I would love to call myself a logophile (I had to look this up and found this controversial article – not sure why lexophile wasn’t mentioned), but no sooner than I do, a REAL log/lexophile will show up and put me in my place with some really impressive words. Although, I don’t lose at scrabble very often, since it combines my math skills with my word skills. The reason I love words is that right or wrong, they convey very specific meanings (denotation) and also conjure up many emotions (connotation). Realizing the power that these words bring, I began to be very choosy about my word usage in business, and have done so for a few decades now.
One large example of a company culture that chooses its words very carefully is Disney. They have such cultural business terms as Cast Member for Employee, Guest for the customer, and On Stage to define anywhere a Guest may go. I also started a list of a few common terms that I like to replace to share my own beliefs in business. I’ve hopefully done a good job living by them in our process consulting as well as in our Community Site.
So here it is, a few common words that I HATE and what I replace them with:
Employee vs Team Member
Employee – instead, I use Team Member. I try to replace this word whenever possible, however for some contract reasons the word Employee and Employer should be used to show legal obligations. This is also the reason I try not to use it. I want us to working together toward a common goal and not keep reminding them of legal and fiduciary agreements.
Customer vs Client
Customer – instead, I like Client. For our IT industry clients, I actually use both, but with purpose. Someone who buys “stuff” from you is a Customer. Someone who values you as business partner to help the solve challenges is a Client. In my mind, customers are either a marketing ploy to convert them to Clients or a crutch to bridge a cash flow gap while you are building Clients. In some business models, I would think of break/fix customers as Customers and managed services customers as Clients.
Contracts vs Agreements
Contracts – maybe it’s just preference, but I prefer Agreements. It’s not so much about the contractual obligations we signed for, as much as two business owners coming to an agreement on who’s delivering which parts. In fact, most of our clients agree that taking legal action in court is basically a non-option, it’s cheaper to write it off and call it a lesson learned than it is to pursue legal recourse. If that’s the case, the word contract becomes even less meaningful. I’m thankful that ConnectWise Manage uses the term Agreements, and wish that Autotask would follow suit, but I understand trying to differentiate the products.
Org Chart vs Accountability Chart
Organization Chart (Org Chart) – While this is technically different than an Accountability Chart, I try to always use the Accountability Chart term. The Accountability Chart (link here to an example on our Community Site) shows that we are more concerned with where roles and accountability lies and not as much with reporting structure or hierarchy.
Price vs Rate
Price – I’m far less consistent here, but all the sales and marketing pundits say don’t use price (or join or subscribe). These words all have negative connotations involving “cost” or “commitment“. A word I’ve taken to using when discussing price is Rate. This one isn’t as sexy to me, and it does mean the same thing, but seems to have a bit less of a negative connotation attached. I’ve also seen the word “investment” used in it’s place but that seems so hokey – or at least that’s my personal connotation of it.
What are some other specific words you like to ban or use instead? Do disagree with any of my assertions above? I’d love to hear your feedback and will personally reply to all comments.