by: Geoff Ficke

Words Used to Present Your Business Proposition Must be Carefully Chosen

This week I was forwarded a Business Plan from a Venture Capital principal for whom I perform consulting services. This gentleman had read the elevator pitch for the product and had initial interest in the proposition. He requested that I review the document in detail and mark up the key points that would be of much, or of no interest to his firm and make a recommendation as to the viability of the project.

The plan was dedicated to a funding effort for a new line of cell phone accessories. The concept and early stage physical execution was in good order and would seem to have much upside potential. The commercial attractiveness of the products was apparent and there seemed to be a nice Unique Selling Proposition available for the taking if all elements of the plan could be executed properly.

Something vexed me, however, as I began to re-read and markup the Business Plan. I was uncomfortable with phrases that were used to describe the line of products. And, because I became sidetracked by the grammar and phrasing I was reading, I began to question the plan’s assumptions much more critically.

Words matter and they can be helpful, or hurtful in any situation, whether in life, romantically, or professionally in business. In this case the terms used to describe what seemed like a nice opportunity for Venture Capital investment lifted a cloud over the enterprise in my mind.

A word that is a negative in many business contexts is “cheap”. Cheap denotes inferior. Cheap implies poorly made. The word cheap was used numerous times in the Business Plan I was reviewing. A far better word than cheap is inexpensive, or affordable. Another word with baggage is “buy”. It is always deemed better to make a purchase than to buy an item or service.

“Offer” is a better word choice than “sell”. The 40 foot Hatteras Yacht is offered at $75,000 is so much more resonant to the eye and ear than the 75 foot Hatteras Yacht is for sale at $75,000. People like to purchase. They resent being sold.

There are numerous examples of words that can be substituted for terms such as cheap, sell, or buy and thus confer a more positive commercial experience. The way words are used is indicative of the level of professionalism that a party brings to a transaction.

Often, owing to distance, or time constraints, or purposefully placed professional barriers, the two or more parties participating in business collaborations do not physically meet, at least initially. Words used in e-mails, phone calls, Business Plans or correspondence are all that each party has to take the measure of each other. Choose words carefully. They can make, or break, your opportunity.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.