August 16, 2017

Buzzwords and Bull%!@#

Most of the truly intelligent people I know don’t seem to care about being perceived as smart. Truthfully, it’s almost as though they fear their “nerd” status and choose to embrace a very simple vocabulary when conveying their ideas and thoughts. On the other hand, I’ve met many a charlatan who pepper every sentence with “pomp and circumstance” so to appear gifted beyond mortal comprehension.

We’ve all met them, these idiotic nincompoops pretending to know what they are talking about. They try to sell us snake-oil products, fabricate resumes, over-exaggerate their accomplishments, or provide us useless services without meaningful results. These twit-heads show up in all aspects of our lives and in our businesses.

Sure, some of these people are just trying to make ends meet. Let me not judge too quickly or harshly, but I’ve run into a few who would shamelessly steal a guide dog from a blind person if they had half an opportunity to do so. Spotting the “bull%!@#” and the “bull%!@#er” can make doing business a helluvalot easier. Unfortunately, we don’t have superheroes to help us with these problems: (warning some language in the clip — but it gets the point across)

Sans Bull@&!# man we’re left to our own devices to determine when someone is taking advantage of us. Developing our “spidey senses” to identify the cons and con-artists often takes exposure to heaping huge doses of bull%!@#. While the school of hard knocks is wonderfully cheap on the front-end, it usually results in a high cost on the back-end of your business venture.

So let me give you three pointers to help you spot the snake in the grass from a long way off.

If it sounds too good to be true — it probably isn’t true!

If the Investment Advisor is promising guaranteed returns and ZERO risk.
If your prospective employee is saying they turned down a job offer from Google or Apple to work for your retail store.
If your marketing guy promises he can get your e-commerce clothing store to the front page of Google.
If your tax guy promises you that you won’t get audited for something that sounds super shady.
If your overseas IT outsourcing company promises you’ll have no customer complaints and the project will be completed long before it’s due.
If you get this small business 8A certification then you’ll be a super millionaire cos it’s just that easy.

Then it’s probably nonsense. Whenever a claim sounds preposterous it’s usually because it is. In my experience 99,999 times out of 100,000 the claim is a lie. In fact — in my experience it is 1,000 times out of 1,000, but I have heard stories about people who experienced a miracle… I’ve never met these people, but I’ve heard stories.

We like to do a “smell test”. If it smells like dog poop — it’s probably dog poop!

Buzzword overkill

Paradigm shifts, impact, corporate synergy, disruptive, incentivize, outside the box, bleeding edge, core competency, etc. If your employee, independent contractor, or vendor is spouting nonsense drivel — it usually means they have no idea what they’re talking about. Here is my favorite from the Wall Street Business Buzzword Generator:

“Optics will be the key to our ability to recontextualize the solutions strategically.”

The best advisors, employees, employers, partners, and vendors will want to communicate simply and directly. Take a look at this email from Elon Musk to his SpaceX employees back in May 2010:

Notice how one of the smartest people on the planet communicates and insists his team communicates with each other. Keep it simple. Keep it direct.

Trust your instincts, but ask for feedback from others.

I’ve been taken in by a few amazing sales people in my life… where I truly wanted to believe the bull I was being sold. In every instance though, I had a nagging feeling I was being taken for a ride. Usually, the people closest to us can see the con-artist at work by being able to see the “trick” from a different angle.

The mind can be tricked and manipulated… but our heart often can spot the illusion. Seeking wisdom from people in our trusted circle can help us gain a different perspective of a person, product, or service. Trust your instincts and your inner circle before committing to major decisions or business relationships.

I’ve had employers, employees, partners, vendors, and even customers try to sell me a pile of poo to their benefit and my detriment. I’ve occasionally been fooled by the best of charlatans. If you find that you’ve been had — don’t waste time trying to work with the con and con-artist … simply end the relationship. Terminate that employee. Find a new job. Switch to a different vendor. Fire that customer (yes, you can fire customers). Just shut that door. The longer you wait, the more you’re going to lose. Don’t wait till it’s too late. Cut your losses and move on, because there are plenty of good people, companies, services, and products which will help you along your path to success.