“Scale Up Your Business.” “Transform Your Business.” “Take Your Business To the Next Level.” What Are You Really Talking About?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On July 22, 2017

Good business meetings are essential to anyone who wants to successfully grow a business. Every now and then, however, during those meetings we all fall into “Biz Speak.” We use terms to describe events, processes, goals, and other important business happenings. We toss around terms such as “scaling up,” or “transforming our business,” or “taking our business to the next level.” There’s actually nothing wrong with any of those terms. But they’re not helpful if they mask what’s really happening (or not happening) in our businesses.

Recently, I came upon an article called the Brief Guide to Bulls**t Startup Lingo, a somewhat irreverent, hilarious, and insightful look at the language we use to describe our business endeavors. Click here to read the entire article. I’m including a couple of the choice descriptions here—very slightly edited to keep things PG-13.

  • Disruptive: A word that a startup uses to make themselves sound, erm, well…disruptive, despite the fact that every other startup labels themselves as disruptive, leaving the rest of us wondering “is anybody actually disruptive?” 
  • First-mover: A term used by startups after a single Google search reveals no similar businesses on page 1 to 3.
  • Pivot: The point where a startup realizes their idea is [lousy] and decides to take the business in a different (and probably [lousier]) direction.
  • Projections: A technique similar to one used by Native Americans to predict the weather whereby a founder looks to the sky, puts a finger in the air and predicts their startup’s financials for the next 5 years. The only difference is [that] Native Americans are pretty good at predicting the weather.

None of those terms are bad in and of themselves. The danger in using them is that they sound like business. They sound like growth. But if they’re used to mask a lack of progress, you have a real problem.

There’s a big difference between “pivoting” to adapt to a changing market and bouncing from one thing to another because of a lack of strategy. It may sound like you’re growing when you talk about “scaling up”, but unless you’re actually engaging in the kind of activities that will allow you to execute in a way that will handle exponential growth—it’s just words. You can talk about “taking things to the next level” but what exactly does that next level look like? What are your specific goals and metrics?

I’ll happily confess to using quite a number of these terms myself. I’m big on helping businesses transform themselves so that they are actually in a position to grow and to handle that growth. It’s why I named my company The Transformation Company. But when I use those terms I have very specific and measurable things in mind.

If you’re interested in doing more than talking about significant growth—and really want to take your company to the next level—let’s talk together about exactly what that means for you and exactly what you need to do to get there.