Blog Hero: Eric Jackson's: 89 Business Clichés

89 Business Clichés that will Get an MBA Promoted And Make Them Totally Useless or “Bid-ness’isms”

Eric Johnson’s hilarious summary of the top 89 Business Cliches made me laugh out loud—more than a few times. What really stood out (as I created the mental check list of the ones I’m embarrassed to say I’ve used in the past, ok, just a few days ago) are the number of sports, finance, military and Home Depot-type references. What does this tell you? Women did not create this stuff, but at times we help to perpetuate it.

During my seven years with Ford Motor Company I continually watched young, male MBAs (I was one of the few females in finance) catch wind of the latest business book reference or cliché referenced by their manager and in less than 30 minutes, somewhere near the water cooler, you’d hear it repeated by a an upwardly mobile finance program trainee. Oh how I’d cringe! I was a serious tomboy in my youth so the sports stuff came naturally–so I did know what they were talking about most of the time. Now that I’m aging, a whole new collection of clichés are rearing their ugly heads meant to ensure that us old folks sound relevant… Let’s stop the madness!

I’d like to nominate the following for extermination (ok, let’s just get rid of the entire 89), starting with these:

  • ROI [used in any sentence]= Look at me, I’m very financially-minded, even if I never took any finance classes in school
    • My add: My fledgling finance career taught me how to use a spreadsheet and argue with CFOs but ROI is admittedly one of my favorite abbreviations—always scares the head of sales. 
  • I’m a bit of a visionary= I’m a bit of an egomaniac and narcissist
    • My add: Really? I love this guy, especially in a large bureaucratic organization, proving that he is much more of a pencil pusher, than a visionary…
  • It’s like the book “Crossing the Chasm”/”Blue Ocean”/”Good To Great” / “Tipping Point” / “Outliers”= I’ve never read any of these books but I sound literate if I quote from them. And, besides, you cretins probably never read them either to call me out on it
    • My add: Ugh, ugh, ugh!! Women don’t ever read these books, seriously, “Who Moved My Cheese” ruined me forever. If I have a free minute I’m all up in a PEOPLE Magazine on the flight back home or Vanity Fair if I’m feeling the need to think.
  • It’s next-gen/turn-key/plug-and-play= I want it to sound so technical that you’ll just buy it without asking me any questions
    • My add:  When you insist on doing software start-ups you end up using these type of phrases to fill in the gaps… It’s better than “you know that thingy that helps you do stuff”. As a women I don’t care how it works, just that it works!
  • We’re eating our own dog food= It sounds gross but we seem like honest folks if we do this.
    • My add: Italians don’t like dogs so this always makes me queasy.  Since I’ve moved south of the Mason/Dixon I’ve heard this more than once delivered by a rich male baritone—always makes me chuckle.
  • It was a perfect storm= We really screwed up but we’re going to blame a bunch of factors that are out of our hands (especially weather)
    • My add: Ok, sailing/pirate analogies are always useful. Remember that movie? I’ll never go fishing again! (Ok, I’ve never been fishing…)
  • I’m an agent of change= This makes it sound like I know how to handle the chaos that our business is constantly going through
    • My add: Ok, ok, I’ve said this in an interview, maybe once. I should just be honest and say; “I love chaos, I thrive on it, so no matter how screwed up things are now, I’ll remain calm and carry on.”
  • We take a “ready, fire, aim” approach here= We totally operate on a seat-of-the-pants basis
    • My add: Yea—that also means: “We don’t really do any research, preparation or put much thought into things because we’re hanging out in Starbucks (SBX) and we’re awesome!”
  • We need to manage expectations= Get ready to start sucking up to people
    • My add: Oh boy, things are going south, call the board and start adjusting the sales forecast downward…
  • It’s best-of-breed= We hired a market research firm to say that
    • My add: Is this a horse breeding term? Either way if the consultants say it’s good, who can argue?
  • We need to do a level-set= I’ve never been inside a Home Depot, but this phrase makes me sound handy
    • My add: Is that the yellow bubble thing that you balance on a building project for some reason? You know a straight line is so over-rated!
  • It’s basic blocking and tackling= How could you screw this up? I also played high school football and those were the best days of my life.
    • My add: I played 8th grade football, with uniforms (makes me a very unusual Mom as my son has started to play football) especially when I’m certain the other Mom’s were cheerleaders. I love wearing great high heels and using this phrase, makes men uncomfortable.
  • We want this to move up and to the right= I failed high school algebra but someone said this means we’ll be making a lot of money if this happens
    • My add: All Econ majors love this one because we break out in a sweat flashing back to advanced macro and those 70 graphs we had to memorize. All you need to know is:  this is a good thing.
  • We’ve got to increase our mind-share with the customer= I think I would have been happier as a doctor doing lobotomies than in marketing as a career path
    • My add:  Having escaped a career in finance I might rewrite this as: “I actually like figuring out what customers think and would do that all day every day for free rather than go back to finance and speak to no one but my spreadsheet.”

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