Interview Tim Entre Les Lignes
3:45PM Mar 15, 2021
I'm going to just click Record just to make sure. I always used to do recording devices, because I've had this problem before where I recorded it on one. And for some reason, it just didn't pick up the sound. And then we had to do this again. So two is better than one. Great. So thanks for joining me, Tim. So we're gonna kind of go through the history of the company from the early days through to today and talk a little bit about the future as well. So let's start with the the early days. So before 2011, which is when you you set up your company, you worked in advertising. So how did you make the transition from working in advertising to working in translation? And Was this an easy transition?
So I think I first need to tell you that I hold a master's degree in translation. So it was rather a weird that well, not a weird step. But like an uncommon start of my career, just starting advertising and not in translation, it would have been more logical to start off as a translator. But I'll already tell you that after my master's degree, I was so fed up with translation. And I didn't want to do it anymore. And I thought I would fit better in like, and more lively environments with a lot of interaction. And then very, I accident, I got a job offer in an advertising agency. And I was actually very attracted by the glitz and glamour of the advertising world. And that they get like a really high paced, professional environments. And actually, that's where we come to. I completely burnt out in that little world. And it made me think about what I wanted to do with my life, basically. So I took a few months off. And, you know, I had like a serious, serious breakdown. And it made me think it made me question actually, what are your skills? And weirdly enough, I had to think, like, it was kind of a difficult exercise for me to come to the conclusion. Well, I'm an MS skilled translator. So you might want to translate. And that's how it happens. I was just like, so one of the vendors of our advertising agency while our advertising agency I was working for and translated our brochures for certain clients. And so I started asking him questions about how that goes and how he made his money. And that's basically how I ended up in that world.
Okay, great. So you kind of went from studying translation working in advertising, but then finding your place, I guess in translation.
Right. I can the very beginning. I don't know if maybe you can mute or I don't know, just oh, this is this is perfect. Yes, so from studying translation to advertising and where I had a coordination like, like a smell management function of coordinating, like a client to translating again, actually, my main goal was like after these three years of hectic working and hypebeast working was like, okay, just give me some rest in peace. I just want to do something by myself. And actually, that's worked really great. I discovered I loved working just in peace, like not with a million things going on.
Yeah. So when you when you did this, were you working as a freelancer at the time.
I was working as a freelancer from day one. So I never worked in like, I was never a translator in an agency or whatever. So I was directly my own. Us, let's say and, and ultimately, I immediately worked under the name of Australia, so
great. So when you were working as a freelancer, I guess working solo quite a lot of the time. What was this time like for you? And when and why did you decide to grow and set up and bring other people into your business?
was a very exciting time. I really loved like, you know, the idea of making my own money with just my computer. It was still, you know, it was pretty, I wouldn't say revolutionary but like, a lot of people are like, what are you working on? And you? So you, you know, like, I felt very privileged in my work life balance because I could just work from home. And I really, really loved it like that dynamic. And it made me super proud of myself that I could just like sell my, my talent, let's say, my service. And when did I decide to bring people in? It was actually very quickly. But it wasn't like it wasn't. It wasn't a strategic choice. It was more like my clients started to ask me like, Hey, can you also provide like other types of translations in other languages? And so I was just, I knew some people in the business like in the translation world, and I was just like, Hey, can you do this for me? And then I would just like, take a super smart, like a ridiculous condition. And yeah, so that's kind of how it, how it went and how it kept growing. And how I grew my my team, which I didn't really see as a team in the past. It was just like, okay, I'll just, you know, it was a service to my clients. It was just like, Hey, I'll do this. And I completely under saw that, sir. For years. But it was fun. So, yeah,
so it sounds like it was quite natural and fluid, it wasn't like something that you intentionally set out to do. It just happened quite naturally.
It was totally naturally organic. I never plan to have a business. I don't you know, like, I don't see myself went overboard. I didn't see myself as a business person. Now that has changed after 10 years. But I never thought about setting up a structure. It was just like how I'm just playing around, just, you know, doing organising stuff to, to please my clients that saw
So just thinking about that first year, when you set up on tooling, what did that first year look like? And what are some of the most memorable moments that you remember from those very early days?
