How To Build Client Relationships – Annemarie Rutz From Milengo

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Building client relationships starts with delivering projects on time. But the value we deliver as localization professionals goes far beyond that. Find out how to go further in this interview with Annemarie Rutz from Milengo.


Andrej Zito 

Annemarie, welcome to the podcast.

Annemarie Rutz 

Thank you. Hello.

Andrej Zito 

So, please tell us for starters, where are you joining us from?

Annemarie Rutz 

I’m in Berlin, Germany.

Andrej Zito 

How come you are in Berlin? Germany?

Annemarie Rutz 

That’s where I live.

Andrej Zito 

Where you born in Germany?

Annemarie Rutz 

Yes, yes.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. And you currently work for Milengo. Am I saying this right?

Annemarie Rutz 

Yes. My Milengo. That’s right.

Andrej Zito 

Do your clients have some issues pronouncing it or not really?

Annemarie Rutz 

Not that I know off? No.

Andrej Zito 

Does it have anything to do with Millennium or Millennials or?

Annemarie Rutz 

Not really. I don’t think I wasn’t involved in picking the name. And I to be honest, I never questioned it. I just know that there’s I think there’s another LSP, our company working with languages that that’s called My Lingo. So, there has been some confusing there. But you know, I’m not sure what’s the origin of the name. Sorry.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. So how did you get into a localization? That’s the usual kickoff question that I have for everyone. So take it take us back to the, to your early beginnings.

Annemarie Rutz 

Well, I studied linguistics, and when I was studying, I didn’t really have a very clear idea of where I was going professionally. I, to be honest, I never even considered the language industry, or I wasn’t aware of the job opportunities there. And then, towards the end of my studies, I ended up in doing an internship with Skrivanek, which is a language service.

Andrej Zito 

On your profile, because I was checking your profile just now, but I didn’t see this. But yeah, I was also working for Scrivener. Oh, you were? Czech Republic? Yeah.

Annemarie Rutz 

Yeah. So I was working here in Berlin at the Berlin office as a sales and marketing intern. And that was only for six months, so to you know, in order to get some work experience, and to Yeah. And then I still had to finish my studies. And after what I applied for my first real job, pretty much across all industries or across, you know, all the opportunities that there were for someone with my degree, and then I ended up again, in a small translation agency, it was like a really, really small place only, I think, four or five employees, also here in Berlin. And I worked there for four years, and I learned a lot, like in a small agency like that you learn a lot, because you have to take care of the, yeah, you have to do everything, exactly, to to have to take care of the whole process. And that was really, really useful for for my later career, because I got a glimpse of all the different aspects of the job. And then I joined Milengo, which was back then still called Think Global in 2014. And I’ve been working here ever since. So, they rebranded? it was a merger of two different companies into one.

Andrej Zito 

I like when you mentioned that the different roles that you had to take on you know, do you think it’s important for, let’s say, project managers to have the experience working with different I mean that working with different people from different functions? Because that’s what you essentially do as a project manager. But having like a practical experience doing I don’t know, a little bit of engineering, testing, maybe even some small little translations, do you think it’s, it’s, it’s useful? Or?

Annemarie Rutz 

I think it helps a lot. Yeah, it can only help if you have seen different angles of the job, and maybe you understand better the struggles, for example, in a small agency, we didn’t have a vendor management department, we basically did the recruitment ourselves when the need arose. And then we went Googling, or, you know, we went to ProZ.com, our Translators Cafe or whatever, and went looking for translators and negotiating rates and, you know, all the aspects of the job, I think it’s very useful for a project manager to have experienced that.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, of course, it’s useful, because, you know, like, every experience is useful, but do you think it should be sort of mandatory to expose the project managers to other things? Let’s say I’m a new project manager. Sure. And I joined Milengo, Would it be part of your, let’s say, training to expose me to these different things? Or is it just like, okay, like this, you’re going to work with these people, and they do these things, but you don’t actually have a practical experience with that.

Annemarie Rutz 

We do so-called “department hoppings” when people join our company, so they get a dedicated like session with each of the departments so that they get an understanding of what they do. And we have actually seen that sometimes it’s useful to repeat this after a while after they have been on the job for a while because when you first start out, you get so much information, it can be very overwhelming, but after a while, yeah, of course, I mean, whenever there are conflicts, for example, between departments or umm discussions about workflows, I think the only thing, the only way you can resolve them is by getting an understanding what’s the issue? And what are the problems, the day-to-day struggles of the other departments. So, if there’s time for that, I think it’s a great idea.

Andrej Zito 

Going back to your studies, I’m wondering like, what drove you to study linguistics in the first place? Like how did you pick your pick your major and university?

