Name: Luigi Koechlin.
Global Voices Ltd.
The head office is in the Stirling Innovation Park and we have other offices in Denmark, Italy, France and Germany.
We employ 15 staff from six different countries and also have a database of more than 3000 specialist linguists covering a wide range of industry sectors.
When was it founded? 2005.
What does it produce, what service does it offer?
Interpretation and translation services, either face to face or online, in 140 languages.
To whom does it sell?
We cover a wide range of industry sectors ranging from life science, manufacturing and legal to public sector organisations such as the NHS. Our clients come from throughout the UK and mainland Europe.
What is its turnover?
We have just recorded a record year with turnover reaching £1.1 million and net profit increasing by 62%, to £200,000.
Why did you take the plunge?
A number of factors came together at one time. I had just completed my Masters degree in Entrepreneurship at Stirling University and was eager to put theory into practice.
My entire family in Peru are all self-employed and I was brought up in an entrepreneurial culture. Being my own boss was a natural step for me and I had already had some success with other ventures. I had also met my future wife in Scotland so the country became an even more attractive place to live and work.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I travelled extensively throughout my late teens and early 20s working in various management roles in prestigious hotels in Asia and Europe, like the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong and came to the UK in 1997 to study for a Business degree at Plymouth University in between travels. During my undergraduate days in Plymouth I won the Whitbread Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for presenting the most innovative business concept to a panel of experts.
My idea involved a table to table phone system for customers in bars to chat to each other – it was a bit like a forerunner to speed dating.
Despite winning the award I never saw my ideas implemented.
Around the same time as setting up Global Voices I also co-founded a company, Team Talk International, which produces language and cultural guides for sports fans travelling around the world. I sold my share to my co-founder in 2006. Setting up a translation and interpretation company seemed to be the next logical step in my career.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
Raising money from others was an alien concept to me and our family mantra was always, "if you can't do it yourself, don't do it". Global Voices was entirely self funded.
However, it amazes me in this country how much support there is to people wanting to start up in business and I did, and still do, get invaluable advice and help from Scottish Enterprise.
What was your biggest break?
The NHS is a particularly good source of business for us and we have worked hard at developing relationships in the public sector. A year after setting up we became the main supplier of language services for an NHS Trust, which has provided an increasing flow of business ever since. There is currently a growing demand for Eastern European interpreters.
What was your worst moment?
There is no one moment, but it is a consistent disappointment when I read public sector tender documents and I see the lowly weighting given to innovation, usually about 5%. How are we ever going to encourage new thinking when it is not apparently valued?
What are your ambitions?
We have ambitious growth plans and our short-term aim is to organically double turnover next year to £2m.
We also intend to open a new office in Switzerland to target the pharmaceutical and bio-tech sectors.
What do you enjoy most about running the business?
Every day I have the chance to be creative, running the business "bigger, faster, better" whether related to internal processes or in the way we deliver services.
What do you least enjoy?
Credit control can be the most awkward issue.
In some European countries there is not exactly a culture of prompt payment.
What are your top priorities for the business?
We have a new online service, Lingo Connect, which we are hoping to launch in the autumn, We believe this will provide savings to organisations that regularly use translation and interpretation services.
We want to get the office in Switzerland up and running before the end of this year and we will also be looking for new staff to help grow our business interests in France, Germany and Denmark.
What could the Westminster or Scottish Government do that would most help?
Unless we are able to upgrade to faster broadband, our technology will remain stagnant and that will mean we will not be able to compete with most other European countries who have already upgraded to faster systems.
Consequently, they have a competitive edge for the delivery of goods and services in a more efficient and economical manner.
I also believe that people in this country suffer from a fear of failure and more needs to be done to encourage self-employment.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned?
Business is a marathon not a sprint and I have to curb my natural enthusiasm for ploughing headlong into something without looking at the overall strategy behind decisions.
How do you relax?
Tennis is my great escape from my business and the courts are where I truly switch off.
You don't get enough time between points for your mind to wander back to business.
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