Modify Your Business With Adjectives

Jim Blasingame Have you ever stopped to consider how dull our world would be without adjectives? You know, those handy words or terms we use, as Webster says, to "modify a noun." Indeed, without the descriptive power of an adjective, a noun is nothing more than a commodity - like broccoli without hollandaise.

If I offered you a soybean, you would probably be less than intrigued by my gift. But what if I told you I was going to give you a "beautiful soybean"? You still might not know if you want it, but you definitely would want to see such a bean, wouldn't you? A change of attitude, all because of the power of an adjective.

When you consider the raw power of adjectives, "modify," which Webster says means "to limit," is a rather weenie word, isn't it? Yet there are adjectives that actually seem to limit, like lukewarm, tepid, dull, and, well, weenie.

But then there are those adjectives that get right in your face and hit you between the eyes like great, strong, powerful, dominating, victorious, beautiful, and many more. Rather than limiting, these adjectives actually can leverage a noun, like my "beautiful soybean."

Adjectives can be powerful and useful in your business in at least two ways:

1. They can help you look at your company in a way that is honest, creative, and critical.
2. They help you keep your products and services viable and competitive.

First - Your Company
Let's use the power of the adjective on the status of your business, and what you think about it. How would you describe your company? Take a piece of paper and a pen, or click over to your word processing program, and write down the adjectives that come to mind. Here are two ways to write it down:

• I have a (your adjective) company, or
• My company is (your adjective)

Make two lists. No business is perfect so, on the first list, put the adjectives that identify areas needing work or attention - what I call the limiting adjectives. Some possibilities are: new, small, and undercapitalized.

On the second list put the leveraging adjectives, which might include: emerging, successful, profitable, etc. Now go ahead. I'll wait here. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

Back? Okay. If you were honest with yourself, you have quite a few adjectives on both lists. And don't worry too much about your limiting adjectives. Your company could be both young and aggressive, both mature and evolving, or both undercapitalized and profitable. Your lists are not indictments - they're just a different and constructively critical way to step back and focus on how you see your business.

Now - Your Products And Services
Use the same exercise for each of your products and services. This is a great way to take an honest look at each one to see how they're doing. Perhaps the product you would have described last year as dominating, this year should be described as mature, even obsolete.

OBSOLETE!! Had you thought of it that way before?

Or the service you began last year, which you had been calling new, should now be re-characterized as your lead offering. Are you putting the necessary resources behind this emerging product?

If you take the time to do these exercises, I believe you will see your business and your products in a different, and more critical light.

What's Next?
Now that you have your company and products characterized with a collection of adjectives, what are you going to do with this information? If you described your company as unprofitable, what's it going to take to be able to change that currently accurate but limiting adjective into its reciprocal - profitable?

If you said your company is growing, congratulations. But growing toward what? Nationally distributed? Publicly traded? Or are you growing OUT of working capital? Some leveraging adjectives can be ominous.

If one of your products is now considered mature, what are you going to replace it with before it becomes obsolete? As we have seen, some nouns beg to be further modified.

The Power Of Brainstorming
One method of pursuing the power of adjectives is through brainstorming. My friend and Brain Trust member, Floyd Hurt, author of Rousing Creativity, says brainstorming is a great way to get creative juices flowing in an organization. Which fits perfectly with our exercise because creativity is the mother's milk of powerful adjectives.

Get your staff (or if you're a one-person shop, your support group) together and conduct a brainstorming session. But before you do, Floyd says it's important to know the rules of brainstorming. Here are the Floyd Hurt rules of brainstorming:

No criticism - Check egos and pre-conceived notions at the door. No matter what, everyone must feel that ANYTHING they say will not be criticized. Your employees especially need to know that honest comments and ideas will be considered constructive.

Free wheeling - Other than no gunplay or public nudity, there should be virtually no restrictions. Floyd says if you're pursuing how to pep up the showroom and someone says "Let's put an elephant in there," the next comment should be, "Are we talking African or Indian elephant?" And don't worry that your idea isn't complete. As you will see in a minute, your partial idea might spark the other half in someone else's mind.

Quantity - This is where the power of adjectives really comes into play. A brainstorming session MUST have LOTS of adjectives, ideas, and proposals. Write them ALL down! EVERY ONE!!

Combination and improvement - This is where you put some of your brainstorming ideas, including the half-baked ones mentioned above, together to make a better idea. After this kind of synergy clicks the first time with your group, buckle your seat belt, because your brainstorming will probably blast off with new energy.

Judgment of ideas - And finally, which one of the ideas are you going to leave the room with as viable projects to work on? This is the culling process. Everything said today is not a keeper - at least not today. But don't throw anything away. Keep the unused ideas and adjectives for the next session. Ideas are like seeds: sometimes they need time to germinate.

The Written Word
It's amazing how powerful a word can be when you see it written down. The great economist and thinker, Adam Smith, said the written word is one of the three most important developments of mankind, along with money and economic tables.

In our small businesses we often get so busy that we think we don't have time - or we just don't take the time - to put our vision, our dream, our business on paper. But when we do, in the form of a business plan, a financial report, or the exercise we've conducted here, the opportunity for clarity is immense.

Write this on a rock... If you want to see where you are going more clearly, use the power of adjectives. Reduce your business and products to writing and stand back and take a look. You might find that your attitude - and perhaps your fortunes - will change, and all because of the power of words.

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Category: Entrepreneurship
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