To start a successful company, entrepreneurs need more than good ideas: they need to interact intelligently with investors, customers, and associates. It’s no secret that effective leaders are great communicators; unlike big talk or shallow chatter, intelligent expression empowers businesses from the ground up.
It’s true that there are phrases that make people trust you and terminology used by CEOs to sound authoritative and in-the-know. These phrases and terms, however, must go beyond sounding like a leader: they must showcase leadership too. Empathy, perspective, and humility go just as far as confidence, and the way in which you speak to others will communicate these critical elements, building trust.
Like other entrepreneurs, I’ve learned by trial and error what works and what doesn’t, gotten lucky in more than a few ways, and (thankfully) have been able to identify what is effective and replicate it wherever possible. Having impactful phrases in your back pocket and knowing when to wield them is a worthwhile tactic for any leader, entrepreneurs especially.
So without further ado, here are five powerful phrases to optimize business interactions and ultimately your company to the next level.
1. “Here’s how we can scale.”
The only reason any company gets out of its “garage” stage, a la Apple and Amazon, is its ability to scale. But there’s a difference between being good enough to scale, having the demand to scale, and having the ability to do so. If you have the former two without the latter, you may just get stuck in the garage. Being able means articulating the need for scalable solutions and planning for their execution.
The ability to scale quickly has been key to my own company’s success in the last decade. In my line of work, you need to be able to scale campaigns up and down quickly depending on donations, which can grow unexpectedly and exponentially with short notice. On the corporate side, you have more time to scale, certainly — but having and sharing a plan in case of rapid growth in any industry can’t be underestimated. It proves that you, as a leader, have both vision and strategy.
2. “What are our competitors up to?”
Knowing your competitors’ strengths and weakness provides invaluable information, especially when you’re trying to outwit your rivals’ pursuit of the same accounts. But don’t get frustrated when, despite your best sleuthing, you actually can’t find what out what makes your competition tick. It’s not uncommon for your business opponents to play their cards close to their chest. In political consulting, for example, it’s sometimes challenging to know exactly what other firms are doing to win and service clients.
If you want your business to flourish, you need to look both inward and outward for insight. And if the “insight” you need isn’t readily available (i.e., when you try and fail to find out what your competitors are doing), you can still get creative about learning what’s going on in your industry, how you fit in, and where threats exist. At the very least, you can study a competitor’s brand positioning and online presence; these are two big areas where many helpful observations can be gleaned.
The internet is how I perform much of my due diligence to understand where, when and how my company can leverage key opportunities. In fact, when you study a company’s brand messaging on its website, you might find that the business is making promises that you know they can’t keep. In which case, that’s your cue to distinguish yourself by preaching your results-oriented pragmatism.
3. “Let’s take this offline.”
A good leader doesn’t waste people’s time or money. For instance, when two people in a room of 15 are talking about something irrelevant to the group, I consider it wasteful. I especially feel this way when the topic they’ve brought up isn’t applicable to the larger discussion or if there’s a chance it’s a sensitive subject for others in the room. Associates don’t always have the intuition to recognize what needs to be kept private — it’s your job as a leader to remind them.
If you’re discussing information that could cause massive damage if leaked or hacked, your conversation is likewise best taken offline.
4. “Here’s how we can get the best ROI.”
Return on Investment isn’t just meaningless business jargon: it’s the life force of efficiency and ultimately success. Entrepreneurs simply have to do the math and communicate a plan for getting the best ROI — a plan that entails spending money wisely and meticulously.
This is especially true when charged with making decisions about human capital. If I’m paying someone a six-figure salary, I want to find out how and where I can use them to get the best return on the very worthwhile investment of hiring them. It may seem like common sense, but if you’re not talking about ROI and trying new ways to flourish through smart budgeting, you could be in trouble.
For the same reason, entrepreneurs need to know when to turn down a deal. You don't always win by going after something new and exciting, which is why the ROI formula is so important. Ask yourself, am I investing cash without a guarantee that I'll break even? If the answer is no you need a new plan, and to share it with the appropriate people when necessary.
5. “Thanks for your hard work.”
Last but certainly not least, a company is only as great as the people that work there. If your employees feel inspired, they are infinitely more likely to be loyal, productive team members that will empower your company to succeed. Entrepreneurs should ingrain the habit of thanking their team to encourage a culture of reciprocity and gratitude.
I’m a firm believer that people find fulfillment in their job because of their passion for what they do, not the size of their paychecks. My philosophy is to pay people well and hopefully better than competitors, but just as importantly to make them feel valued. That starts with the leader - acknowledging the team’s hard work and thanking them for it.
This “thank you” must be sincere and heartfelt rather than just perfunctory. So entrepreneurs must not just memorize it, but feel it and express it. It has to be true to be empowering.
Mastering these five phrases won’t be the silver bullet to success as an entrepreneur, but they will be helpful tools to fuel your company, strategy, and team as you forge a name for yourself in your industry. Use them wisely, and the world is yours to influence.