The startup world is full of its fair share of jargon, with buzzwords like "unicorn," "disruption" and "innovation" becoming so commonplace in entrepreneurs' vocabulary that they nearly lose their meaning. In order to capture their audience and appeal to their target market, founders should be mindful of the language they use and how it could have an impact on their connection with both their team and their end user.
Eleven entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) offer the buzzwords they believe business owners should stop using, and why.
1. "Think outside the box."
Business owners really need to stop telling their employees to "think outside the box." For one, it implies that there is a box, and therefore limitations they have to work around. But more importantly, telling your employees that they need to think innovatively stunts the idea formation process by placing focus on the type of thinking that needs to be done, rather than on generating ideas. - Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media
2. "In my opinion."
It's great to have an opinion, but starting a sentence with "In my opinion..." can imply judgment of others' assertions. Instead, just state the opinion or belief and strip out unnecessary framing. This practice also helps to ensure that what you're sharing is based on facts versus opinions. - Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR
Startups often emphatically vow to "hustle" to impress clients and potential investors, but "hustle" is a true buzzword in the sense that it connotes taking action for taking action's sake. Look up "hustle" in the dictionary and you'll see the word commonly means to sell something by force and/or coercion, and/or to maintain a flutter of activity, as in "the hustle and bustle of the daily grind." - Chris Barrett, PRserve
The word "engagement" has been overused to the point that it's a meaningless filler word. When you talk about customer engagement, you should really be more assertive and refer to analytics like conversion rates or open rates. That tells you much more about how "engaged" your customers are with your brand. - Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
One buzzword that needs to go is "guru." It refers to the fact that someone is an "expert" in their field, but is not a tangible credential. It isn't something that you earned, it is something that you made to sound more impressive, and anyone can refer to themselves as one. - Stanley Meytin, True Film Production
6. "Crunch time."
"Crunch time" isn't something that employers and managers should be proud of. It means their planning and forecasting has failed or they've over-promised. It means they're going to disrupt their employees' personal time. Sometimes, crunch time is a necessary evil, but employers should be a little humble about it. Bragging about crunch time and 16-hour days sets the wrong tone. - Vik Patel, Future Hosting
7. "Own it."
I'm tired hearing that people should "own it." Many times, projects involve shared ownership and, this phrase conveys that sharing isn't part of the culture. It's better to be accountable for what you need to be while looking for ways to collaborate and work together toward a common goal. "Owning it" is alienating to me and takes away from the idea that what we are doing really depends on all of us. - Cynthia Johnson, American Addiction Centers
8. "Low-hanging fruit."
Do you know how many people are competing for the same low-hanging fruit you are? Competition completely dispels the notion that you can go for something easy and actually get it. There are already a ton of people going after the same thing. Business goals need to be big. You need to stop fighting for things that seem "easy," because in the end, they aren't. - Ismael Wrixen, FE International
9. "Game changer."
This is an overused phrase that suddenly seems to have been applied to every project or startup idea out there. It creates a false hope that every product or business idea is going to be that next big thing. Instead of claiming that it will change everything and blowing smoke, it's better to focus on what you are making and take a more humble approach. - Angela Ruth, Due
If you're using the buzzword "monetization," it's usually an afterthought to an idea. As in: "I have a great idea, now how do I monetize it?" The problem with this? Your business model is secondary. I humbly ask you to remove the word "monetization" from your vocabulary, because making money in business isn't a separate activity, it's THE activity. - Robby Berthume, Bull & Beard
Too many startups fall into the mentality of finding niches to "disrupt." Not only is the word overused, the idea of disruption causes many early stage companies to fail. Instead of trying to "disrupt," make decisions rooted in data. A good idea is only a great idea when it can be tested for success. Shaking things up for the sake of change does not lead to inevitable success. - Jennifer Mellon, Trustify