Elizabeth Elting is the co-CEO of the TransPerfect, one of the five largest language service companies in the world with estimated revenues around $225 million. Together with the spinoff business translations.com, Liz’s company employs 250 full-time staffers and 4,000 subcontractors, with 31 offices worldwide offering round-the-clock translation service.Despite the success of her business, TransPerfect had humble beginnings. Having once worked for a translation company after getting her Bachelor of Arts degree in Modern Languages and Literatures, Liz knew that the translation industry was composed of various small outfits offering inconsistent quality. She was then studying MBA at the New York University’s Stern School of Business when together with classmate Phil Shawe, she saw that huge opportunities await them in the translation business. The partners started TransPerfect from their dorm rooms in 1992.
Her road to success was not easy, as the early days of TransPerfect were run with a shoestring budget. In an interview with Pink Magazine, Liz relates the challenges they faced when jumpstarting the business as grad school students:
We basically started with zero money. We didn’t even have a computer. We rented one for $40 a month. We had no office space, no employees. We used a credit card for a few thousand dollars, but that was it. And the moment a check came in, we would run to the bank so we could pay our linguists. Our first goal was to be in an affordable office in six months – which we did. After a year and a half we hired our first employee, and two years later we moved into the office complex we’re in now. Then we started opening offices around the world. In the beginning we hired subcontractors and focused on quality control by hiring an outside translator, editor and proofreader for each project. In the beginning, we took a very aggressive approach to sales. Every day we made hundreds of phone calls and sent out hundreds of letters. We took it one client at a time and one project at a time. To grow at this point we still do the same thing, even though 97 percent of our projects come from repeat business and referrals.
After years of toiling, Liz has achieved her goal of transforming the translation business and becoming one of the premier companies in the industry. The translation business suited Liz perfectly, as it blended together her passion for languages, culture and business – having studied in Spain, lived in Portugal, and worked in Venezuela. She speaks French and Spanish.
Today, Liz has received a number of awards and recognitions for her outstanding entrepreneurship, including Working Woman Magazine’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Customer Service, the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Inc. 500 Award, and the Deloitte & Touche Fast 50 Award four times.