Annemarie Rutz 

An excellent question. I’m, to be honest, it was kind of a gut decision. I actually studied Slavic languages. So I studied Polish and Czech during my university years. And now looking back, I don’t think that was the best decision for me, because most of the people in those language classes at my university were actually people from Poland, or whose parents had come from Poland, who already had a good idea of the language and just needed to learn the writing and stuff. And I was, I think, one of two or three who had no idea about the language. And we struggled a lot, it was very difficult to keep up with the rest. I mean, for me, it was always like, after finishing school, it was like, “Okay, I want to do something languages, because I enjoy that. And I think that’s something I’m good at.” But I wanted to learn new languages that like not one of those that everyone here in Germany speaks like English or French. So I wanted to learn something exotic, something new. But I think I underestimated the difficulty, or also the, how different it is to learn a language in university, as opposed to in school where you have all the time in the world. And you can, you know, you do it pretty much every day for a number of years. And in university. It’s so fast paced, and you have to do so much self studying. So I struggled with that a little bit. And yeah, it was, it was a little bit by chance, I just picked something I thought I was good at. And it was interesting for me, but to be completely honest the years at university, or the content of the studies, ended up not being all that interesting to me, after all. There was a lot of literature also included. And I mean, which is interesting, of course, but I’ve never saw the point of it really like where does it take me? What career does it prepare me for? And only towards the end of my studies? Did I get involved a little bit with computer linguistics. And there I could see, like, like the early machine translation days, or like not the very early days, but it was obviously a very different situation than we have today. And for the first time, I could see “Ah okay, this is actually yeah, this is something really meaningful. And this is going to be really big in the next years.” And it may have been good to catch more of this information. But then I was already so far in my studies that I only like, caught a bit of, but ended up writing my master’s thesis about machine translation. And it quite caught my interest. And I think it Yeah, took me off in the right direction. And I ended up in this industry. And I’m very happy here because I think it’s extremely interesting. And it’s Yeah, connecting across borders. And that’s what I enjoy. Right? It’s a connection between different people and different cultures.

Andrej Zito 

Do you think that the education has evolved or gotten better? In the last years? I mean, like when you get, let’s say, fresh graduates, as I don’t know, either interns or junior employees in your company? Do you feel like they have a better understanding of the industry? And what are the different career opportunities? Or do you think like the, the academic institutions still don’t teach people at say the the reality of the industry?

Annemarie Rutz 

It’s hard to tell. I mean, definitely, at least I think they, for those who study translation, the technology aspect clearly has become stronger. It has to, obviously, but I think still what is missing, I think in all these language studies is the any business aspect like because you need that anywhere you go, if you decide to go work in, in, in any company, you need a basic understanding of business principles. And I can’t really tell I don’t know if that has changed or if it’s incorporated a little bit, but I would definitely find it useful to stress that more. And also, what I missed back then was more orientation or more information of what job profiles are out there in our industry. I had no idea. I mean, maybe I knew, of course, that there are people who translate, right, but I never thought about there being project managers or localization engineers or you know, the whole range of jobs that there are.

Andrej Zito 

That’s exactly the gap that we’re trying to fill. Anyway, our conversation will be actually focused on clients and how to let’s say, lose the client vendor relationships, where you’re just getting kind of no job requests, and then you deliver them. And then then it’s over and you get paid. And then you’re happy, but how to move the relationship to a more sort of like a partnership. So maybe let me ask you why being a vendor, like the vendor in the typical sense, why do you think it’s not enough?

Annemarie Rutz 

I think it has its place in the whole process like delivering, translate files, basically, being on time, and you know, not not not too much chit-chat, in between, just getting the process done has its has its place and has its value. But in the end, the value that we can deliver as experienced localization professionals, goes far beyond that. And yeah, what many companies need or what they can actually make use of is how we can consult them. Because we have seen so many different scenarios, we have collected so much experience with companies of different sizes, in different industries, with different text types, with different requirements, that, yeah, we have something to tell them, we have something to maybe even teach them on how maybe they can spend their money better. And not. Maybe they don’t need that entire material translated to top, high quality two step workflow and spent all their money on that. But maybe there’s a better way to split it. So I think that’s kind of the factor where they, where our clients can benefit from, from the experience we have collected. And on the other hand, for us, of course, it’s a much more enjoyable experience when we’re not just perceived as the service delivery team that just sends over the job when it’s done. But we can actually participate and help them help them do their job better.

Andrej Zito 

Do you think this applies mostly to clients who, let’s say don’t have that much localization experience? Or are we talking in general, like forming this partnership, even if the client has a really deep understanding of the industry,

Annemarie Rutz 

I mean, both can work out great if you if both sides communicate well, and are clear about the mutual requirements, or if the client is clear about their requirements, as we have a client who was very well experienced with localization and knows exactly what they want, that’s great, because then we can have a discussion on a much, much deeper level, even then it’s probably more an exchange on a on a technical level, you know, it’s, it’s like two experts talking to each other. And even then we can still say, maybe we would suggest to do this another way, or they can give us some input, how about we do it that way, and we can find the best solution together. On the other hand, if we have a client who’s very new to the game, it’s great if they are open to hearing what we have to say. It’s not always the case, sometimes they don’t want to hear it. But yeah, I think I think both cases, both cases happen in our day-to-day work, and both cases, have their perks for both parties.

