SMOKE: Corporate Speak
Originally published: 10 May 2005
Running my own business - small as it is - has given me some extraordinary insights into the workings of other businesses, most of them much larger than mine. I'm frequently staggered at the amount of bullshit said companies indulge in.
It's getting harder and harder for big businesses to get from A to B - there's a whole roundabout route to things that is often totally unnecessary and which hinders the companies rather than help them.
You need procedures and rules to keep a large business from descending into anarchy, but often those procedures are so involved and convoluted - and reliant upon so many different factors - that the overall efficiency of many companies could be vastly improved with some of it stripped away.
Take corporate speak, for instance - it's reached crisis proportions as the marketing folks and corporate bigwigs strive desperately to do away with plain English. And companies wonder why they have communication problems.
We have to deal with various clients and I'm frequently baffled by questions they ask. I've bookmarked one or two marketing sites in order to have easy access to the various marketing terms, because sometimes I really don't know what they're talking about.
"Please could you confirm approval of the client creative and advise on value-add solutions."
No - I cannot. I'm a normal human being, not some asshole who has to impress anyone with my command of modern, trendy catch-phrases. What you're asking is the following: "Is the ad OK? Do you have any ideas for some extra shit to give the client to keep 'em happy?"
Now why didn't you just ask that in the first place? The answer will be the same, but at least it will be an honest communication.
The thing you have to ask yourself is whether or not you'd speak like that at home, and if not then do us all a favour and lose the hypocrisy.
"You want to go out tonight, son? Sure. But first I'd like a proposal from you with regards your various homework assignments and for you to forward me a completion date. Bearing in mind that I'm always flexible and am prepared to accept arguments outside of the box, as long as my longterm financial investment in you pays off going forwards.
"At a grassroots level I'd be prepared to accept a Sunday extension, but that will be dependant on whether your aims and objectives for the project remain consistent with your ability to execute and deliver on time.
"If I were you I'd under-promise and over-deliver, by way of adding value and networking a future business partnership that can only result in a mutually beneficial, win-win relationship.
"I'll give you an updated assessment later in the PM, but for now we'll give it a provisional green light, pending your delivery of a rough mission statement within the accepted framework and before the agreed-upon deadline.
"Failure to negotiate a watertight contract will force the prime objective to be declared null and void and you'll have to remain in locum, I'm afraid.
"I believe that as a team we can outsource the integrated solution and fast-track it into approval from the Council Of Mother, and I believe we can make the sale if you use the leverage of restructuring your room at a later date (TBC), which you can lay on the table and bring to the party.
"Initiating this project action plan is going to require a paradigm shift from top brass but if we can prove we're results-driven we can probably offer an attractive ballpark.
"If none of the above is possible or likely then please revert soonest."
None of that is totally over the top. Put it this way - I didn't invent any of those words or phrases, and since you probably recognised a lot of them it means they are around in abundance.
Why? Could there be a more inefficient way of communicating? Everyone seems determined to impress their bosses or their teams - perhaps even themselves - at the expense of common intelligence, good communication skills and the English language itself.
But it's just stupid. I love straight-talking, honest people. I can't abide people who try to impress or who try to be someone they're not or who just generally put up so much of a false front it would take years to unravel the real person.
Just be straight, you know? There's no crime in being yourself. It's not necessary to change into another mode when you go to work, unless you're a kiddies toy salesman with an incurably morose disposition.
I used to be scared of being myself. I grew up believing I had to say or do the right thing all the time and that people would respect me more if I did things the proper way.
But that got me nowhere - it just made me blend into the crowd. I've never been comfortable in crowds.
So I decided to conduct business as me - exactly as I am. If people don't like it or feel threatened by my casual (yet businesslike and professional) demeanour - they don't have to do business with me.
In fact - they can call up their mythical 20 friends who will each spread the word to their mythical 20 friends and if nobody ever does business with me again I'll be fine with that.
I couldn't possibly live with myself if I resorted to corporate speak, however, because I'd be living a fat lie and sucking someone's ass. Funny that - where there's no ass to kiss, honesty will be found.
Ask anyone what things in life or other people they value most and nine times out of ten people will answer "honesty" or "truth".
If you claim to value such things then you must abide by them as well. Or admit that you're a hypocritical prostitute who will rim fat manager ass for money.
One thing about the truth is that no matter how much those around you might hate it - the truth is the truth. It's never a bad thing to be truthful or honest, even if you're not liked for it.
If you're consistent in your honesty you will eventually gain respect for it and have people accept you as you are.
If not the shoe will be on the other foot, the playing fields levelled and you will have to revert soonest. Good luck.
All Smoked Out,