Wow. memorable moments like now top of mind, I can, it was very exhilarating, actually. Because you work with deadlines. And you know, as a translator, you need to be perfectionist, everything needs to be pristine, like no errors are allowed. So I can really recall the exhilaration like you say that, like the adrenaline that like those first assignments gave to me. You know, like just the idea that people pay for your work, basically. And that transaction was very gratifying for me. So it was kind of being at the service of people. There was like, and then getting paid for it. It's like, Oh, great. Yeah. And I remember, you know, sometimes working possibility blinds, and I took probably all the jobs I could get. But it was fun. You know, I was grateful to have a job. Like I was grateful to have work. And I would work on weekends. And I think that's how I just how I started growing by accepting so much and being giving my full self to my clients. Being very available, that was my first way to penetrate the market, basically.
Okay, great. Yeah. I mean, the passion when the passion is there, it doesn't always feel like work. Does it?
Know exactly. So? Yeah.
Great. And so looking over the 10 years of the business, how much do you think the business has changed? Or maybe not so much change but just evolved in these 10 years? But also, do you think that the values have stayed the same throughout?
Well, for a very long time, I considered myself as a solo up from there, just working with freelancers out of the hospital, I never considered them as being, you know, like, I never presented them as being my team. Like for people I was still on Philomena is equal team. So so the business has evolved tremendously. It's only since maybe 2015 or 16, maybe 15 that I really started also, let's say that I really started implementing a structure and workflows in operations. And so yes, I mean, so you have a double question, right? Are the values the values stay the same? And how much did it change? So we changed tremendously from a solo printer business to more than age and multiple people business with you know, like 400 freelancers pool Freelancer is behind and then in the house we are for now. And then the value is I think, you know, I always worked according to my own values, which are obviously injected into the core values of the team now, but the more people we get, the more values that are added, or like really morphed into some kind of, you know, like, they create new Dynamics, so, they kind of morph, but I think we're all about the same things and being of service to our people. And, you know, to be kind to be super. Yeah, we want to help, like we want to go, we all want to go to, to any length to help our, our clients. It's really about it's really around service, it's really service service service service service, and treating our clients as best as we can. And I've always done that. And that's like, a hard thing. Like, I can't accept anything less than that from, from my people. And, and it makes us happy. Yeah,
I think. Yeah, no, it's great. It's a great answer. And I suppose as the team grows, you're finding people that shared similar values as well. So those always stay consistent. Absolutely. Right. So as a business today, what do you think sets your sets, unschooling, apart from other translation agencies, like what makes you maybe a little bit unique, a little bit special, than then all the other competitors out there?
It's very simple, we don't commoditize translations, we have a very artistic view on our work. And we, like, literally, we think about what we do, it can sound obvious, and potentials towards maybe other agencies, and I don't want to like, I'm not throwing shade, I never want to do that. But just the thing is, the market is extremely under price pressure. And we take that, let's not talk about that in the article, I want to say is I want to stay positive. So I, you know, we we really consult our clients and like, the clients may ask, like, I need, I need this, I need a transit I need I need something to be proud Are you can you just revise this, we always ask the client, why they need it? Like what is? What is the context? like where is their? Where is their company at work today want to evolve? What do they have in mind? You know, we are we are a part of a very big picture. And we put everything into context, it means that almost every project is super made to measure, you know, like, we want to know, what do you what are you going to use it for? Where will it be published? Will it be published? On what medium? Who wrote it? Like, you know, just like copywriters, we tried to put everything into a larger context. And so we can really talk to an audience, because very often translation is seen as something that is done at the end of the chain, which can be true, but it's also the start of a new chain, and we want to be at the start of that new chain. You know, I think it's an opening to new markets. So you don't want to put like, your least educated team member talking to a whole new market. No, you need to, you know, present yourself in a very good way and talk the language of your target market. And that's why we take our job seriously because we are convinced it is the start of new opportunities for a brand or for a company. So we take that very seriously. And yeah, and we just we just don't try to compete with Google Translate and like other machine. You know, we were more creative industry we grew from a marketing and advertising core to now you know, like being a multilingual copywriting agency. I call it multilingual copywriting because we really rewrite the text. So, yeah, I think we really dare to say that we, you know, where other agencies say like, hey, how, when they get the feedback, like you didn't read on like this, they will say, well, that's preferential and we will say this, oh, you don't like it? Let's, let's, let's go. Let's go further until you like it, you know, it's not like, oh, but that's a synonym? No, we try to understand the preferences of the clients and work towards these preferences. And that's, that's the hardest thing in our business because it's like creating a logo or designing something is It's not good or bad, it's just beautiful or ugly. It's like me.