Andrej Zito 

How do you get your clients to the level where they can, I don’t know, trust you or perceive you as the expert. I mean, obviously, like, if they come to you, and you form a business partnership, then I assume that they want something from you that you have. So in a certain way, there is some expectation of expertise. But I think like what we’re talking about, like the relationship, like where it gets to more like an equal level, like where we are, let’s see a team working together towards, you know, building the the best localized products and services for the end customers. So in your perspective, it’s not only about like, Okay, I’m delivering this project, but you care more about like, Okay, how will the end user perceive it? Right? Because that’s the goal of both you and your direct client. So how do we get there? Like, how do how do we start these discussions with the clients? And how do we get them to see us as okay, like, “if I want to talk about localization, or if I want to, I don’t know, go into new markets, or if I want to, I don’t know, try new things. I’m going to go to you. Because I see you as an expert, and not just like a vendor that does translation and review.”

Annemarie Rutz 

I think it’s important to show genuine interest in their problems, basically listen to what their problems are, and then try to try to offer solutions to the problems instead of just trying to sell the services that we have. And I think in the especially in the beginning of a collaboration with a new client, it’s very important that you first of all, listen And then display reliability and show them, “Okay, maybe we have agreed on the first project or first series of project,” and then we live up to our promises, we deliver what we promise. And if something goes wrong, or if something is not as they expect, we listen to their feedback, and we own up to our accountability. So we, we are genuinely interested in improving our performance. So it’s not that we deliver and say, “Okay, here it is now. Go and go and live with it.” But we enter another round of discussion to see, “Where you happy with this? What is it that we could still improve? What didn’t meet your expectations entirely? And what can we do better,” and it’s not only asking them for feedback, but also as on our end measuring our own performance proactively. So we have our own systems, we have our own expectations that we want to live up to. And if we don’t meet them, we share it with them, we tell them, “Look, maybe notice that we were not able to deliver this on time in all cases, or we did not meet our own quality expectations on this project. And these are the steps that we are taking,” I think these are factors that can really build up trust on their end, because they see that we are not just blindly like following their orders or trying to trying to deliver something and hope they are happy with it. But we are at the same time checking ourselves if this is up to our standards, also something that we have collected some good experience with us. If we have a new client who has questions or is like, in the process of picking vendors, and is not sure if we are the right partner for them, we pair them up with some of our long-standing clients from a similar industry. Maybe for them, do you want to talk to an existing customer of ours? Do you want to hear from their perspective, what their experience with us is? So we have seen that this is quite a trust building measure also.

Andrej Zito 

That is interesting. I haven’t heard that before. I think it may be some of the some of the LSPs might even try to prevent that. So that the clients I don’t know, don’t start talking about the rates, if you have like different rates for different clients, but but the I liked this idea, what I’m interested is about because you mentioned this, that you should have your own internal checks. And if you find that something didn’t work out with, you come back to the client kind of like very transparently and say that we messed up this, can you give me like some some example how this would happen? Like how do you catch something after you already deliver? Because like, my assumption would be that you have the processes in place that would actually prevent you from delivering something that’s not good enough, in the first place?

Annemarie Rutz 

Yeah, of course, it’s the ideal scenario. I mean, it happens every now and then that it only it only gets noticed in a following project when someone’s put some mistake in the TM, for example. Or it can also be about like, a general analysis of “did we meet our expected standard turnaround times?” I mean, yeah, you notice this during the process, but then we have we have someone behind that like checking it on a more general basis – how was it in the past quarter? And that’s maybe something that you would address later on with the client. We noticed that we were not able to meet this at all times? How important is this for you? And like what can we do to improve it and things like that?

Andrej Zito 

So far, we were mostly talking about, let’s say, the expertise of us, like, let’s say, LSPs? How does the expertise connect or tied to the business or the of the customers? Like, are you actually trying to proactively understand what they’re trying to achieve? Like their business goals, not just from the localization perspective, but as their company like also like, what is their culture? And try to somehow fit into it so that you I don’t know, build relationships?

