To be, or not to be an MLV - localization vendor's pickle


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Marek Makosiej
August 14, 2018

To be, or not to be an MLV - localization vendor's pickle


You start as a Polish translation freelancer and the things start to develop to the point where you can't manage all incoming projects. So, you set up a team or a Single Language Vendor (SLV) company to cover your clients' needs. If things go the way you planned, you develop successful relationships with your clients and you reach your goals.

Your happy clients start asking you not only for the target language of your core focus they’ve been ordering so far but also for other languages. And so the story goes to the point where you, as an RLV start seeing the need for growing further to a Multi-Language Vendor stage. 

And this is when the dilemma kicks in.

The temptation is as high as the risk. On the one hand, you want to meet your clients’ requirements. 

On the other hand, you may not be actually prepared in terms of know-how resources and processes.

For some time you’ve seen it coming, but you kept your focus on your single target language as this was honest with yourself and your clients. Business wise, your whole company image is built around your expertise in that one particular language, just as you build your credibility around certain fields of expertise, like Pro-Audio, Video, Broadcasting, Music Technology, Sports Technology, Fintech and other, to name only a few.



And suddenly you would have to deny to some extent that what you were saying about a Single Language Vendor being the best choice compared to a Multi-Language Vendor was not really final. That e.g. a Polish translation SLV is a really great choice but in certain situations, a Regional Language Vendor may be better and the same goes for being an MLV.

To the point, though: to be(come) or not to be(come) an MLV? That is a question...

And there is no easy answer. 

Not long ago, I spoke with a CEO of one of the leading European Multi-Language Vendor LSPs. We were discussing different topics in general, but the discussion went the way I didn’t quite expect. When they were asking me certain questions regarding what the work of a Single Language Vendor looks like, I thought that he just wanted to know how we work, to know if we were a good fit for their requirements. But actually, that was not the case. “I want to set up an in-house team of translators for Dutch and act as an SLV for Dutch”. My first reaction was, “But you are an MLV already. You cannot be an MLV and an SLV at the same time.” We had a great chat and some good laughs over that really important matter and then it occurred to me how simple but smart that solution was. 

It was fair to the potential Single Language Vendor's clients and actually gave some of them an added value (some of the clients think the in-house resources can be controlled more effectively, but that’s the topic for another long article, really), and, at the same time, allowed the company to keep its credibility across both SLV and MLV profiles. It’s even more interesting if you notice that the situation was kind of reversed – that the company was not “upgrading” but “downgrading” or perhaps it’s better to call it “sidegrading” – after all, they didn’t want to quit their Multi-Language Vendor operations.

So, to become a Multi-Language Vendor or not actually remains an open question. It all boils down to two things: whether it is what you intended your business to become and whether your clients need that. 
The most fundamental thing in this is integrity. You can build on your SLV or RLV reputation and, at the same time, be responsive to the client’s changing needs by covering not only the single language or several regional languages you have provided them with so far, but expanding your pool to the other languages.

After all, what’s better than keeping your existing clients happy, your potential clients impressed and your business relying on its long-term foundation but growing at the same time?