It’s natural that start-ups keen to follow in the footsteps of on-trend businesses will begin to adopt their behaviour, down to the language they use.
This is particularly evident in the tech sector, with Napster founder Sean Parker pointing out this week that many start-ups are “ridiculously overfunded.”
Alongside the vast amounts of investor cash pouring into tech start-ups, a whole language has sprung up around the sector. Sadly, it seems that some ventures feel that mouthing a few key phrases will make them serious players in the marketplace.
Of course, meaningless buzzwords aren’t confined to the tech industry. Start-ups from all industries should be reminded of the need to keep language clear and simple, to avoid alienating investors and customers (and even journalists – you should see some of the dross sent by PR people to StartupSmart Towers).
With this in mind, here are the 10 phrases you should think very carefully about before uttering.
1. “Solutions provider”
You provide solutions? Really? To what, exactly? Don’t call your business a solutions provider. It’s nonsensical. Would you call someone a “horticultural and blue sky thinking plant and soil solutions provider”? Or just a gardener? Just explain what your business does and what problem it solves.
2. “Customer focused”
When the Bank of Melbourne was unveiled earlier this year – essentially a rebranding job for a string of St George branches – it proclaimed that a key strength is that it is “customer focused”.
The mind boggles as to what else a bank should be focused upon, or any business for that matter. Stationery? Carpets? Poetry? As Rip Curl co-founder Brian Singer told us last year, if you don’t focus on your customers, you “won’t be around for long”.
The problem with revolutions is that they can only really be identified after the event. The market will decide if your product or service will be revolutionary. A press release, alas, will not.
Get on with the job of describing what your business actually does. What problem does it solve? Will it be cheaper or faster than your rivals? Who is it aimed at?
Much like “customer focused”, this pointless piece of flim-flammery instantly raises concerns as to what else would orientate a business.
To be clear – every business should focus on its customers. If it has an inclination to make money, pay you a wage and satisfy investors and customers, it will also require decent results.
If you feel the need to spell out these goals without actually explaining how you’ll do it, maybe entrepreneurship isn’t for you.
5. “Proven track record”
We are regularly told about the people behind a new business having a “proven track record”.
Wonderful. This is rarely, however, followed up by an explanation of what this track record is, nor how it will in any way benefit a cash-strapped start-up.
Being a senior marketing suit at Unilever for 10 years, for example, is all very well and good. But how does this “prove” that this person has the gumption to run, say, a cloud-based software venture?