Annemarie Rutz 

It’s the ideal. Yes. And I think that’s actually something what I mentioned earlier, the lack of business education in the, in the language, educational format, I think this is a really important aspect because people are I can only speak for myself, but I have seen it with my peers. Also, you don’t learn to think in business terms in school or in university if you study a language. And this is really something we are trying by having internal training programs and workshops with our PM teams and our clients, success managers that they learn to think like their clients think, and they learn to understand what their client’s problems are. And that way, I think you can have much more meaningful conversation with your clients. Of course, it’s also it can also happen at the like, more general level, like adapting to their style of communication, you know, adapting this is, of course, also part of the company culture, right, if they prefer to have presentations in person or versus a Zoom meeting, or, for example, in German, we have the formal address versus the informal address, that’s something you can feel from their communication, and they try to adapt to it. And I think it’s important, because if you try to, if you keep using the informal address, while they are, you know, more like a company where everyone is using the formal one, then it’s weird, and it’s inappropriate, and they feel it and they will may feel uneasy with it, or the other way around, also expressing interest in their end users or customers, I think this is a very important factor because it makes them realize you actually want to help them realize their goals, trying to understand what their KPIs are, things like that, I think there’s still a lot to learn for, for us in our in the way we deliver our services.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned this twice already. So I have some ideas about what you meant by that when you were talking about, you know, the lack of the business education, like the business aspect in our industry. Can you maybe be more specific, let’s say some junior people are listening to us. So what is something that they should I don’t know, look up work or learn? Like, like, what do we mean by basic business understanding?

Annemarie Rutz 

What are the most important KPIs? What are what what can they be like? What what is that my, the person I’m talking to maybe my client? What is their position in the company? Where do they stand? who are maybe? Do they have direct reports? Who are they reporting to? What are the KPIs of the person they are reporting to? I think these questions are very vital to understand what is it that I can actually do to make their life easier? If they like, if budget is the biggest issue at the moment? How can I help them go to their superior superior and say, “Hey, look, I made our localization project so much cheaper, I may, I don’t know, I managed to arrange for another language to be in the package,” whatever it is that their problem is, how can I help them solve it so they can do a good job? And they yeah can, in a way also look good? You know, I think that’s very important. And that’s not something that you necessarily think about when you receive a project request. Or if they asked you how can this be made cheaper in some way or time?

Andrej Zito 

But how do you actually get the information from them? Like, I assume that like asking, like, “Hey, dear client, what what is your KPIs?” Like? Is it like, do you need to? Do you feel like you need to get to a certain point with your relationship with the client first because before sort of before you can start asking these questions, or is it already something that you’re asking, when you’re, let’s say, onboarding the client and trying to understand their business? Like, what is the point where we start going from, “okay, we understand your request, we understand your projects, we can now safely do them. Now, tell me more about how you do your job internally?” Because I feel it like maybe some people, you know, localization, some localization managers might even feel I don’t know, threatened by that.

Annemarie Rutz 

Yeah, this is I think this is a very individual question. I mean, in an ideal world, how I imagined the the ideal partnership between the vendor and the customer would be a situation where you can ask these questions, and both parties feel comfortable talking about it. But obviously, this is not always the case. And in some cases, maybe even the client is not completely aware of what the what the ultimate goal, or the ultimate KPI is. But yeah, I think it in the end, this is it’s our job. And this is mostly, in many cases, not the job of one project manager, but more of the team. On our end, we have the client success manager, who has maybe quarterly business review meetings with them or in the case of a new client, maybe even the business development manager who has talks to them, they get a feeling like how knowledgeable are there? What is their status in the company? How are they in charge of making the decision? Or are they only executing orders? Are they comfortable talking to me about this or not? And if not, maybe then we have to first prove ourselves a little bit and show them we are really here to help you and we want to get to that level with you. So we will show you by working consistently and delivering the quality that you need in the time that you need we show you that we are here for you. And then over time, maybe this relationship develops so I think this is really very, very different from case to case and cannot be answered for everyone the same.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. I think even like some general, guidelines are very helpful. You mentioned that it’s sort of a responsibility of the whole team, right? Like to to move the relationship. You mentioned project managers, obviously, because you know, they’re the ones doing the day-to-day things. Then you mentioned Customer Success Manager, which I assume is someone like account manager, someone who has the client or the account. Then you also mentioned the business development manager. So someone who, who lands the client and forms the initial the business relationship. So what would be if we can somehow categorize based on the different roles? What would be your expectations for a different role that interacts with the client, as to improving the relationship or building this relationship or moving the relationship to a more partnership level? So what would you let’s say expect from a project manager? Like how can the project manager improve the relationship with the client?

Annemarie Rutz 

What they can show, as I mentioned, the right reliability, I think that’s really a key factor. If we commit to something, then we have to deliver it, or if we cannot deliver it, then we have to be transparent about it and address it ourselves. And I think for the project managers is also very important to identify, yeah maybe like, red flags or topics that come up during day to day discussions where maybe they hint at the client having new plans, or the client considering switching vendors. So, it’s really the PM who can hear these things, and then they have to pick it up and talk to the account manager or yeah, whoever, whoever is in charge of dealing with that, or maybe consulting with that superior in order to see what can we do to support this process with the client. Depending on how the relationship is between the PM and the client, maybe they can also address it themselves. It’s really, you know, every company has this is organized a little differently. But I think the PMs have a very vital role in that they are at the front of things. And they Yeah, that little hints in the in the day-to-day one.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I totally agree. Would you would you would you agree with me that PMs are let’s say the the main factor that can improve these relationships? Or is it the account manager?

