Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
Aug. 27, 2021

#138 S2 Episode 7 - Growing up Poor to Successful Founder with Two Exits with Marko Hozjan

This episode of the Sales Transformation Podcast with Collin Mitchell features Marko Hozjan, Co-Founder and CEO of TAIA Translation. Realizing early on that entrepreneurial success can make or break your future is a powerful motivator for success.

For someone with ambition, this means not resting on your laurels just because a business is deemed successful. This can mean starting a business on the side, but it can also mean exiting the business and starting another one that CAN scale.

TAIA, Marko's most recent business, found its niche in B2B translation while also offering opportunities to scale big with machine learning. He shares how he pinpointed this gap in his industry, rose to the challenge, and created a solution.


02:27 Realizing the importance of money and entering business very early

06:27 A business may be successful and yet not scalable

09:39 Knowing when to let go and make an exit 

14:30 Having a side business is the standard today

19:31 Founding TAIA, a software technology translation company

23:38 Finding the sweet spot of B2B demand and offering a solution

24:54 Connect with Marko


05:06 "Being poor actually means to suffer and out of suffering, in my belief, motivation thrives. So actually at those times, I believe I've gained something that I still have today, so a lot of motivation and especially motivation to grow."

15:58 "When you have a culture with values that embrace this, of course autonomy and just trust at the end and that people feel good and grow with you, then the risk of them leaving even if they have a good side business is low."

17:05 "There is a scientifically-proven fact that if your employee learns something new regardless of which field he learned it at, not something that he works on, the employee is going to get better at what they do at their job."

24:14 "It's a business service in the background. Translation is something that is not so interesting, so this is where we at the time, we saw that we found a sweet spot."

25:27 "If it's a game, if it's a product, if it's ecommerce site, if it's localized to a native speaker, there's a much higher probability of a sales being closed. Which means that all ecommerce or any international businesses are getting more and more aware."

Learn more about Marko in the link below:

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[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell. And this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.

[00:00:29] Hey, before we start today's episode, I wanted to bring you in on the best kept secret in B2B sales. If you're serious about social selling and your only strategy is cold DNS through LinkedIn, you're missing the mark big time. Learn how I fully managed revenue generating podcast can change your life and your

[00:00:55] Welcome to today's episode of sales transformation. [00:00:59] Today I had on Marco Hogan and I had a lot of fun, uh, having a conversation with Marco and learning about his story. We connected over LinkedIn. I didn't know a ton about his story, but, uh, like myself, he grew up poor and, uh, became an entrepreneur and had, uh, several successful exits and, um, started two businesses that for some people would consider pretty successful.

[00:01:23] But kind of hit a roof and found that they weren't scalable and, and walked away from those businesses to start something. Now that he's much more passionate about. Uh, and you'll learn about that inside today's episode. So I hope that you enjoy it. Marco, welcome to sales transformation. How are you doing very well?

[00:01:39] So, um, I'm calling from your Brianna Slovenia and it's very hot here. So the temperature gets up too. 38 degrees Celsius. Yeah. We count in Celsius, not Fahrenheit. So that means very hot. That calculation. Yeah. I was sitting there as you were saying. You're trying [00:01:58] to think. Uh, okay. How hot is that? But yeah, it's sounds hot.

[00:02:02] Yeah, it is. Yeah. What time is it over there? Right. So now it's a five in the evening, afternoon. Yeah. You're ending your day. I'm starting my day. Um, you've, you've had a lot of success. Let's just kind of start at the beginning. Um, you know, give us your story and kind of what your journey has been like. And we can pull some learning lessons out of there for, you know, everybody that's tuning in today.

[00:02:26] Sure. So, um, I believe my mind therapy, ownership paths started with me, uh, being very poor when I was little, I lived with my mom because my parents divorced and immediately I realized that the money is very important. So I started actually my entrepreneurship path very early in, uh, high school. And the first serious company, when I was a student, it was actually a marketing agency and then it started from there.

