EthnoLink’s founder and CEO Costa Vasili is a son of migrant parents. His father, who was born in Cyprus, moved to Australia at 13 years of age. It is where he met Costa’s mother, who is also of Cypriot descent, and where Costa was born. To ensure that Costa had the best chance of success in Australia, his parents spoke to him and his brother mostly in English rather than in Greek. While this decision had a positive impact on Costa’s English language skills, it impacted Costa’s ability to speak Greek.
For example, Costa had great relations with his grandparents, who spoke almost exclusively in Greek, but he struggled to have in-depth conversations with them because of the language barrier. With that pain point in mind and with an opportunity to be introduced to the language services industry during his university years, Costa went off and started his translation company at the age of 20 years old, while still in university.
His company provides professional document translation services by certified translators to new migrants and travellers who want to apply for a visa, university admission or car rental services. They also serve Australian businesses and government agencies in translating legal contracts, manuals and marketing materials.
It was a blind leap of faith for Costa as he had no previous experience in owning and running a business. Although he had a few years of working in a corporate setting, he found that in shifting to the entrepreneurial space, there was no playbook or roadmap to becoming a business owner. He had no traditional business mentor when he was starting out, relying mostly on self-belief to get him going.
Costa found inspiration from his parents and the people he met in EO Melbourne. “From the EO community, I look up to so many people who are doing incredibly well. Because I can speak to them at a peer-to-peer level, I’ve been able to develop an appreciation for what they do. I have seen how remarkable these people in the EO community are, based on what they’re doing with their lives and their businesses,” he said. Through those years, Costa has learned a few things that have helped him improve himself and his business.
4 business values of EthnoLink
According to Costa, “We have four values at EthnoLink. They are: better every day; real relationships; openness and honesty; and customer service excellence. The last one will always be part of our values. Even as our business and values may change over the years, that one will always be there because, without our customers, we don’t have a business.”
He was able to develop a team that is values-driven, who have bought into the vision of helping to break down language barriers for individuals and businesses. As such, they are focused on their customers, ensuring that they are acting in the best interests of the people they serve.
3 things to note in translation and business
Understanding the meaning, having clarity, and giving attention to detail are three things that are essential in translating documents and in running a business. Costa explained, “First and foremost, we have to understand the meaning of the source text so that we can translate accurately into the target language. We apply this in the business context when we try to understand what our customers need to solve their problems. Secondly, clarity. One of the biggest reasons why translation projects fail is because the source text is not clear, which leads to ambiguity. In the business space, you need to be 100% clear in your communication with your team to ensure that they are acting on your advice or direction. The other part is attention to detail. In translation, it is a core skill because sometimes the slight nuance of a question or statement, if not translated accurately, can alter the entire meaning. In business, it is also a core skill because it can ensure excellence in the service you provide.”
2 qualities of an entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs can develop a myriad of qualities that can help them in successfully bringing their business towards its goal. However, Costa underscores two important ones. He cited perseverance for the non-technical quality, and then sales and marketing for the technical one.
“Entrepreneurs need to have the quality of perseverance. You cannot give up in business. If you don’t build the mindset of perseverance before you start a business and while you’re starting an early-stage business, then it’s destined to fail. On a more actionable skill that business owners or entrepreneurs can build up, I would say marketing and sales because they are key at the start of most businesses. You need to focus on driving sales at the start, and that begins with having a strong understanding of what your customers want and need and help them understand that the solution you’re providing is the right one for them. You also have to know where your customers are hanging out so that you can market to them,” he remarked.
1 major takeaway in his entrepreneurial journey
“Your life and the business journey are a matter of micro-choices or decisions,” declared Costa. He learned this from his philosophy class in university, which has become a pivotal moment in his life. The facilitator gave a difficult and uncomfortable scenario, to which Costa responded. As he was probed deeper, he ended up saying, ‘I have no choice.’ The facilitator corrected him and told him that he always has a choice.
“I realised very clearly how powerful I am as an individual because, in every moment in my life, I have a choice. Whatever the case, make the decision, own the decision, own the outcome, and own the consequence. I believe why I got into the business is because it gave me the strongest ability to make my own choices in my life,” he added.
Part of those choices is for him to take action and accountability, which he learned from the EO Accelerator Program. Surely, Costa has adopted the language of entrepreneurship. As he continues to learn, he shares this insight for others to pick up. “In my opinion, the number one thing that stops small businesses from growing quicker is their choice not to take action and not to execute. We all have strategies and ideas, but the difference between businesses that grow fast and those that grow slow is the ability to execute and put things into place. Within 12 months of entering the accelerator program, we doubled our revenue. For me, it shows that taking action has a huge impact on the success of your business,” he stated.