Annemarie Rutz 

It’s a team effort. Really, I don’t I think this is really individual. I think I have also had some clients that don’t even appreciate it, if they have to have business review meetings, and they don’t understand what it’s fine. They just want to get their stuff done. Right. And then it’s, it is the job of the PM to kind of try to get the information out of the day-to-day conversation. But at the end, I mean, why do we have the account managers or clients, success managers it is it is their task to build this relationship and to express the interest that we have in the long standing collaboration. So I think it’s, it’s for a good reason that we have that position in place in many localization companies.

Andrej Zito 

So since we’re talking about project managers, what would be one of the key things that you try to train your new project managers when it comes to building these relationships? Do you have anything like that as part of your training program? Or do you just leave it up to the individuals to pick it up? Or maybe you have some ideas, you have some best practices, but you don’t have them documented yet.

Annemarie Rutz 

This is an evolving process, really. We have put a lot of effort in the past years into automate automating the repetitive tasks of the PMs so that we can make more room for them to dedicate more time to this strategically important and also more interesting parts where you work on the relationship. And maybe you also can put some time into thinking how could I improve this process for the client? What could I make better here? Can I maybe consult with another internal department to work out some suggestions for the client? So we do try to train them on that we recently had a workshop for RPMs and, and CSS also on startups and their individual startups and scale ups and their individual challenges and what to look out for and how we can can support them and their situations. So we try to open their view on the different kinds of contact people that they deal with at the client side.

Andrej Zito 

Do you have any KPIs for your project managers that would be related to to improving the relationships? Or maybe you know, you mentioned coming up with some innovations or suggestions for decline to make things better?

Annemarie Rutz 

Well, we have a, we have a churn KPI to avoid customer churn, which is, I think, very important for us as a company. And I can, as far as I can tell, also, the training efforts that we have put into this in the past months NTSF are appreciated also by the PMs, because they understand better, what is it what it is that they contribute to the company’s success, other than, you know, getting the projects done, and just getting the revenue? So churn is one and the Net Promoter Score, asking the clients would you recommend us to the peer? And this, I think this is also a very interesting and important metric for us to measure it.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, so we were talking a lot about the clients. And you also mentioned like, in ideal scenario, so what would you think would be the ideal client for you with whom, let’s say you can, for sure establish this kind of partnership.

Annemarie Rutz 

Oh they should have some hot factors like size, we don’t go for the really big players, but more for like, medium-size, because we have, we know that we can serve their needs better. At the same time, if their budget is too small, it’s also not not a good fit. And because it’s difficult to get it profitable for us. The very big clients or at the very big client sometimes also have technical requirements that we cannot fulfill with our team size or our software development capacities, for example. So yes, IS is a factor, then, obviously, we have certain industries where we are experts, and we know we have good translators that we can, can serve those companies well, we have experienced there. And then as I said, we are looking for clients that are open to sharing their requirements and are willing to accept us on a higher level as well. And don’t want to treat us just as the as the vendor who has to pick up everything that gets thrown over the fence.

Andrej Zito 

How do you actually discovered that? If the client is like that, like if they’re willing to share? Do you think it’s something that you can discover before you enter the relationship? Or it’s something that you know, you get to after you earn their trust? I guess your answer could be just depends on your cases.

Annemarie Rutz 

Yeah, I think we have gotten pretty good at our, our sales team has worked out certain buyer personas that we focus on and it seems to be working quite well, first, of course, it happens that there are mismatches that you only discover after a while where you notice, okay, we have really tried everything, but we cannot satisfy them, or they are still not happy with us, and to a point where it gets unprofitable for us to try even more. And then there are cases where you have to maybe say, it seems not really working out maybe, maybe we’re not the greatest fit. But I think we are pretty okay with it.

Andrej Zito 

Like, what was your experience letting the clients go?

Annemarie Rutz 

I mean, this is always a difficult decision. And it’s not something we do often. But yeah, we have had cases where it turned out either we simply cannot fulfill the technical requirements, they are asking us or not in the reason not in the amount of time they are expecting. There were also some cases where we just felt they were not willing to treat us as a partner. They they were not judging us fairly. Like there was an example where they sat on client side, a non native speaker was reviewing our translations and was flagging things that simply were not mistakes, but they wouldn’t listen to us they would only listen to their review and then at some point, there’s nothing we can do. We can just say okay, then we cannot deliver what you need from us. But of course, this also this is always a long process and we try to flag such serious issues early on so that we never tried to let clients stand in the rain from one day to the other I’d say we’re not working for you anymore. We, there’s always a transition phase. Yeah. But if if we notice, they are not really willing to work together with us on the issues that we are having, or we have to put in so much effort, that it’s simply not profitable for us anymore. There have been cases where we decided to say, sorry, we feel like we’re not the right path.

