Ofer Tirosh has been running Tomedes translation services since 2007. During that time, he has grown the business from a solo enterprise to a major global corporation, providing translation services to more than 90,000 clients across the world, through a network of highly skilled and experienced translators.
Ofer has expanded Tomedes to provide a range of other language-related services over the years, in order to meet the needs of global business clients more fully. Despite Tomedes’ growth, he has kept the company focused on its founding principles – something which companies often struggle to do as they scale.
For Ofer, providing first-rate translation services has been about more than just language. Customer care has been at the heart of the business from the outset. Valuing each and every client has enabled Tomedes to build its brand internationally, with referrals helping to boost the company’s expansion.
Today, Tomedes provides translation services to companies ranging from innovative young start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. The company provides a comprehensive range of specialist services, delivering expert, sector-specific knowledge as well as language skills. This means that businesses can call on Tomedes to support them with their cross-border legal work, international marketing and SEO work, website translation and localisation, medical translation and more.
As CEO, Ofer continues to lead Tomedes according to his original vision of providing cost-effective, high-quality translation services for business customers. He leads a global team, with hubs in the United States, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as a network of translators built up to meet a huge range of language pairing needs.
How did you get started in this business?
I worked in several roles where I saw a need for accessible, reliable business translation services, but there wasn’t an affordable solution available that delivered the necessary combination of quality, price, and decent turnaround times. As such, I decided to create the ideal solution myself.
I dived headfirst into learning everything I could about the language industry and what was involved in providing professional translation services. The more I learned, the more I realized what an opportunity there was.
So, back in 2007, I founded Tomedes, to provide precisely the kind of fast, affordable, high-quality B2B translation service that was missing from the market.
How do you make money?
Tomedes works with clients around the world. We provide translation services as our core business, including a range of specialisms, such as medical and marketing translation. We also provide a whole range of other language services, from localization to interpretation. In recent years, we’ve also expanded to provide services such as multilingual customer care. All of our services center around the provision of affordable, first-class language expertise.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I was a one-man-band initially and so I started off the business using a very lean model. That’s something that’s stuck with us over the years, actually – that lean-approach. It’s a key part of how we can provide such affordable services to our clients.
It took around three years before the business turned a profit. That was an exciting moment. Although I still remember the thrill of my first online order, which was worth about $19 – that was an exciting moment too!
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Starting out on my own, I had to take responsibility for keeping myself motivated. That was tough at times.
For example, I had to make dozens of cold calls to land my first few clients. There were certainly moments when doubt crept in during that process, but I reminded myself of the value of persistence. And that persistence paid off.
How did you get your first customer?
By making a LOT of phone calls!
I started out by focusing on fulfilling quite a niche translation needs – in particular, legal translation. I approached law firms and other businesses in the legal sector, while at the same time networking extensively to build up a team of suitably qualified and skilled translators. I not only needed the right language pairings to suit the businesses I was approaching but translators with extensive legal knowledge. With that network in place, it was simply a question of persisting with cold-calling relevant companies.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
A key part of our marketing strategy focuses on producing high-quality content. We direct it to different industry stakeholders, so translation vendors, translation consumers, and so forth. We research their needs and produce a wide range of content to meet those needs.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
The toughest decisions are always the human-related ones. The decisions around who to hire or having to let someone go. That’s something we’ve had to deal with in the past. Thankfully it’s not something that’s an issue these days.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Success is a loosely defined term! Everyone understands it slightly differently. I believe the success of Tomedes is down to a combination of persistence, curiosity, flexibility, and innovation. We’re always willing to experiment and try new approaches. That dynamism is at the heart of the company.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I don’t think I could pick one single moment! For me, satisfaction comes from a combination of small accomplishments. Most of those relate to teamwork – it’s what we achieve together. When you hit a challenging milestone as part of a close-knit team, that’s a really satisfying moment. It’s a shared satisfaction, which makes it all the sweeter.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I’m excited by the opportunities and the constant changes that the language industry presents. There are always new technologies coming along that have plenty of disruption potential. The scalability of the business is also very exciting. So in the future, we’ll continue to innovate and to look at all that those opportunities have to offer, to see how we can shape language services to continue meeting the evolving needs of our clients around the globe.
What business books have inspired you?
I found No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings very inspiring – it’s packed with insightful takeaways. Robert Iger’s The Ride of a Lifetime is also really good.
In relation to using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to guide tough business decisions and set appropriate goals, I would definitely recommend John Doerr’s Measure What Matters. That’s a book that I found to be particularly inspirational.
And Made in America by Sam Walton is great too. Reading about somebody else’s experiences in business and management can produce some fascinating insights.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I think I would advise my younger self not to get too wrapped up in over-planning. Obviously, it’s good to have long-term goals, but when you’re starting a business you have to accept that things can change quite rapidly, so there are times when you need to flex and pivot the company fast. Rigid planning can get in the way of this.
I would also advise my younger self to trust his gut instincts. Having the confidence to make decisions and see them through is an important part of running your own business, whether it’s in the language sector or any other industry.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Absolutely – I would be delighted to. People can contact me via LinkedIn to discuss mentorship opportunities.