INSIDE BUSINESS | NOV 11, 2019 | 8:11 AM
Year founded: 1999
Business type: Language services
Based: Virginia Beach
Number of employees: Six in 2016; 20 in 2017; 24 in 2018
2019 Roaring 20 honoree - The Language Group
Rapid growth occurred when The Language Group, providing services with more than 1,000 interpreters and translators across the country, capitalized on a shift in health care regulations.
It took foresight to recognize the opportunity, determination to develop it and perseverance to make it happen. But something else made a difference as well.
Giovanni Donatelli’s fortitude in the company’s early years has led to the administrative staff quadrupling in the last three years and gross revenue more than doubling from 2016 to 2017, then come close to doubling again in 2018.
Calling himself “gifted with patience,” the managing partner said the business – 20 years old this past April – didn’t turn a profit until its eighth year. He had to work a second job to keep the first one afloat.
One of The Language Group’s original customers was, and still is, Smithfield Foods.
“They trusted us" to accurately translate employee handbooks into different languages, Donatelli said.
Then came the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Newport News. Others followed, among them LifeNet Health and Sentara Healthcare.
Donatelli wants to expand service to other health care companies in Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, projecting revenue of $12-15 million in three to five years. Revenue for 2018 was $8 million.
The growing business needs more space. Its headquarters in an office building at Virginia Beach Town Center will go from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet this month.
“As a business manager, I’m always planning but it’s nice to see it coming together,” he said. “When you grow so fast, you have to control costs while focusing on customer service. Managing scalability is a balancing act.”
He shares an equal partnership with his wife, Chrysta Donatelli, who oversees accounting, human resources and administration while he focuses on business development and services.
He credits her management skills and experience as a former business owner for both his and the firm’s success.
The Language Group has been ranked by industry magazine CSA as No. 22 in a list of the top language companies in the country for its size. The magazine said it is the third fastest growing company in the world for its size. Inc. 5000 listed it as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States, at No. 906 in 2017, No. 500 in 2018 and No. 358 in 2019.
Perhaps the best rating is what Donatelli said is the business’s 98.7 percent success rate for available interpreters and a reputation for having capable translators for specialized tasks.
A client recently purchased French fighter jets to be re-purposed into training jets for the U.S. Navy. It required a French-to-English aeronautical engineering translation of the flight manual, which The Language Group produced.
There are resources such as trade associations for finding quality personnel. These days, however, Donatelli said “They come to us.”
— Linda Lamm English