Remote working has, of necessity, increased hugely over the past couple of years. However, the remote workplace model has not been a new experience for every company. Tomedes Translation Services has been leading the way to remote working since 2007. Ofer Tirosh, the CEO of Tomedes Ltd., shares his thoughts below on what it takes to lead a global services company, which operates 24/7 on the remote working model.
Tomedes operates a global network of translators, localization specialists, project managers, copywriters, and other team members. We have offices in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East, but most of our linguists work remotely, rather than being office-based. This remote team supports us in delivering a wide range of language and translation services to clients worldwide. We’ve worked with over 95,000 business customers so far.
The benefits of the remote working model in professional translation services
I set Tomedes up using a remote working model from the outset. It was a combination of factors that drove me to do so, rather than a single reason. Practicality was chief among those factors. When I founded the company, my goal was to provide high-quality, affordable translation services to businesses. Back then, there was a real gap in the market for affordable B2B professional translation services, so I set out to fill that gap. Doing so meant working with linguists around the world. It didn’t make sense to set up an office for each translator, nor did it make sense to choose one location and try to convince individuals based in different countries that they needed to work from one place.
So, practicality was certainly a key driver for establishing the remote workplace model when I first set up the company. The cost was another important issue. Partly because I was bootstrapping the company and realized that any expenses that I incurred in running the business – such as renting or buying office space – would bump up the costs for Tomedes’ clients. Given my aim was to deliver affordable translation services, that just didn’t make sense.
The final reason for focusing on the remote model was more of a mindset-related one. Not having a physical office that staff had to come into meant no limits in who I could seek to work with. It didn’t matter where a particular linguist lived – I could recruit based on talent, not geographic location. That felt very freeing. Very empowering. And I think that mindset ultimately carried through to approaching clients, as well. After all, why should the business only seek out clients in one region or country when the network of linguists it operated was global?
Remote working over the longer-term in translation services
Remote working has changed a lot in the past 15 years. It’s not been a static model that I’ve used, but rather one that has had to grow and adapt to keep pace with the different operating environments and the usual challenges of scaling a company.
Back in 2007, when I first began recruiting linguists, remote working was a very different experience than it is now. We had Voice Over IP services such as Skype, but that kind of technology was still very much in its infancy. Microsoft didn’t even acquire Skype until 2011. Operating a remote working business where nobody had Zoom or smartphones was very different from operating one today.
That said, there are still certain principles that are absolutely key to working with remote staff. Communication is at the heart of everything. That’s as true today as it was back in 2007. I have never met the linguists that Tomedes works with in person, so the emphasis has always been on maintaining communication digitally. To actually connect with people, albeit online rather than in the same room.
The advances in video calling technology and in internet speeds and coverage that we’ve seen over the past 15 years have done much to make that communication easier. Business social networks such as LinkedIn have also played an important part in that, as have industry forums. These professional and social digital spaces have served to bring people together in ways that I could only dream of back when I founded Tomedes. All of that has helped to smooth the flow of communication between the company and the workers who contribute to its success.
Another important element in making the remote workplace model work has been focusing on building an organizational culture that’s founded around strong customer service values. Those apply not just to Tomedes’ external clients but also to how we manage our internal teams. It’s about working hard to ensure that those who interact with the business – whether as employees, freelancers, clients, suppliers, or any other capacity – feel valued and supported.
That’s taken some work as the business has expanded. When I first built the remote working model, I was directly managing every element of the company. Now, we have managers in place to lead departments and teams, including some workers based in offices as well. As that structure and infrastructure have grown, I’ve focused on keeping those original values at the heart of the business.
The multi-faceted advantages of using a remote workplace model
There are so many benefits to using this remote structure. At the top level, the remote workplace model has been fundamental to Tomedes’ growth from a one-person start-up to a global business. The company was built upon the notion that we could broaden the horizons of our customers through the provision of translation services, and working remotely has enabled us to achieve that. And there are also myriad benefits to that.
There’s no need to commute for our linguists, which saves them time and money. They can juggle their working hours around their daily life more flexibly than they could in an office. They can cook healthy lunches instead of having to grab something on the go. There are so many benefits to getting the right work/life balance. We’ve worked with over 20,000 linguists over the past 15 years, and they’ve all been able to enjoy the benefits of the remote working lifestyle.
Tomedes’ remote working model also benefits the company’s clients. As I mentioned above, it significantly reduces the company’s overheads, which delivers cost savings that can be passed on to our clients. And that’s a cost-saving with absolutely no compromises on quality – we’re still working with highly skilled linguists and project managers. They’re just not sitting next to one another in an office.
It’s also easy to provide 24/7 customer support to our clients using remote workers. It means that we can follow the sun, with workers in one country signing off for the day just as those in another are enjoying their morning coffee.
Advice for leaders who are ready to embrace remote working for the first time
So many great business leaders have influenced me over the years, and there are some tips that I’ve learned from them – and through my own experience – that I think are worth sharing with those who are new to leading companies built on remote work models.
Firstly, experiment with tech until you find the ideal workflows to suit your business. That means not just embracing what works but being prepared to fail fast and try another solution if something isn’t right.
Sticking to your values as you scale is also an area that warrants careful attention. How will that impact how your original values cascade throughout the company as you bring in middle managers? That can have a big impact on culture and on how happy your employees are – and that will reflect in the service that they provide to your clients.
Also, think a long way ahead. Where is your business going and – importantly – why? If you get too bogged down in the operational detail of how to get the best out of the remote model, there’s a chance that your original focus could slip. Remember that the remote working arrangement is there to support your end goal – it’s not the end goal in and of itself.
My final piece of advice is not to be afraid to revolutionize the remote workplace model. There’s still plenty of room for innovation, particularly when it comes to having the best technology at our disposal.
The future for businesses built on remote working models
There’s an exciting future ahead for businesses that think creatively about how to make the remote model work. I think it is really for each sector and business to decide how they do this. Key to their success will be a commitment to making the most of the available tech – and that’s going to change over time.
I believe we’ll see attitudes to remote working change over time, too, as more and more workers embrace it. In the UK, for example, the proportion of adults who did some work from home jumped from 27% in 2019 to 37% in 2020. We’ve seen that jump mirrored in many locations around the world. Remote working is becoming the norm for millions of people, and that will help accelerate change within the sector, at the same time as business leaders help mold and shape that change. Remote working used to feel highly unusual in many business sectors. Now, staff expect discussions around remote and hybrid working even as they interview for new roles.
For translation services, blending human and automatic to provide some really smart translation solutions will be crucial for evolving the remote working model. Automatic translation technology – when it’s used in the right way – can help translators to work faster and more efficiently. With so much investment being poured into machine learning and artificial intelligence at the moment, there’s a lot more to come in this area. How we incorporate that into the remote working model will be really interesting.
The same is true of co-working and project collaboration platforms. There are already some great examples of these, but there’s still plenty more potential. Over the coming years, we’re going to see some really exciting tech solutions to facilitate remote work in new ways.