Leeds company thebigword translates £120m turnover plans

Fast-growth translation company thebigword has announced ambitious growth plans to put it in the top 5 translation and interpreting companies in the world.

For the year to May 2016 the company finished on £42.6m turnover, this year it will be £62m. This impressive growth was down to some major contracts with the Ministry of Defence and Nato, which has led the company to employ around 500 staff from its Leeds base, and thousands more as interpreters and translators.

CEO and founder Larry Gould expects the company to see £80m for 2017/18, and is aiming to double turnover figures in £120m.

Gould said: “The endgame is to take it from top 20 in the world language companies, to get into top five. To get there, we need to be doing $500m. How can we do this?

“We’re continuing with organic growth to double revenues to £120m. That’s one part of our plan and the bigger plan is backed by technology. If you go back to 2015, that particular year we stopped spending money on anything but technology. Because we did that we were able to double revenues this year because clients need service that is fast and accurate, and you can only do it with better technology.

“That tech spend will continue in the oncoming years, but how do we get to $500m?

“What we want to do is start acquiring companies. Our tech could be used by those companies to make them more profitable which is not just a great story but it’s also a great reason for doing that.

Gould claimed that thebigword is the largest independent translation company in Europe, but with bigger, worldwide ambitions, that means expanding into new and existing markets too. The company has already been in China for 10 years, and Japan for 20 years.

“But the US has largest market for translation services,” said Larry. “We’re doing some business there, but we needed to acquire to boost it.”

And not just anyone will do, said Gould. “We’re open-minded to medium businesses, but preferably larger ones are more in our interest.

“We’ve done a number of smaller ones, so we’re not without experience.”

Expanding globally at a time of such uncertainty would make less entrepreneurial CEO’s baulk. But Larry, who built the company up from scratch from the early 1980s, is no stranger to controversial decisions (and is the author of ‘Great Retirement- Great Sex: How to retire and still have a great sex life’ to prove it).

“I think [Brexit and political uncertainty] is actually really good for thebigword in particular. It is also forcing everyone from large to small companies to really look at the markets they’re in. Some are looking to open in Europe but not necessarily move all their people there.

“They’re thinking about how they’re selling, how the digital market is giving them access to new markets.

“ As time moves on, the cost of language is going to reduce as its availability and speed increases. It sounds perverse but we’re seeing really positive feelings come out of it.

“That nervousness has had a really positive effect. We can’t be complacent. It’s that British attitude which means we always perform better in a disruptive situation.”