I believe it would have the total opposite effect.  Speaking again from a personal point of view, I find that there are much better ways of expressing certain things in Swedish than in English or German, similarly I find I can find better ways to express my sentiments in English than in German or Swedish, and yes let’s go full circle, I find many ways to express myself better in German than I do in Swedish or English.  To somebody who isn’t blessed with the ability to speak more than one language this probably doesn’t make much sense so let me offer you an example or two.

The word “lagom” in Swedish is, for me, the single most perfect way of expressing satisfaction, be it quantitative, temperate or otherwise.  “How warm was it in Greece last June? It was “precis lagom”; is that enough fish? it’s lagom, thanks…. we do not have a single word in either German or English which has such a powerful but simple way of expressing personal satisfaction, and yes, what is lagom for me, is probably not going to be lagom for my wife or anybody else for that matter.

So my favourite German word has to be “doch” it is next to impossible to give a direct translation, in fact I don’t believe that there can be a translation for it, despite some dictionaries using the word “still”.  Es ist doch nicht Wahr? (it’s not true) Aber sicher doch! (but it is!) although depending on how this appeared in the source text, and to what age group I was translating for, I would possibly take a little more “linguistic license” here and write (No way?)…. (for sure!).. but then that edges into the world of transcreation and requires a well written document brief, which is a whole new subject matter, one which I’m not about to embark upon today.

These are just two very strong but perfect examples as to why we need a plethora of languages to cover all cultures, sub cultures, dialects, genders, generations and here too the list is endless.  In our industry it is only those who understand how subjective and complicated these things can get who are in a privileged position to be able to guide their clients into understanding a single common language and that language is multilingual communication, or as we call it Localization.

So could one common language keep the peace?  Probably not but true Localization will go a long way to helping more people communicate with one another correctly and that really can’t be a bad thing can it?

Keep smiling

Keep smiling – The interpreter at my sister’s wedding in Italy earlier this year, ensuring that we all understood what they were signing up for 🙂

Localization World June 2013 London

So the Language Olympics have come to a close and it is now time to reflect upon, and then put into practise, some of the things we have learned about over the last few days.  No matter where you come from it was hard not to hear the boisterous buzz in the Novotel London West between the 10th and 14th June and a number of exciting topics were discussed both in and out of the conference rooms and halls.

I personally joined the event on the 12th for a pre-conference workshop covering the topic of “Localization for Start-ups”.  Hosted by Daniel Goldschmidt (Microsoft), Oleksandr Pysaryuk (Achievers Corp.) this workshop covered the need to understand at what point Globalization (G11n), Internationalization (I18n) and Localization (L10n) would need to be engaged in a Start-up company.  To do this the definitions of a Start-up , G11n, I18n and L10n were delivered along with a number of standard business terms used in the Start-up community.  After a good 2 hours the foundations were laid for the second half of the workshop which found us split into 3 groups thinking about a start-up of our own and where G11n, I18n and L10n would have to be part of the growth plan. Then came “The Pitch” to investors.  Luckily for us, we had the World bank in our team and we’d managed to secure the funding before even having to deliver the pitch. We heard three great new start-up ideas and all of teams understood how crucial our industry has become to an ever increasing global audience.

Day 2 was the first day of the 2 day main conference and we were like kids in a sweet shop, quite literally as we,  Capita , opened the “The World’s Local Sweet Shop”

Life is Sweet

Life is Sweet

This did open up a number of other conversation beyond our core expertise.

In all seriousness though the main halls and conference rooms were again buzzing with excitement and there definitely seems to be a shift in our industry’s approach to the growing need for quality and turnaround times (not something that usually goes hand in hand).  Machine translation, content management systems, translation memory software, authoring software with content optimisation, (the list goes on), were all topics of conversation, but the one key element central to all of this was the professional people who use them.  We have some very talented people in our industry and they are ultimately going to be the ones who drive through the quality initiatives from within their own companies, giving the clients we serve the best possible service in this diverse and subjective industry.