So I guess client feedback is super important in your in your business.
super important. And we also, you know, like we educate our clients by saying that they buy, you know, we will never say like, Hey, we're going to give you something, you know, it's going to be amazing. And we're the best No, we just we, you know, we just tell the clients how things work. And we're like, okay, language is super subjective, and it will take a long time before we are completely aligned, you know, and then we help them elaborating a brand voice or an avatar. So we can we can work towards a certain tone of voice and tone of voice is the most difficult thing there is in our in our business, you know, because, first of all, the client is not able to describe it. So we help them how to describe it, and how to pull metrics. So we can share it with our team so they can work working towards something that is workable, I don't know if I'm inferior.
No, very clear. Absolutely. You talk a lot about the you know, the client and how important the client is, are there any particular type of client that you tend to work more with? And does that give you a bit of a competitive edge maybe working with similar clients?
Yeah, we feel the best with marketing and advertising people for the simple fact that I was basically like, born in there with my first job. And then we've been partners of many, many advertising agencies. So we really know how brands work, what they need, and how sensitive their content is, it's not the most interesting, they're not the most interesting clients in terms of volume. And that's why other agencies are not so hungry for creative clients, because they feel like they only have like small Jackson i o and about page, but we know that there is the value. And it's super difficult to like to create the same. Like, if you're a copywriter, really good English text, you're just going to translate it to Dutch, for example, well, then you have a translation, you also need a copyrighted text. So we will elevate that. And we know that other agencies, they don't have the processes to get there, because they compete on price and we don't compete on price, we compete on value. So and we know that most people in advertising marketing, they value, that kind of work, because it's creative work. And so that's a big, blue ocean for us, because there's not a lot of creative transition agencies.
It's an interesting niche, then that you kind of carved yourselves that.
It's a very interesting niche. I really call it multilingual copywriting for. You can also call it localization. And just, you know, I choose to choose another term is interesting. It's also very tricky. It's a tricky business because you talk about this. And so it's, it's good. It's, it's, it's very interesting, or interesting.
Right? Okay, so we've talked a little bit about the early days, and then we talked about unschooling as it is today. But I think it's important to kind of like celebrate the 10 year anniversary, it's quite a big milestone, and also take the time to reflect a little bit on the 10 years. And I'm sure as you've probably experienced in 10 years, all businesses go through ups and downs, and highs and lows. It's just part of the journey, isn't it? So reflecting on the 10 years, what has been one of your most memorable up, or your most memorable high, and maybe one of the most challenging downs that you've been through and that you've managed to overcome?
Why the highs have been so many highs, it's it's so difficult to answer, because I would, but the thing is, the highs are always get higher, you know, like, but like, big milestones for me. Were, for example, my first employee, her name is Ruby. She's she doesn't work for us anymore. She chose to go into another direction, but that was like a very big step. Or, well, my very first client basically, which was a huge thing, my first employee and then I would say that the most beautiful accomplishment amongst my I would say first my team that I'm super proud of, like now, Olivia cannon, Sophie The in house team, the way they work together makes me super proud. And then in the client area is working for Devo, which is like really a Belgian institution, like a Belgian institution, not seeing this, right. It's like I can Belgian fashion and design, which is one of my passions, and to be able to work for such a brand. And to handle their languages, like all their language is across the globe, is a super, super, super big honour. So yeah, it gives me a sense of accomplishment to, to work for, for denovo. But also for canals also for video, which is like, you know, the museum and at some prestige, and it's, I don't know, maybe it sounds a little shallow, I don't know. But it just, it makes me proud to be able to work for like big Belgian names, let's say, that are also aligned with our values of craftsmanship, of respect for the people who make the stuff, design art. And then also, that the people we work with, we work with people we like to work with, because it's a really great brand, but we treat with silly people, we wouldn't be working with them. I'm sure. We just can't, because I want to have nice days. So. So I don't know, like, I'm sorry, I gave you a lot of answers. But I think also the, maybe if I think it through, it's like, I can really say we work with people we love to work with amongst our clients. And it's such a luxury. But we chose to have this luxury. And it makes us very independent, because I know that if there is no respect from the other side that can be as big as Mars, we will not continue to work with them. Because we value our own well being more than then prestige. So I think that's even bigger. I think that's the biggest, the biggest accomplishment to create such a culture. Like people send clients first, but actually, it's not true. It's like reverse and then we can serve you better. Something like that.
Yeah, for sure. I understand. Okay, that's a really good answer. I'm sure. We can take some great information from there. So if you could kind of go back those 10 years and give yourself some advice, you know, what advice would you give your younger self knowing what you know, from from these last 10 years?
