Eight killer business words and phrases

We once asked a group of business students what was the most important phrase a business person travelling abroad needed to know in a foreign language. They all volunteered things like ‘Hello’, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’, all useful words but they miss the point. Then someone volunteered the killer phrase, ‘Can I have a receipt, please?’ Why? Because wherever you go you always have to justify your expenses and to do that you need receipts. So, ‘can I have a receipt, please?’ is a killer business phrase.

Here are my eight killer business words and phrases.

1. KPI’s:

It’s an acronym. Everyone hates them. Everyone uses them. Familiarise yourself with KRAs (key requirement areas), KPIs (key performance indicators) and ROI (return on investment) so you never look blank or have to ask when someone else uses them.

2. Close of play:

If you don’t observe deadlines, you’re dead. So make sure you provide information ASAP (as soon as possible) – another acronym, or by COP (close of play, i.e. end of the working day). I heard COP the other day for the first time. If you’re going to be late, give your colleagues a ‘heads up’ (advance warning) so they can organize their work around you.

3. Kick-off:

No, it’s nothing to do with football although that’s where the phrase comes from.
Meetings often start with the chair (no, it’s the person not the piece of furniture) saying, ‘Let’s kick-off’ and a ‘kick-off meeting’ is a meeting held to start a new project.

4. A meet and greet

Heard this recently at a reception attended by a member of the royal family who wanted to do a full ‘meet and greet’, in other words to shake hands and say hello to everyone present. So a meet and greet is office protocol for an occasion when you get to say hello formally to a senior executive on a visit.

5. The P&L:

Business is about money so here is another acronym. P&L means profit and loss. It’s the accounting document that measures the operation’s profitability or degree of loss. So if you hear ‘We need to worry about the P and L’, the speaker is concerned about whether the project is profit making or loss making. However some firms might deliberately make a loss on a project as a ‘loss leader’ because it gives them an advantage in other areas of the business, like useful publicity.

6. Follow-up:

This is really important. If you get a request, make sure you promise to ‘follow up’ and present a plan of action, send an email or whatever is needed. ‘Follow-up’ is a key concept in business. It means you are prepared to put in the time and effort to check things are done right and maintain contact with the person you are dealing with. Failure to ‘follow up’ is one of the commonest causes of lost business.

7. On spec:

Abbreviations, like acronyms, are everywhere. Business is about delivery on time, on spec. and on budget. What’s ‘spec’? ‘Specification’, dummy. When you hear them, make a list, learn them and use them.

8. Job done:

Any operation completed successfully is ‘job done’. It doesn’t just mean we’ve finished. It means we’ve finished and ‘got a result’, i.e. completed the job successfully.

Remember, popular business words and phrases vary from industry to industry, so to paraphrase Groucho Marx, ‘These are mine. If you don’t like them, well, I have others!’

  • Groucho Marx ‘A Night at the Opera’ (1935) ‘These are my principles. If you don’t like them, well, I have others.’

Barry Tomalin lectures at the London Academy of Diplomacy and is a well-known writer and speaker on international communication and international cultures. He is the author of ‘Effective Meetings in 7 Simple Steps’. Reach him at barrytomalin@aol.com or www.culture-training.com.

Learn more about the Collins 7 Simple Steps series at www.collins.co.uk/7SimpleSteps

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