[00:02:55] So, um, my [00:02:57] first bigger successful business was actually a, um, sailing school together. We organized the party sailing trips here in Europe, mostly in Croatia. And, um, I sold that business successfully than some other businesses, but, uh, the problem actually was that, that I was seeing over and over again, that I always started a business that I couldn't scale really scale big.

[00:03:23] So, uh, the latest was actually a language school, which again, we realized we couldn't scale. Of course we had food transition then into a online platform like Duolingo. Something similar. Those are really unicorn businesses, especially now in Corona times. They're really blossoming, but we didn't either way.

[00:03:44] But, um, it actually all came up to, to tie up the business that I'm running now, which is the first business, actually that I believe it, that it is scalable. And I'm really looking [00:03:56] forward to, to continue this work. All right. So you started early, uh, interesting. Cause uh, we have kind of a similar story. I also grew up very poor with no money, um, over, you know, we, I was raised by a single mom with three brothers.

[00:04:16] My dad, unfortunately preferred spending most of his time behind bars in prison, rather than with his family. Uh, so, you know, it was a struggle. My mom had to work nights and it was a struggle just to keep food on the table bull and pay the bills. And, um, you know, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I just kind of similar to yourself.

[00:04:37] I knew I didn't want to be poor. And nobody really was telling me that a school was important or anything like that. So when I got my first sales job, I said, this is, this is my way out. You know, I put, put everything I had into that. Um, so I [00:04:55] want to dig into kind of your, you know, your, you started off as an entrepreneur early, I think you said in high school.

[00:05:02] Yeah. Those were different times. So yeah. Being poor actually means to suffer and out of suffering in my belief. Um, motivation, thrives. So actually there, um, at those times I believe I've gained some, something that I still have today. So a lot of my motivation and especially motivation to grow. So, um, when I was in high school, uh, at that time Napster was, was being really, really.

[00:05:36] Popular. So I, I had a good internet connection, so I download it. I copied CDs and then, uh, sold it to other guys at school and men made money with it. So it wasn't an actual business, but it was something. Yeah. W I mean, when you [00:05:54] have to be creative in ways to earn, to just, you know, have simple things that are not so simple for somebody like you and me, you can get pretty creative.

[00:06:04] You know, I, I would come up with ideas, uh, not as creative as yours there. I love that idea. Um, but you know, for me, it was like, if I wanted new shoes, I had to figure out a way to pay for them. Cause you know, or else it wasn't happening. Um, but I'm super curious, something that you mentioned with your first two companies is, you know, you had some success, but they weren't scalable.

[00:06:30] So I kind of want to dig into what wasn't scalable. Um, and you know why that wasn't. So there are businesses that can be great, where you can make a million, couple of million or. A couple of 10 million of revenue and there are great businesses and I [00:06:53] respect those businessmen, but that's a totally different business, a totally different mindset than a scalable or a startup businesses.

[00:07:03] So at that time, I didn't understand, I didn't have any mentor, mentor, or anyone else to tell me what I really want or even to, to direct me in a right direction. So. At that time, I just said yes to anything. So when I, when I found my first partners, I said, yes, let's go. Let's just. Yeah. So which means that we failed many times, but, um, of course I learned a lot.

[00:07:28] The main thing that's actually negative is that I know now that I could have done it, something scalable much sooner. So which means a scalable business in Europe is something different than in the us. Uh, even a non-scalable business. All the numbers are always divided by two or more. Usually divided by 10.

[00:07:49] Even when you speak about investments, [00:07:52] Europe is much more conservative and the numbers, even if businesses are lower, which means that when you have an of a business, when you make a million euros of revenue, you're kind of already successful. You have a successful business, but I knew that that's not enough for me, that I wanted something much bigger.

[00:08:09] And when I tried making these businesses scalable, for example, the marketing agency, I didn't know. I try to, I try and I C I couldn't, it was the same with the nautical school. For example, the, the legislation worldwide is so different from country to country. It was almost impossible to do it. I have some ideas now how I could make a, a online just learning platform without the certification, so on.

