Brushing up on business jargon
Understanding business terms and using them in the right context shows you're serious about your business.
Business jargon can be difficult to get to grips with when you're starting out, particularly when it comes to accounting or IT lingo. But it pays to understand the basic terms you will encounter when starting out.
There's nothing wrong with jargon and terminology as long as it's used in the right place with the appropriate audience, according to Marie Clair, spokesperson for the Plain English Campaign. 'Like any other shorthand, jargon can make things easier and quicker to communicate if it is part of your familiar language,' she says. But she adds that when jargon is used at the wrong time it creates confusion and frustration.
Take note that phrases like 'think outside the box', 'brainstorm', and 'singing from the same hymn sheet' can sound clichéd and are best avoided.
Ultimately, you should speak plainly but also understand and use the correct business phrases when required. The following are some common business terms you are likely to encounter when running your own enterprise.
A 'business plan' is a crucial document that communicates what the business is about and aims to achieve. Terms you might find within a business plan include 'forecast' (predicted sales, income, debts, etc) and 'executive summary' (an overview of the business plan describing what the business does and some key points from the financial forecast). Since the executive summary is a written overview of your business, it should be like an elevator pitch in writing.
Accounting and Finance
Accounting and finance present a minefield of jargon for new businesses. You'll come across 'capital' (money used for investment), 'cash flow' (the money coming in versus what you need to pay out), 'profit and loss' (how much money the business is making or losing) and 'risk analysis' (a look at which factors could affect the business). But this is just the start. There are many other accounting terms you will need to become familiar with later.
Technology and Digital
Like financial terms, techno-jargon can also be confusing. There are phrases like 'e-business' or 'e-commerce' and 'm-commerce', which refer to buying and selling products online or on mobile devices. 'Social networking', 'blogs', 'wikis' and 'podcasts' all refer to online communication tools useful for marketing. You might also be required to take part in a 'web conference' or 'webinar', an online audio or video meeting, using a program such as Skype.
Sales and Marketing
Jargon in this category includes 'positioning' your product or service in the marketplace (identifying where it sits against rival brands or products), setting a 'price point' for your product (how much you plan to charge), your 'USP' (your product or service's 'unique selling point', in other words what is unique about it that will make people want to buy from you), 'customer segmentation' (which is how you categorise your buyers) and 'customer relationship management' (CRM), which is a strategy that assesses your customers' buying habits.
'Jargon has a good purpose but it can also confuse things terribly. The simpler your language the more powerful your communication,' says Charlie Skinner, head of research at Haines McGregor, a specialist brand adviser.
As well as learning to use the right jargon, you should be alert to people misinterpreting what you say, either in a written or verbal pitch. So – keep any writing concise and highly factual and avoid absolute or exaggerated statements like 'we are the only business that sells this product', as they could harm your business case and ultimately your reputation.