Smashing through the business cliches

I cannot work with people who are not upfront, honest and straight talking. In my view, businessmen who pepper their language with wretched clichés are just saying they themselves don’t have an original thought – and they don’t have a very good command of the English language either. Here are a few of my least favourite phrases and jargon bugbears from my new book Common Sense Rules

‘360 thinking’
The phrase ‘360 degree thinking’ should be put away in a locked box along with ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘thinking outside the box’ and countless other meaningless phrases that imply that at all other times one-dimensional, dull, uncreative thinking is the norm. Any business discipline requires creative thought, but creative thinking should be an everyday occurrence, not simply trotted out when demanded and only on special occasions.

Giving it 110%
Entrepreneurs who declare that they will keep themselves at that heightened ‘110%’ tension every single working day, are just talking nonsense. It just doesn’t make sense. They will burn out. It is hugely frustrating to see people going into their workplace every Sunday ‘to do stuff’. They believe that by making this sort of sacrifice they deserve to be successful. If only it were that easy. Working smart, keeping yourself business fit, bringing yourself to peak condition when needed and slowing down for rest time when it is possible is far more effective.

Every day is a new challenge
Everyone lives through life-changing events and episodes that alter the way they do business or their outlook on life. The point is, however, that they do not happen every day. Every day is not a new challenge, because that would be impossible to sustain. Even if a person is running the most dynamic business in the world, which is absolutely of the moment, there will be days when they just have to get on with the mundane.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
A new business should constantly be looking to move things forward and considering what might be around the corner. Expressions like ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ are just too passive. Surely the appropriate strategy is to keep ahead of events? A company cannot simply wait for things to happen to the business and then react when it is very often too late to do anything about it.

Be proactive, not reactive
A good company runs on a mixture of proactive and reactive initiatives. It should keep ahead of the game by judging the market and forecasting what will be important to its customers in the future, and it should also take the temperature of what is making them tick right now. In truth, no matter how well entrepreneurs think they know a given market, the consumer will always surprise them.

Surround yourself with people smarter than you
Company leaders are not looking for a bunch of really clever people who can outwit them at every turn. They are looking for people who have particular strengths in a specific area. By all means, find people with talent who are smarter than you in their particular areas, but stay one step ahead by being smarter overall.

Lunch is for wimps
I don’t normally eat lunch out of choice, but I do make time to have some lunches with my team because they can be extremely useful. I don’t think everybody has to get together, have a glass of wine and slap each other on the back. However, lunches with a purpose are a good environment to talk about key issues.

The customer is always right
I don’t agree with the old cliché that ‘the customer is always right’, largely because I think that the issue of right or wrong when it comes to customers is irrelevant. The customer is the customer. If companies want to keep customers they had better find out what it is they have to do to make those customers feel wanted and happy. Judging whether they are right or wrong to complain is really not the point.

You can’t turn around a tanker with a speedboat change
This usually comes up when I want to communicate something through the organisation quickly and get an instant reaction. It is the type of expression that is trotted out by executives who shake their heads and whistle through their teeth that this or that action is impossible to get done in that time frame because so many extra factors need to be taken into account. I hate that.

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong
This is a myth that is so against my philosophy of life that I find it hard to imagine why it ever came to be uttered. To say that things ‘just go wrong’, as if there is a victim who has played no part in the problem or who has no control over events whatsoever, is inexcusable. We all play a key role in our destiny by making sure that the job is done properly, the issues are anticipated correctly, and the necessary actions are taken to avoid or mitigate loss.

Look after number one
Looking after number one is selfish and short sighted. A company founder should look after everyone who is involved in their business and on the outside. Then the business will look after them.

When one door closes, another opens
It is just too passive in a business setting simply to expect something better to come along. I find that people spend far too much time fixated on the door that has just closed, rather than seeking out all the alternative opportunities available. I am a great believer in the fact that if you are looking for an opportunity you will see it.

Don’t reinvent the wheel
Just because an idea isn’t completely original doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Entrepreneurs will spend their lives trying to make the wheel just a little bit better.


About the Author: Deborah Meaden is a successful UK businesswoman and entrepreneur and is best known as one of the dragons from BBC 2’s hit show Dragons’ Den.  Deborah has recently released a new book called Common Sense Rules: What You Really Need to Know About Business check it out and benefit from Deborah’s wealth of expertise.

Julie Hall

Business Mentor & founder of Women Unlimited

Julie is the founder of Women Unlimited and a business mentor to women who know they are ready to step into their leadership. She works closely with them to help them remove the blocks that hold them back and achieve their business goals. Clarity, Focus, Strategy, Mindset and Marketing.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.