Mind your language

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Start in an industry we know little about it. By the time you become a leader in it, you should be able to spot meadow mayonnaise at four hundred paces. There are different ways to tune this exotic radar. One is to build an encyclopediac knowledge of the business. Another is to be able to spot an employees’ nervous twitch better than a champion poker player.

I find words are the easiest give away. Here are ten favourites which indicate that bovine waste is in the air:

But, as in “that is a great idea but..” Remember that everything before the “but” is bullshit: they say what they mean after the “but”.

Just and only, as in “I will just be a minute” or “It was only a small error.” Just and only are sure signs of someone defensively justifying the indefensible: “it was only a small nuclear bomb…”

From as in “Paris from £49”: add a zero and you will be closer to the all-in cost of the Paris trip.

Investment. They want money to spend. Favoured by politicians and loss making businesses.

IRR, payback period, NPV, ROE: they have used insane assumptions to manipulate a spreadsheet into giving the answer to they need to justify their investment.

Strategic investment. They want to spend money and lose it on something unimportant.

Important, critical, essential, vital: to them, maybe.

Opportunity as in “we have an opportunity” more accurately described as “we have a problem, Houston”.

“The boss says…” The worst way of defending anything.

“Wonderful production values” as used by advertising agencies when they have spent a fortune on advertising which will not work.

Doubtless you have you favourites. A bottle of champagne for the best reply.


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