Andrej Zito 

So far, we were talking about mostly, like, you know, the professional side of things, and the relationships, you know, like being a reliable partner and coming up with innovations, suggestions, understanding the problems coming up with solutions, and so on. But what about the really personal level? Like, do you think it should be part of a, I don’t know, strategy to form some sort of a closer bond with the, with the clients? Like as people? Like, are we trying to become friends with them? Or no? What What is your opinion on this?

Annemarie Rutz 

I’m a German, right, I will always be No, do not become friends with your clients. At the same and I think it happens very rarely that you get along so well with, with the person on the other end of the phone line, or the the end of the meeting that that you want to be their friend, but I feel this is, there are just people who love to talk, right. And I think it’s very advisable to go with the flow and to to exchange some some personal pleasantries as well, because it just makes work more fun. Also, right? If you have a client who you really like, and when you are looking forward to their update after their vacation, I mean, why not, you don’t have to be their best friend. And it’s a fine line, I guess, right? In the end, everyone has to decide where their where the boundaries are. But I definitely think that having more of a personal human touch in the business transaction is or can only help, because they will have better understanding for your situation, you will have a better understanding for their situation. So I feel like if you only have one contact person in the company, and you always only talk to them, it can be very nice to meet the team just once and you know, so you know who other people this person is working with. And you can check in and ask, you know, how are your colleagues how’s your team going? So these are things that can really make everyone’s life a little easier and more fun, and it can always add can also definitely strengthen the bond that you have with them. But I wouldn’t advise to becoming a friend, no.

Andrej Zito 

why you think it can be also risky or dangerous?

Annemarie Rutz 

It can, it can become unpleasant, maybe not dangerous, but there’s always the chance that there’s some serious complaint or whatever, or a serious like dent in the collaboration. And I think it’s much easier to keep up your professional behavior if you’re not too much personally involved. But that’s up for every up to everyone’s reason. Some people can deal better with it than others.

Andrej Zito 

How would you advise, let’s say PMs to build this more personal connection, not friendship, but more personal business connection with the client over emails? Because, at least in my experience, and that’s another question. Another thing that we can talk about, because you mentioned QBRs. And usually, in my experience, it’s mostly dedicated for the account managers, and the people who actually do the projects there, in many cases not invited, even though they may have a stronger relationship or a bond with the client than the account manager. So okay, well, let’s let’s go back to the to the first question. So how do you think that the project manager can build more personal relationship with someone over just email? Let’s say that they don’t even have meetings over so

Annemarie Rutz 

Oh that’s easy. Just find the funniest gifs you can find. Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, yeah, emails. That’s a tricky one. But I think there will always be clients who only sent the necessary lines and then there’s not much to do about it. I really think you have to go with the flow and try I mean, you can make an effort but if you really notice they are not interested, then it’s probably Yeah, I mean, when we merge the two companies Milengo and Think Global we notice the difference that Milengo was working more with international clients and Think Global with more German-speaking clients, and the German-speaking clients were much more inclined to pick up the phone and and talk and this has, this has changed, like with a pandemic and everything. I think much more happens over written communication nowadays or obviously, teams meetings or meetings. The phone is not so much in the game anymore. But it’s very much a question of personal preference. But I feel the inclination of to talk whatever media over whatever medium is not so strong anymore. People prefer to just send messages and short texts and so on. So it’s probably the same anywhere, also in our private lives, right. So yeah, I guess you just have to find ways to be funny and likeable over email.

Andrej Zito 

What about the QBR? Like, do you? Do you send your PMs to those meetings? Or is it mostly dedicated for the, for the for the guys in the suits?

Annemarie Rutz 

It depends on what is the current topics that are being discussed, and what is the relationship, the existing relationship between PMs and CSMs, and clients. So we have a couple of clients where the relationship with the PMS is very strong, and they will always join the meetings, just to enjoy the occasion and to see each other and to talk to each other. Also, we make a point for management to join QBRs on a regular basis, so that we also don’t lose touch with the clients and talk to them and hear firsthand what they have to say. It’s a mix, really, it always depends on the situation, on the relationships, on the topics to be discussed. And on the availability. So we don’t strictly have CSMs on the calls, but we we mix and match.

Andrej Zito 

When I met one of the clients in my previous jobs, for the first time, it was something like a QBR was more like a trainee, like they were training us in something. I think I made a very huge faux pas because I asked my client, she was a lady and I asked about her age on the very first meeting, so yes, not good. So maybe on the topic, if somebody’s like some of the project managers are going to meet their clients for the first time to build this relationship, what would be your things that you would actually suggest them not to do?

Annemarie Rutz 

Asking their age would be one of them. For me, personally, I always think it’s better to listen than to talk too much. I really think it’s not nice to be like talking and talking and, and having them listen to your life story and your experience and what is what are all the good ideas that you have, I think it’s always advisable to just feel the room a little bit and then react to the situation. People are so different, and some of them can be intimidated. If you give too much input, some of them can be impressed right from it’s very hard to answer that.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. In the in the beginning, he talked about, you know, like being the consultant for the clients. How do you get to educate your clients? Let’s say that we have a new client, okay. And maybe this client doesn’t know much about localization? Which do you have already some material prepared for them? Or do you try to know first understand their business? And then give them some ideas? Or try to explain how localization would make their business better? Or how does it work with education?

