Tired Business Sayings

I’ve already touched on this in a previous post, but I came across two articles lately that has me revisiting this. Some business terms are great – they describe longer ideas succinctly, such as using the word ‘leveraged’. Instead of having to go into the definition of what that means, you can say the word and people know. There are also some great business phrases that help to add some color to an idea or thought and helps to pull things together. A few that come to mind are ‘dropping the ball’, ‘gaining traction’, and ‘dont throw the baby out with the bath water’.

The problem comes when companies, and individuals, use sayings for the sake of using them. Here are a few that bother me:

– World Class

– Putting Customers First

– Innovative

– Best Practices

– Giving 110%

If you want to see a list of more, check out this Business Insider article, and this article on Squidoo

These phrases get overused and corrupted, essentially destroying their essence since people and companies are afraid. They are afraid to be different, so instead they opt to be the same. To use the same words as the market leaders, but by not changing their business practices.

You cant tell me that you value your customers when your customer service is fully automated, or even worse – outsourced to a foreign country. You cant say that your company is innovative when they are following what everyone else is doing, rehashing the same tired business speak. As the saying goes “If you have to say it, it’s probably untrue”. Apple is a highly innovative company, focused on easy usability and beautiful design … yet they dont say that on their website. The product say’s it all on its own.

Think about what your saying, either personally or with your company. Are you being different, saying what really matters – or are you saying what you think others want to hear, in which case, what others will ignore? I’m not saying it’s easy to do, it takes a lot of digging, but its worth it.

Edit: After I wrote this I found a great article by Jason Fried in Inc.com about bad business writing. Great article, give it a read. I may follow up on that in another post.

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Trimming the Fat: Get Your Company On A Diet

In a recent interview on FastCompany, Nike’s President and CEO Mark Parker tells a story about a conversation he had with Apple’s Steve Jobs. At the time Parker was recently hired by Nike and asked Jobs if he had any advice that he could give. At first Jobs balked, but then paused and said that Nike makes some beautiful product, but it also makes a lot of crap. His advice: “Get rid of the crappy stuff” and focus on the good.

This idea drives home a point in an earlier post on Ford – are you doing the right things? Ford, Nike, and like many other companies out there, can get caught up in the idea of diversifying. By trying to please every single market segment, the company loses focus on what it does well. Money that could be spent on making good products great is instead spent on making bad or average products that no one cares about.

If you have 30+ product choices, then you’re trying to appeal to everyone and that’s almost impossible to do. If you ever watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay, one of the first problems you’ll find with almost every restaurant is the menu. The restaurant owners think that offering every dish possible will get more customers, but instead it results in poor quality food, and inventory nightmares. If you want to read more about how Chef Ramsay deals with these issues, check out this blog.

Know what you’re good at, and keep making it better. If you stray off the path to satisfy the few outliers, you’ll lose your core audience. In marketing this is known as spray and pray – and even if you’re a large company, this usually isn’t the best approach. If you’re trying to please everyone under the sun, odds are that you’re following market trends instead of innovating and creating a product that people want to talk about. So get rid of the crappy stuff and focus your energy on creating something amazing.