[00:08:32] But at that time I was just not successful to make it scalable. So I decided I needed to let go. And it was very hard to let go something that you. But now I see it's the right decision. Yeah. Yeah. And that could be tough for, you know, entrepreneurs that are, you know, maybe in a [00:08:51] business that sorta has hit a ceiling, um, or it also can be hard for even somebody successful in sales that has maybe hit a ceiling, you know, in order to like, let go of something that they're comfortable with, that they know that, you know, Maybe from the outside would be very successful to other people to let that go and take a step forward or, you know, into a new chapter or to try something new that has more potential more upside.

[00:09:21] Exactly. I totally agree. And this is especially true for people that have ambition. So if a sales rep or a BDM has ambition, and if they have a ceiling and if they even have a hat in, in, in the system that they work in, it can be really counterproductive. Yeah. Yeah. And so how did you know it was the right time to sort of walk away from that and try something new?

[00:09:46] Actually I did it the other way. While running this [00:09:50] business, I was looking for other opportunities. At that time, I was looking for someone who would buy the business. So in both cases, actually the business would, was bought by someone close to the company, not an outside investor. So in the first case, the business was bought by other two co co-founders.

[00:10:08] I sold it to them while in the second part, the business was, was sold actually to a part. So, um, in this case, I was actually lucky that I found a buyer, um, w because maybe I couldn't in that case, I would actually, even though the business was making a positive revenue, profit, I would probably close it. Mm Hmm.

[00:10:31] Interesting. Now I'm curious those with those first two companies that, you know, had a level of success. You know, did they provide a means for you or there, or were they things that you actually enjoyed [00:10:49] or love doing? Hmm, difficult to say at that time, I was so motivated that I actually love doing it. The alert I was at the steep part of my learning curve.

[00:11:01] So, uh, it was great, but long-term of course I would get fed up with it. So to have an agency. Of any kind, that's really a repetitive work just to have one customer after another, it becomes repetitive. So, um, it's really difficult as a marketing agency to invent something new for yourself and new product.

[00:11:23] We see that on a market. So now of course everyone's getting digital, digital, and so on. But, um, probably I would get fed up with it. It's much different in the startup world where I'm at now, where you developed your own product and the development is actually infinite. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I had, uh, I had a feeling that was going to be your answer because if you love [00:11:48] doing it, you would probably still be doing it.

[00:11:49] Right. Um, I think that, you know, when people typically a lot of entrepreneurs. Don't just start one thing, a lot of them, you know, similar to myself, I've founded four different companies, three have been successful, you know, seven figures. Um, and I found that, uh, you know, it's easy to get bored, even if it's at a level of success that a lot of people would be like, Man.

[00:12:17] Why are you walking away from that? Why are you leaving that I would love to be at that place or be at that, you know, phase of entrepreneurship. And if you get bored with it, uh, or if you no longer enjoy or that passion is not there, uh, it's no longer fun. And it starts to feel more like work and kind of defeats the whole purpose of being an entrepreneur in the first place.

[00:12:42] I agree there is though another concept and it is passive [00:12:47] income. I tried with both of them actually to create a, something that would bring you passive income, but it was just not possible. My direct engagement was so important. Yeah. When I, when I went out there, the revenue dropped. So if I would be able to create an entity that had, that would bring me a passive income, I would not close it or maybe will not sell it.

[00:13:11] But in this case it was not possible. Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of factors to consider, right? Like how much time does it take for you to be involved in that particular thing? Do you enjoy doing it? Is there any. Fulfillment that you get out of it. Um, or is there something else that you'd rather be doing or is it actually costing you.

[00:13:31] By not focusing on maybe something new, right? If it's taking you away, if there's opportunity costs, then it's actually costing you money, more, more money than it's making you. And I love that, you know, kind of the place that we're [00:13:46] in, uh, with a lot of companies now where, you know, a lot of salespeople are entrepreneurial spirit people, you know, whether they fully taken the plunge or not, you know, they, they have a.

[00:13:59] Required skillset to earn in anything that they do. And you know, more and more companies are okay with them having something else that they do on the side or a side hustle or something that they have passion in it's, you know, earning that passive income for them. Um, and I love seeing, you know, companies fully embrace and, you know, uh, people on their team to, to have something else that they love doing that also can earn money for them.