Annemarie Rutz 

I would be careful with swamping them with material early on, I would really, also in this situation, suggest to first listen carefully, and not to overwhelm them because this can also come across as patronizing. And you first have to get a feeling of how much of your consultation is actually desired by the client and you don’t want to be like the smartest who knows everything. Yeah, this can can come across negative. But if a client is open to learn, or is openly says that they don’t have much experience with localization or they are open to your suggestion, it’s obviously great for us. If they wouldn’t, or if they don’t appreciate your input, it can be difficult because they may not be so open to finding joint joint grounds on workflows or processes they can be more demanding and wanting you to do things their way. Yeah, it really depends on on their situation and on their knowledge and the scope. In some cases, it can make sense to offer them dedicated trainings on certain topics like when they are looking for I don’t know when they are looking for TMS or when they are trying to understand certain aspects of our business terminology or whatever, it can make a lot of sense to hold a small training session for some of their team members. But I think in general, it’s more advisable to educate them continuously that’s tailored to their needs, and not just, you know, swamping them with everything in one session. And then here’s the material, please learn it. And then we will talk. Just try to tie it into your conversations with them and pointing them to certain topics, try to use their terminology instead of our terminology, because we are so used to, you know, yeah, using our abbreviations and using our terminology that it can be really hard for them to understand when they are new to the topic. Yeah, I think you have to really address the specific needs at the specific times. It’s difficult to tie a package and hand it to them and say, Here’s everything you need to know it has to be tailored and step by step.

Andrej Zito 

Have you ever engaged with the with the end users of the localized products in some way?

Annemarie Rutz 

Don’t recall any situation like that. No.

Andrej Zito 

Is there anything that you think maybe we should add to the to the topic of, you know, building the relationships with the clients, and getting into the partnership? Like something that I didn’t ask you, but you think maybe we should mention it?

Annemarie Rutz 

Yeah, maybe I would stress once again, that if if you start working with a new client, it’s really worth or really important to put in the effort at the beginning of the relationship, right? Because your long-standing clients will probably, they already know you, they know what they can expect from you. And they will also be more tolerant of some something goes wrong, but the new clients, they are really evaluating you. And you need to prove your reliability with every interaction. So it’s, even though in the beginning, the margins may suffer, because you have to put in the extra effort. It’s really worth it. I think investing early in the relationship. And then you can kind of Yeah, harvest later on when you have when you have built on that.

Andrej Zito 

Right, right, right. So in what form would you pay, I don’t know, extra attention to the new client? Like, would you do extra reviews? Or would you have, I don’t know, senior people double check the deliveries of the PMS or

Annemarie Rutz 

what we have, for example, a dedicated PM team that is only in charge of the new business clients. And those are senior people who have been extra carefully trained, and they know that they can put more time into those clients. That the we have a little more tolerance with the margins in these cases. Yeah, they will sometimes put in an extra LQA or an extra review step if they aren’t sure. Or they, they know that they have to pick the most reliable translators for the jobs and so on. So

Andrej Zito 

great. So we talked about the clients and so on. So let’s talk about you a little bit. My final set of questions, if that’s okay with you since your show. So, what are you curious about right now, and this can be I don’t know, work related, localization related, or just completely personal stuff, your hobbies, whatever.

Annemarie Rutz 

I learned to play the guitar. So I’m curious about my guitar waiting at home for me. Workwise, at the moment, I’m trying to learn more about topics of finance and forecasting and numbers, everything number-related. I think it’s a very deep rabbit hole. And I’m only beginning to understand the whole the whole, not the whole concept, but the importance of it is an ongoing topic for me is how to prioritize my tasks better because at the moment, I’m managing various departments with very different topics and issues. And I find it sometimes difficult to jump from one topic to the other, you know, like that, and still keep the important stuff. Present and not not forget anything. So prioritization is always a hot topic for me. And I’m very much enjoying that after or I mean, the pandemic is not over. But finally, we are able to travel again a little bit so I’m curious to meet new people and explore new countries in the next few years.

Andrej Zito 

So I right now, I’m curious to learn what have you discovered about prioritization? Because it’s quite the general topic. I think it applies to pretty much everyone. Everyone has to, you know, shuffle different tasks. When do you prioritize? Let’s start with that. Like, do you prioritize your stuff in the morning? Like once you get a, an idea about what’s what’s there for you in the inbox and what the meetings look like, how do you prioritize your, I don’t know, day?