Yeah, that's an I saw that question that I loved it, I would just say, you can do this, you have everything it takes to get there.
Good. I love that. Um, so it's all about confidence, isn't it in those early days?
Yeah, great. Okay. And so what do you think is the future of translation? And most importantly, what kind of things should we leave in the past and focus on improving in the future when it comes to translations? Or, as you say, you know, multilingual, or localization, however people call it? Where do you see the future of this industry?
I mean, it's gonna destroy the industry in general.
Yeah, the industry and also, like, kind of the tactics that are being employed, you know, what do you think we should leave in the past and focus improve in the future? You know, as the industry evolves?
I think the industry is really like splitting up, I think, you know, they are, you know, there is of course, like all the advantages of machine translation and Google Translate and depot, etc, that I am a big fan of, you know, they're super helpful, they can be super helpful for certain, you know, kinds of information. All depends on the purpose and you know, like, what you need it for and automatic optimised translation can be extremely helpful for certain for certain goals. So I think that's, that's like one that's like one evolution. The commoditized translation, you know, where everything is a machine. And then there is the content, like the future of translation where we are closer to the people who create content, and you do copyright and that's where we are. That's why we have such you know, like, why we are so close to copy writers, content creators. That's why we know We're talking about that. Like, the more the, you know, like the part where you need a human being to touch another human being, in your words, a machine can do that or not yet. I don't know, maybe they will in the future, then. I don't know. But I think, you know, I sometimes I wrote down somewhere today or yesterday, like translation is only a part of the process, you know, and we use translation, but we add many layers, we translate, and then we copy edits, and then you know, until it becomes a transcreation, or multilingual company, so for me, translation is just like a layer of a multi layer its mission. If you want to, if you want to move, if you want to touch an audience. I don't know if this is an answer to your question. But so yeah, that's like the creative. The creative future of translation where there is really this Yeah, this separation between the commoditized and the human creative? copywriting? I don't
know, I think it makes sense. It's like the industry is kind of splitting. And there's like different specialisms in each in each one.
Yeah. And also, you know, like, I mean, every advertiser and marketer knows that when you put your advert, like your ad in Google Translate, it doesn't work, you know, like, like, short copy ads, even even social media captions. It requires another approach, it's requires something else. And oh, what's the value of can you translate 10? words for me? Yeah, I can, but can we talk about it first, you know, it requires another approach, you need to know what the goal is. Otherwise, it won't work. So that's how I see. Absolutely.
Okay. And our final question for this interview. So looking at the future, where do you think? Or where do you see on selling in the next 10 years, where is where where you plan on going next.
So, we will definitely go in the same direction that we are heading to now. Like marketing advertising will be our main focus. You know, being the multilingual partner of brands.
I think we're we're on our way to become like, a reference in that area, because it's so niche. So there's not a lot of competitors. There's not a lot of competitors, who are who have you know, we we combined translators, and copywriters, which gives us a lot of fireworks. And so in 10 years, I, you know, I would like to be at sunset silly, but, you know, to have acquired a lot of knowledge about this market and to, to give even better services to our clients on this level to have developed even better workflows and whatever, but I yeah, and this is a really tough question, actually, I should have thought about it more thoroughly. But there is also something else that is in the making. And it's like, you know, I live in Berlin, ultimately, New Belgium, and we are all a little bit across the city across the globe, and it's across Europe. And there is definitely, like, a project to do the same in Berlin with alternative media and to, you know, in Belgium, we are like crossing. We are like building bridges, cultural bridges between the different culture within Belgium and within Europe. And there is a project that we will be working on to do the same for the German culture, building bridges with other countries in Europe, or in the world, with the same approach of advertising, marketing, doing something, you know, completely different than the other agencies do. Like not just like straightforward translation between like creative, creating creative, multilingual contents. answer to your question, I
think so I think it's a good answer. Yeah, for sure. It shows kind of the vision, doesn't it?
Right. Okay. Well, I think that's that's the end of our questions, unless there was something that you wanted to add that you haven't expressed in, in this interview.
I think we've covered a lot.
I think you have
a lot to go with. Yeah.
So I think we You're not free to question that.
We are fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.
Yeah, thank you for your time.
Great, thank you. Okay, so we'll pass this all on to Meredith now and she can start writing the beautiful article with, with the other interviewees as well.
Cool. Great. Well, thank you again and have a good rest of your afternoon.
Thank you. You too.