[00:14:29] It's becoming a standard. I think that everyone that is employed somewhere is doing something at the side. It's becoming a standard and it's, it's really funny. And when you're a manager, it's really something that you shouldn't, [00:14:45] you shouldn't prohibit because it's just becoming a part of all of our culture that anyone that's employed anywhere has something as a side business.

[00:14:56] Yeah. And, and, and I think before, you know, a lot of companies, a lot of leaders were scared that, Hey, if I, it. Marco do this thing on the side, you know, he's going to do it on the clock. He's going to do it on our time. He's going to get it to a certain level and leave us. And maybe some of those things are true.

[00:15:19] Maybe not. Um, by, by not allowing people or restricting people or making it hard for people or making it awkward where they feel they have to hide that. That's going to cost you way more, because then they definitely are going to leave. If they're not happy, if they're not, if they don't have the autonomy to be the best version of their self in and out of the office, you're not going to have a happy [00:15:44] employee.

[00:15:44] And you know, you're going to have a high churn rate of people coming in and out of your door. Exactly. I believe what we're talking about. It actually comes down to culture and values within the company. So when you have a culture with values that embrace this, of course, autonomy and, um, just trust at the end and that people feel good and grow.

[00:16:10] With you, then, then the, the risk of them leaving. Even if they have a good side business is low because they just cherish working there. They love the company, they love the values and they grow with it. So, um, this part is very important. So I'm a big, big promoter of motivation. I mean, yeah. Motivation 3.0, um, and this liberal new wave, a wave.

[00:16:37] How companies are organized and Ty is a company like [00:16:43] that. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, people, if you invest more in the people and just not in the skills that are directly tied to the role that they do, you're going to have happier employees. You're going to have happier customers. You're going to have a better culture to drive better results.

[00:17:05] There is a scientifically proven fact that if your employee learns something new, regardless of which field he learned it at, not, not something that he works on, the employee is going to get better at what they do at their job. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So tell me a little bit about the work that you're doing now.

[00:17:31] Um, you know, everything that you, you know, the theme that I see here, which, which I really love is right. Even from beginning, you know, early childhood where you had struggles, like all of [00:17:42] that. Shaped and molded you, you know, to get to where you are today. Um, I, you know, we have kind of a similar, uh, childhood background and, you know, as much as a lot of that stuff is tough and hard and you wouldn't really wish it upon anybody.

[00:17:56] I don't regret any of it because it molded and shaped me into who I am today. And I don't know if I'd be able to do some of the things that I've been able to, if that was not my experience. So. For you having that experience and driving that motivation, building these businesses, having some success, but not really being able to scale them at the level that you want to have, you know, taught you everything along the way to get where you are today.

[00:18:17] So I want to dive into some of that. Sure. The, the interesting fact that, um, I actually consider myself a bit of as an experiment because I have five half-brothers and have sisters, and they were all living with my father who was very wealthy at the time. Mm, and you can see the, the difference how [00:18:41] we all turned out.

[00:18:42] So actually I'm the only one that, that strives towards ambition towards something more while they are just feeling comfortable where they are and the motivation there. It just isn't there. When I speak to them, we were like from two different worlds. The question for them is like, why, why would I do that?

[00:19:03] Why would I I'm comfortable where I am. I, I have what I need. So, um, it's, it's funny how, how motivation come can come from. Yeah. Wow. That's, that's very interesting. Um, and so tell me kind of, you know, through these, a couple of exits that you've had, um, you know, where you're at today and what you guys are working on and, uh, let's dig into some of that stuff.

[00:19:32] So now the company where I'm 100% focused now is called tire. We're actually a [00:19:40] software technology translation company. We are a translation platform, mostly for B2B sector, but actually anyone can come, which means that we're a one stop shop for all your translation needs to come to the application. And you can order any kind of translation.

[00:19:58] But, um, the whole thing is very much automized, which means, for example, you just drag and drop the document that any kind of document will support 70 different file types. It can be any kind of office document, a PDF, a code, a Jason file. What not you drag and drop it. And the file is being automatically analyzed within Excel.

