Making it in the UK: Jurga Zilinskiene
Jurga Zilinskiene explains her experience of starting up a business after moving to the UK
The prospect of moving to UK may be daunting to many foreign entrepreneurs. But not to Jurga Zilinskiene, Managing Director of Today Translations Ltd. At the tender age of 28, she’s at the helm of one of the most successful translation companies in the country.
The UK is just the last stage in the journey of the Lithuanian national, who ran her own shop whilst still at school and traded clothes in United Arab Emirates at the age of 16. But for Jurga, doing business in Vilnius, Dubai and London has one thing in common: it’s all about understanding local cultures, exploiting opportunities and creating the right network of contacts.
“During my first trade mission to the United Arab Emirates, I was struck by the vital importance of language and this was the spark which later inspired me to establish my translation company.”
“I was so excited about business opportunities abroad after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” she recalls, “but my success could so easily have turned into failure if it was not for my multilingual skills and the help of a talented Arabic/Russian speaker who accompanied me during my trips to the UAE.”
She admits that UK was just the perfect place to set up her translation business: an economic powerhouse and a gateway to both USA and mainland Europe, a fact that is regarded upon positively by American and Middle East clients.
The winner of the 2003 Shell Live WIREs award also emphasises the importance of understanding the cultural quirks of different countries when it comes to helping UK businesses get their message through.
“Our mission is far more comprehensive than just providing translations. Languages are just one side of the equation. If you trade with Japanese executives, for example, you should spend several moments observing their business cards and expect to be grilled with questions about your family, income and past achievements.
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“The fact that Japanese executives want to be fully knowledgeable about your personal past and that of your company before committing themselves into a lasting relationship is very important, for example, when a UK company is crafting a corporate brochure to the Japanese market,” she adds.
Jurga recalls the 4-year-old journey at the helm of Today Translations as unfolding business opportunities rather than overcoming obstacles. She considers that having a multilingual office and a network of over 1,500 linguists is a distinctive asset in her business.
“For example, to complete a piece of work for an international aviation company based in the States, we used 26 linguists with expertise in IT, marketing, legal and engineering to translate manuals, contracts and marketing material from English into German. Without the right team of experts, we would have struggled to provide an exceptional service”.
But the lion’s share of setting up a successful company in UK, she admits, lies upon establishing a strong legal framework regarding suppliers and customers.
“In the last decade, the demand for translations and other multilingual services has rocketed. But this would mean nothing to us if we didn’t have a rigorous ongoing assessment of our linguists and a clear service level agreement when it comes to our clients “. With an eye on the future, Jurga believes the winners will be those businesses that give their customers the best experience either face-to-face or online in their local languages.
“We can all remember occasions when we have had a bad experience with a supplier, be it a nurse at the hospital or the poor attitude of a waiter in a 5 star restaurant. But recalling occasions when we have perhaps bought something and felt it was a wonderful experience may be less easy”.
As far as UK is concerned, she considers it heaven when compared to other places: “I must admit that setting up a business here is far easier than in countries like Russia or even Lithuania. The trade organisations are very helpful, bureaucracy is lighter and information is literally at your fingertips.”
She also points out that being an immigrant, far from presenting an obstacle, has brought her a distinctive asset in her line of business. “I myself never suffered any sort of discrimination whatsoever. Perhaps because we are all multilingual, our British customers tend to look upon us as a company that understands the needs and expectations of their foreign customers”.
While Jurga can’t still find a panacea for succeeding in UK, she is keen to point out that having one’s homework done and a clear business strategy are halfway through it.
“I don’t think that being British or a foreigner is an issue at all. If you have detected a niche in the market and are unafraid of taking risks, then probably success will be knocking your door one of these days .”