Annemarie Rutz 

Lately, I have a slot every Monday morning with my boss, where we talk about priorities for the week. And I think that’s very, very helpful, because the calendar is obviously always full. And if you don’t pay attention, then you will just be a slave to your appointments and just have them one by one. But talking to him in the morning, every Monday about what is what is it? Where are we we are struggling right now. And what is it where my attention is needed? helps me to identify, Okay, maybe there are two or three meetings that I can cancel this week, because they are not business critical at the moment, or they are just, you know, regular meetings, where not much is on the agenda, it’s okay to skip them for a week or so. And that helps tremendously. Because otherwise, I tend to become like, yeah, driven by my agenda, and then, and then you lose focus. So I find that very helpful to take some time in the morning, exchanging with someone also can be very helpful talking about it, hearing other opinions.

Andrej Zito 

Do you provide this service prioritization to your peers, let’s say, I don’t know, team? If they’re struggling with their priorities, because I can, I can see that work for them as well, right? Because you’re basically talking to your boss, because he has a, even even larger, you know, like, perspective, right? Yeah. bigger picture. So that’s why he can help you with the priorities. But do you do the same thing with your team?

Annemarie Rutz 

Yes, if the need arises, yes. Also, we implemented the OKR framework last year. So in order to structure our strategic projects better, and I feel like that helps all of us very much, because we have this kind of tree structure, and we have the company goals at the top, and it helps a lot to ask yourself, “is what I’m doing right now paying into the company goals or not?” And if not, then it’s probably not so important. And I really feel like the whole our whole leadership team has adopted this idea very well. And they, it helps them to, to prioritize their tasks as well.

Andrej Zito 

What were you doing before the OKR?

Annemarie Rutz 

It was, it was more, I mean, we had our smart goals as well, but it was not. It was more divided by department or by unit and it was not so much interwoven. So I think the new system helps us much more to work together with all the different parts of the company and make sure we use the capacities that we have in the best way possible. Together, and not everyone for their own goals.

Andrej Zito 

What is something that people seem to misunderstand about you as a German?

Annemarie Rutz 

well, as I said earlier, when, in case of doubt, I tend to rather shut up than talk too much. And this happens to me also, sometimes when when meeting new people or like when when I’m in a new environment, I’m more like, I listen first before I talk so much. And this can come across as arrogance. Sometimes it’s not it’s not meant that way. It’s more being shy, but they some people interpret it as a lack of interest in the other person or something but that’s not what it is at all.

Andrej Zito 

How have you handled the way that people interpret your behavior? Like you just are just fine like them having these assumptions that maybe you are arrogant or shy? Or do you try to practically explain it to them that okay, like if I don’t know you,

Annemarie Rutz 

if the misunderstanding is cleared up, then I try to be all the more charming so they notice it was

Andrej Zito 

by notorious question, what do you think is wrong with our industry?

Annemarie Rutz 

I like our industry, not much is wrong with it. But I think like if I had to pick something, I think it’s talks about localization is still perceived as as a cost factor and not so much as a value added for it in many settings like it’s so important for for products or services to be perceived in other countries and for the whole international internationalization and globalization, but the process itself is is always often perceived as a cost factor, the margins are really tight, there’s not much room for us to, to be creative and try out new services or concepts because we are always in such strong competition with with the other providers. And I think that’s, yeah it’s uncomfortable.

Andrej Zito 

But we were talking about the, the education, you know, to the, to the clients before. So what do you think we can do about this? I don’t know, if individual LSPs, let’s say, as the industry as a whole.

Annemarie Rutz 

if I knew I would probably also already be very successful. I mean, I think we have to always find new ways to make technology work. But I see, for us as a company, we’ve come such a long way with automation and saving, saving costs on the boring repetitive task, and then dedicating that time elsewhere. So I think it’s important for us to stay on top of the technology, technological developments, and where we can be creative, how can we use them? How can they work for us, so that we can save costs on the things that the machine can do for us, but use the time and money for other processes and services?

Andrej Zito 

Do you think that maybe if we become more efficient, then the client would just expect even lower rates?

Annemarie Rutz 

I’m not sure if we can go much lower.

Andrej Zito 

Are there any absurd or stupid things that you do?

Annemarie Rutz 

I make funny noises when chewing gum. Like I don’t blow bubbles, but I make these small Poppy noises and people are irritated that we’re looking for

Andrej Zito 

maybe maybe made I think that could be added to the list of what not to do when you’re meeting the client. Yes. Good point to a boy. Okay. All right, Annamarie. So, thank you for the interview.

Annemarie Rutz 

Pleasure. Thanks for the invite.

Andrej Zito 

I have one more thing. So the final thing is, if you could speak to the minds of everyone in the industry, what would you tell them?

Annemarie Rutz 

I think in most cases, we should remember that there are no lives depending on our work and we said you know, relax, have fun and be nice to each other and it will make everyone’s day is much easier.

Andrej Zito 

I like. Alright, well thank you very much for the interview. And again, thank you, and talk to you next time. Bye bye bye bye.

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