Monday, April 25, 2011

Globalization German Style: 75% of Sales Come from Abroad

A new study by Ernst & Young analyzing the annual reports of the 30 German companies that compose the DAX (German Stock Index), indicates that three-quarters of sales for 28 of the 30 companies come from outside Germany.

The study also shows that − with the exception of the two banks in the index − international business grows faster in terms of revenues and number of employees than business in Germany. Companies reported 19% growth abroad, compared to 9% domestically. International sales for Adidas, for example, accounted for 95% of the total; and reached 91% at Linde.

The detailed study also shows that German companies have performed very well in 2010, with pre-tax profits almost doubling from the previous year to 87.3 billion euros.

It is interesting to compare the results from this study with last year's S&P 500 analysis of 250 American companies in which 46.6% of all sales in 2009 were produced and sold outside of the United States.

From a language services perspective, the message is clear: International business is good business and requires translation and localization. So, instead of talking about translations in your next sales call, learn to talk about what is going to generate translations in a larger business context.


  1. According to the WSJ, US citizens buy totally unnecessary products for $1.2 trillion ( This makes the US the largest market in the world, after all. The same, more or less, happens elsewhere in the Western world, in the affluent societies, although stricken by the economic crises. The German foreing sales index is an interesting, but maybe misleading index as well as Microsoft's sales abroad peaking (memory don't fail me now) to 60% in 2009.
    Not surprisingly, we will read article like this one ( for a long time to come. Translation, localization, domestication (name it as you like) should be acknowledge for its economic value, but the one book I read on this subject is not a best selling book. Not even - I dare say especially - in the translation business community, where, on the contrary, so many voices raise every day in favor of customer education.
    Well, IMVHO, customers still seem uneducated, mostly because despite being as worth as the bike industry, the translation industry looks to them like a quarrelsome confederacy of dunces.

  2. The strong export economy in Germany is the main reason why the translation market in that country is so strong. It's also easier to sell value and get away from piece rate niggling when the buyer realizes that one slightly more persuasive text in a target language that sells just one more high-end piece of equipment will cover the entire translation budget for the company in all languages for the next decade. On the whole, the awareness of the need for good translation/localization and support processes for the same at at least a subliminal level makes this a very pleasant market to work with.

    Domestic growth in Germany is also weak (compared to exports) due to anemic consumption within the country. While the system of social insurance does keep more people from "falling off the edge" compared to some other places, the real unemployment rate is several times the official figures. In the Berlin area I suspect it is well over 20%, and the black market economy (even for translation) is still very much alive and well.

  3. I smile when I read articles focusing on "how to make more money" as the main rationale for translation and localisation. It has not and will never convince people of the value of translation and localisation, simply because money is *not* (surprisingly for some) what matters most to people. Money (or profit) as an extrinsic motivator belongs to the industrial age, the last century. Money as the central motivator has brought world economies down to their knees. People living in the 21st century are much more interested in stuff like autonomy and purpose.

    So here is a proposal: For the next 12 months, let's stop talking about budgets, profit, revenue and foreign sales when we are trying to convince people of the value of translation. Instead, let's pursue purpose and use profit as the catalyst rather than an objective. Let's talk about what it means, for people, societies, and organizations, to have access to knowledge and information in their language; what it means to them to be able to communicate their own experiences, ideas, and views to people not speaking their language.

    In 12 months time, I am sure we'll have convinced more people about the "value' of translation and localisation than in the past 25 years.

  4. Reinhard, I am 100% with you. The data is accessory and speaks to "some" people, not "all" the people. Let's talk about knowledge and service and information, not only about money.