[00:20:19] And you get your quote immediately, which means you get how many words are there, how many repetitions and so on. And then you choose within the platform. You choose your quality all from we actually by choosing the service all from machine translation. Up to, we call it TEP, translation, editing and revision.

[00:20:37] So human translation, [00:20:39] you choose your quality. You choose the time, how fast you need it and your order immediately. And it's much safer, much faster. So we've, we've been able to automize all this process that is done manually through emails, through sending, uh, uh, uh, receiving, uh, quotes and so on. Who's managed to automize the whole process.

[00:21:00] And not only that within the platform, we, we actually added our own SAS product. That's called catapult because we've identified a big wave coming companies more and more translate on their own. How can they do that by harvesting the power of machine translation machine translation is becoming. Really good.

[00:21:24] Not only the ones that we have, the professional ones, but Al but also the free neural networks, such as Google translate installed and how they do it. For example, again, they just drag and drop the document and the whole [00:21:38] content is already pre translated by machine translation within seconds. They just posted it.

[00:21:44] That documents. So which means that just correct what needs to be corrected. They click finish and they download the document in the same formatting in the same form, which means if you have a 100 page long, um, doc X catalog with everything with the whole format in there, it's all kept in tech. Wow. Wow.

[00:22:07] How did you get started in this. So we started with the previous company. That was a language school. We started getting first to, so myself and my partner in the company material, we started getting first, uh, demands for translations. And we saw that the whole industry at the time, this was three years ago is really, really old people sending files here and there over emails, people doing things in Excel spreadsheets.

[00:22:36] [00:22:37] Everything being really old and robust while a big wave was coming. A wave of wave of machine translation. At the time it's coming now, that's really killing a lot of companies that don't want to change companies within. So, which means LSPs language, service providers, translators that don't want to change because the whole automation and machine translation process.

[00:23:02] The whole tech is really changing the whole, the whole industry. So at the time we saw that, and even now we see it as a big opportunity for us that are tech savvy, that know how to, how to harvest this tech. And we use it in our advantage. So this is how we are much more efficient than other MSPs or other translation providers.

[00:23:24] And now we are starting a series of SAS products where. We will just give the power to the people to translate by themselves using just machine translation or then [00:23:36] post that. I think that, so, uh, and the other thing that was interesting for us was the size of the industry. So the music industry is more than 50 billion in size annually, and it's growing really fast because of globalization everything's being localized and everything will become localized too.

[00:23:57] To the last series, game app, everything will be localized into all world languages, which means that the market is rising, but at the same time. So it's three times the size as the music industry, but it's not as sexy because no one knows it because it's a business service in the background. Translation is something that is not so, so interesting.

[00:24:20] So this is where we, we, at the time we saw that we found a sweet spot. Wow. Uh, this is really fascinating stuff. Um, I think that you're onto something here and I love your [00:24:35] story and kind of your background and scaling these businesses that have all led you up to this, this work that you're doing now. And I can, I can feel the passion, uh, for the work, uh, when you're telling me about it.

[00:24:47] And that's always a good sign. Uh, Marco, thanks so much for coming on sales transformation today. I really appreciate it. Uh, any final thoughts? What links can we include in the show notes for people to learn more about you and the work that you're doing or anything else? Hmm. I would just include our, our, uh, landing tied on IO.

[00:25:06] Uh, our app is free to use. Anyone can, can sign up, can test it out. Uh, but what I, what I would emphasize that localization in general is becoming more and more important and people are starting to notice that. It's a really good sales tool. There is a fundamental rule that if something, if it's a game, if it's a product, if it's e-commerce site, if it's localized to a native [00:25:34] speaker, there's a, there's a much higher probability of a sales being closed, which means that all e-commerce or any international business.

[00:25:46] Or, um, getting more and more aware. So which means that everything is becoming localized. And, uh, if anyone is in that kind of international business, I believe we are the right partner for them. Fantastic. We'll include those links in the show notes for everybody. If you enjoyed today's episode, please write us a review, share the show with your friends and as always we're listening for your feedback.

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