Are you using “business” in a derogatory way?

I was in a meeting the other day and heard someone use a word in a way that I find very interesting: “Business.” I had asked a question and one of the other two participants responded with, “Let me answer that, that is a business question.” Now both of the participants worked for the same company, and therefore it seems odd to use the word to distinguish one part of the company from another. Most of you probably know what he meant: He was the “business” person while the other participant was a technical person.

This is such a common word, but I often hear it used like this, in a way that is not reflected in any of the dictionary definitions I can find. The Free Dictionary defines business as a commercial enterprise or establishment. To me this describes the entire operation, but I often hear people use the word to reflect just a particular part of a company.

I remember the first time I heard this usage early in my business career. Someone suggested that we have a weekly operations meeting but only invite the “business” people. This person meant only the sales and marketing people. I found this odd. Aren’t we all involved in the business? I really felt like this person thought that sales and marketing were the only parts that were important.

This is very dangerous territory for a CEO. If there are parts of your business that really aren’t important, get rid of them. But in my opinion everyone who is in the company is part of the “business.” If you don’t treat them that way, you may find you don’t have as good of a business as you thought. The reason is that groups such as legal, accounting, finance, manufacturing, facilities and others – especially in big companies – can become so divorced from the business that they end up working at cross-purposes. Make sure all groups understand the vision/mission of the company and how they contribute as an integral part of the business.

Photo Credit: Victor1558 via Compfight cc

1 Comment

  1. Very insightful, Joel, as usual….thank you.


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