Lingo24 founder on creating an empowering culture
With the recent launch of an office in the Philippines Christian Arno can claim to be running a truly global business.
He is not long back from a three-month round the world trip which took in the various places the translation company he founded - Lingo24 - has bases in.
With hubs in the United States, France, Germany, Romania, China, Panama and New Zealand his passport has gathered its fair share of stamps.
The lengthy trip was not just for keeping up with staff in those countries and trying to learn the names of the newest recruits in Cebu City in the Philippines though.
Arno describes the journey as "all fun but two-thirds business" encompassing client meetings, new ventures and exploring opportunities for further expansion.
Although some of the biggest brands in the world - Royal Bank of Scotland, Orange and Adidas to name three - trust Lingo to translate everything from letters and internal documents to training manuals, adverts and websites Arno isn't getting complacent.
Projects of all sizes are managed from each of the geographic hubs closest to the client's location.
With a 6,000-strong database of translators to call on Arno likes to make sure the freelancers are actually living and using the language they are translating.
As words and meanings are constantly evolving he believes it is the only way to ensure accuracy.
While he still enjoys the travel his recent engagement to his long-term girlfriend gives him another reason to reduce the number of air miles he is clocking up.
He said: "I am trying to cut down on the amount of travel.
"The whole ethos within Lingo is about empowering individuals and being free from dominant bosses where possible.
"That comes from the ground up. So if we train people well and develop them they will do a lot better."
Industry research positions Lingo as the 55th biggest translation company in the world, 14th biggest in Europe and in the top three fastest growing.
Yet even though it has expanded rapidly - £5 million in sales last year and on course for £6.5 million this time around - finance is not what drives him.
During the interview Arno repeatedly comes back to the culture he is trying to create within the business.
He said: "It is most definitely not all about money. For me the main motivator is maintaining a culture where people feel enabled and can make personal progress alongside the company making progress.
"You have ups and downs along the way. The biggest downs are people related for example when you get let down or when a relationship isn't good.
"Then the biggest ups are also people related when you see someone you took a chance on get to managerial level and do great work.
"The moment you start losing talented people is the moment the business starts going downhill. We have been lucky that there have been very few people we have lost who we haven't wanted to lose.
"The culture isn't to everyone's liking. Some would like it to be a bit more corporate and a bit more structured but the people who really embrace Lingo find a lot of warmth within the business."
However with 160 staff Arno admits he is already struggling to remember every face and name.
He said: "I would be bored if it wasn't growing but I don't think you can get a business which is 1,000 people strong and is genuinely personal.
"So we'll want to grow more through technology platforms and thereafter it will be about increasing the profitability.
"With that we can invest more in training, give people more travel opportunities and spend more on things to bring the team together.
"Maybe it doesn't sound as ambitious as it could be but those are the things that keep everyone in the business united and motivated."
The head office is now in the west end of Edinburgh and is in the basement of a rather grand townhouse which has been converted into a business centre.
That's not to say it is extravagant. Indeed it's more functional than flashy but it is certainly a long way from the Aberdeen bedroom where Arno founded the business back in 2001.
Back then he did everything from answering the phones to doing translation.
He half-jokingly describes his role now as coming up with new initiatives, explaining why they are not ridiculous and how they might actually contribute to the business.
In reality he is involved in setting the strategy for the company and is its most identifiable figure.
On the afternoon we meet the softly spoken 32-year-old is dressed casually in t-shirt, jeans and trainers which seems to be the default uniform of the other members of staff as well.
The laid back but enthusiastic atmosphere feels more akin to a software or digital media company in California.
While Arno has no plans to take on Facebook a leap into technology is something which forms the next stage of the business plan.
A trip to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas earlier this year gave him a lot to chew over.
He said: "The number of innovative thinkers you get access to is incredible."
But Lingo was already a way down the road to launching a number of software applications and tools to take advantage of the non-English language internet.
He said: "The fact we understand foreign language internet marketing we're half way between a search engine optimisation company and a translation company means we will be in a position to help businesses get to the top of the search engines in China or Vietnam or wherever it may be.
"Then that leads onto things like handling multiple Twitter accounts in foreign language.
"The biggest issue now is how we ramp up our capacity to develop innovative tools which our customers will use.
"We'll give those tools away for free and the customer's content will flow to us for translation in what will be a seamless process.
"As long as we build the right things in the right way then we'll be able to grow the business as a whole without taking on too many people."
There's no sense Arno is weary after 10 years steadily building up the company.
It's to his credit he retains a youthful enthusiasm alongside a maturing business brain.
So while he is not all about the money neither is he naive.
He said: "Our website is launching this year in 63 languages because there is money to be made translating into that number of languages.
"I constantly see opportunities for us to do more and do things better.
"My business partner Jack Waley-Cohen and I are quite similar in that when we see a problem we often see a technology solution.
"Previously we haven't managed our IT functionality as well as we could have done so there is a lot of ambition to put those ideas we have had in the past into place."
Christian Arno was born in Nottinghamshire but moved to Aberdeen at the age of four when his dad got a job in the oil industry.
He left the granite city to study French and Italian at Oxford University where part of his degree included a stint as an English language assistant in northern Italy.
However after a couple of weeks he decided teaching wasn't for him but stayed on in Italy.
With free time on his hands he set up a basic translation website which brought in a little bit of money and planted an idea in his mind.
Investing s500 of his student loan in a software company paid off when its share price went through the roof.
Arno sold the shares making a s15,000 profit which gave him the seed money to start Lingo24.
Initially the business was run from his bedroom in Aberdeen but now has its headquarters in Edinburgh with offices around the world.
Currently Arno lives in the Scottish capital with his fiancee.
When he isn't watching Aberdeen Football Club he likes playing football, biking and hiking.