There is no shortage of overused buzzwords in the business world. What company doesn't want to be described as "innovative" or "agile"? But do you really know what those words mean? More importantly, does your audience know what they mean?
It's no secret many companies have been making strides to increase diversity in their organizations in recent years -- and that's a good thing. But Bryce Welker, founder and CEO of Crush The LSAT, believes those who tout their diversity as a key feature are often the least effective in making real change happen.
"The organizations that spend the most time going on about their 'diverse teams' and 'diverse clientele' rarely have the data to back up their claims," says Welker. "What's disappointing about this is no one realizes it, and these companies continue to garner praise for changing nothing. Stop merely squawking about diversity and actually do something."
"My opinion on this is probably divisive, but I hate hearing entrepreneurs talk about their 'personal brands,'" says Brittany Hodak, co-founder of ZinePak. The rise of social media in the business world has left many organizations looking for ways to stand out among the crowd. But, in a sea of influencers, your clients might need to see more of what you're really doing instead of your personal tastes.
"I relocated from NYC to Nashville 18 months ago and I realized that, outside of a few geographic bubbles, no one cares about your personal brand -- and talking about it just makes you sound like a jerk," she adds. "Stop worrying about your Instagram persona and focus on things that matter."
Every company wants to believe it is different from the rest, making real strides to stand out from the norm. But not every brand or product can truly turn an industry on its head -- and that's okay.
"'Disruption' has become so overused, and not every situation or startup is truly disruptive," says John Rampton, founder of Calendar. "It's become a catchphrase for anything that is different or new. And, while a lot of that is really good, not everything is going to revolutionize an industry. I think there are radical changes, social changes, benchmark changes and productivity changes being done by different companies."
"Entrepreneurs should be working smarter -- not harder," says Matthew Capala, CEO of Alphametic. In a world where everyone seems to boast about being busy, you may feel pressure to emphasize how much you're accomplishing as a business owner. But make sure you're prioritizing working effectively, not running yourself into the ground.
"Hustle also implies that you are working one over on your competition. Evolution of a brand and service should be based on careful calculation of market conditions and implementation of a growth plan. When you work smarter, there is no need to rush your projects or advance your brand in unnecessary directions," adds Capala.
Your customers probably assume you're doing something to evolve and keep up with the times. Does telling them you are innovative really capture the spark that makes you special? Shingo Lavine, founder and CEO of Ethos, doesn't believe so, and he suggests focusing instead on sharing the real work that's taking place.
"'Innovative' has become a staple part of startup vernacular, causing the word to lose much of its weight," he says. "Instead, describe what makes someone innovative. Is it their management practices, market analysis or hard work? Embody the meaning and you won't have to say it."
"While this term sounds appealing, 'low-hanging fruit' could have a negative connotation," notes Codie Sanchez, CEO at www.CodieSanchez.com. You want potential clients to see you as effective, but you don't want them to feel like their business is too easily won.
"It simply means that it's an easy target to acquire, which means all of your other competitors are probably doing the same thing, making your job more difficult," she says. "This means it might not be so easy to acquire after all. Instead, say something like 'our unfair advantage,' meaning the thing we do better than anyone else."