Dancing in the lion’s den – Kevin Lossner

See the original post on Kevin Lossner’s Translation Tribulations blog.

Dancing in the lion’s den

By now I suppose most of us have read or heard about the arrogance of Lionbridge and its Vice President of World Wide Vendor & Supply Chain Management, Didier Hélin, whose name appeared at the bottom of a ransom note sent to the company’s “partners”, which demanded a 5% cut in fees for future work. Though there is no hard evidence presently available to confirm rumors that the company is in the process of merging with a well-know organized crime family as a means of improving its organizational discipline, this letter does at least indicate that the extortionist traditions of such families are not unappreciated by senior management at the Big L.

I must admit to feeling a bit left out, not having received an invitation to the discount party. In this Age of AIDS, I am a bit careful in the choice of my associates, and I never felt the urge to catch what Lionbridge has been so generously passing around in our professional circles, though I’ve seen the drill with similar organizations. Nonetheless, the wealth of responses to the company’s initiative to increase the bottom line by flogging the bottoms of its vendors harder has been commented upon widely in our circles. Interesting reading can be found

and many other places. The response triggered by Mr. Helin’s brilliant missive has led to the coining of a lovely new word, crowdscorning, which is sort of like the shunning practiced by the Mennonites in my old home in Scio, Oregon (population less than I could pack in my house for a party if we’re all really good friends) and elsewhere but which has the scope one would expect in this global age. I expect Didier Hélin will become the new poster child for No Peanuts, and he and other Lionbridge executives will be greeted eagerly at industry events by others hoping to learn what other measures are required by a company that claims to have achieved record profits in the past quarter.

None of this is new, really. Those accustomed to dealing with the supply chain etiquette of many large companies will recognize the uncouth, predatory practices that are encouraged in this environment. That is perhaps not universally the case, but it is close enough to universal that it is a good working premise when dealing with organizations like the top volume LSPs. You might as well dance in the lion’s den, but don’t count on coming out of it as well as Daniel.

My experiences in dealing with LSPs are largely positive. In thousands of interactions over the past decade, I can probably still count the issues of concern on my fingers and have a good number left over. This is in part due to careful screening of my agency partners, a selection process which includes a very conscious preference for smaller, specialized agencies or at least SMEs with a very personal touch. They don’t spam me with cattle call project “inquiries” sent to hundreds of translators, they don’t play twist-my-arm-to-save-a-penny games, but they do work with me rather often as real partners to get jobs done, deliver some real value and retain our dignity while we do it. These are the LSPs who deserve our best efforts and support. For all the talk of “consolidation” as the big fish try to swallow each other and encourage the little ones to feed on their excrement, I believe that disciplined, well-focused small LSPs have a bright future. For all the mindless babble about our collective future as post-editors of MT-spew, I know that there will always be room at the top for real translators and LSPs able to do real, crafted translations for a clientele that not only cares about quality but needs it as well.

One Response to Dancing in the lion’s den – Kevin Lossner

  1. Andy Bell says:

    Hi Kevin, Great posting and I agree with pretty much all you say. Nb. I think I have to put my hands up to “crowdscorning”.
    Andy Bell

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