Common, Popular Business Cliches, Expressions, Sayings

Business cliches are common expressions, sayings and terms that
are easy to remember, and sometimes used as simple
rules, and guidelines for running a business.

But even popular cliches can be misleading or just plain untrue! This is why it's included on our executive coaching website, where you will find ideas, suggestions, action steps, and maybe even a bit of humor, to IMPROVE your business, career, and personal life.

Links to Other Jargon Word Examples and Cliches Pages
Examples of Jargon
Business Jargon
Police Jargon
Understanding Computer Jargon
Business Cliches
Popular Cliches
Misleading Cliches

Here are some well-known business cliches, showing their "Common Meanings" and "WARNINGS" about taking them too literally. We encourage you to send us more cliches you think might be helpful to add to this list.

Common Business Cliches and Expressions

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Common Meaning: If something is running pretty well, don't try to make it better.

WARNING: No situation and no one is perfect in this world. In business, smart managers know that one should strive to make continual improvements over time, or competition will eventually come along and surpass you. People need to "pick their spots" and prioritize their challenges; choose to work on the ones that offer the least risks/costs and best returns/rewards.

"Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door."

Common Meaning: All you need to do is come up with a great invention or innovation, and you will be flooded with business.

WARNING: Engineers, technically creative people, and others often underestimate the importance of general business skills, especially effective sales and marketing. For every ten patents issued, only about one of them actually makes it to market. It is often the case that creating the invention is less costly than trying to market it and sell it.

"Don't re-invent the wheel."

Common Meaning: This business cliche means it's better to do things the usual way.

WARNING: While this is a good GENERAL rule, there are situations when you can "do it yourself for less" and other times when you can create something that's a LITTLE different and MAKE MILLIONS!

"The ball is in your court."

Common Meaning: It's your turn to make the next move.

WARNING: Although in tennis you will ALMOST NEVER see this happen, in business it's often the right move to walk away from potential deals, because they are almost never as good as they first appear. It's very important to know when (and how) to best say "NO, thanks!".

"Swing for the fences...."

Common Meaning: Try to hit a home run and score some runs! In other words, try to make an unusually big success on every attempt.

WARNING: In baseball, it's always exciting and memorable to watch someone "hit one out of the park". But just don't forget: Babe Ruth hit
A LOT of home runs, but he was a strike out leader as well. For most people, it's often a lot easier and more likely to "hit singles" if you focus on that. Just remember: If you can keep hitting singles, your opponents will never get up to bat, and you will win! It's often better to aim more for consistent modest gains.

"Act in haste, and repent in leisure."

Common Meaning: If you do things too quickly without thinking it through enough, you'll likely have lots of time to regret your poor decisions.

WARNING: Even though in general this is good advice, SOME people spend so much time thinking and thinking and thinking, that they make very few decisions; making decisions is very hard to them.

It's usually better to make frequent, timely GOOD decisions even if occasionally you make a poor one, than to hesitate, get paralyzed and make very few decisions.

"Don't sweat the small stuff."

Common Meaning: Don't worry about little things; concentrate on the big things.

WARNING: But what does "small stuff" really mean? Sometimes small things can be VERY IMPORTANT! See the next business cliche.

"It just takes time....."

Common Meaning: Many people believe cliches like: "Time heals all wounds." "Give it time." "This too will pass."

WARNING: Some things like minor skin scrapes WILL usually heal themselves over time. But cancers won't normally get better over time without intervention. Emotional scars often lead to deep seated resentments without counseling. These same principals apply to business. While it DOES take time to solve challenges, it also takes proper assessments, good execution and being fortunate.

"The devil's in the details."

Common Meaning: It's very important to dot all the "i"s, and cross all the "t"s.

WARNING: You better make sure that someone trustworthy is making sure the details are being carried out properly AND someone's watching the big picture, too.

"Go for the low-hanging fruit."

Common Meaning: It's better to capitalize on the easiest pickings first.

WARNING: This strategy is what many people employ; quite possibly however, there are even bigger, better rewards by exploring opportunities just a little away from the pack.

"Business as usual."

Common Meaning: It's the normal, routine way business is accomplished at that organization. (This is one of the business cliches that actually implies several different things.)

WARNING: This can imply that business is continuing DESPITE difficult obstacles in the way, perhaps some to be commended. This could also mean business is continuing despite not taking into account market or other changes. In this case, this likely may require some changes to business operations to "keep up with the times" and retain your clients.

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Other Common Cliches and Business Cliches

"You Scratch my Back", "Bleeding Edge Technology"; "360 Assessment"; "Breaking Ground"; "I'll scratch yours"; "Who Moved my Cheese"; "Lessons Learned"; "Laugh all the way to the bank"; "Think outside of the box"; "SWOT Analysis"; "Team Player"; "Talk Shop"; "Push the envelope"; "The 80-20 rule"; "In the red"; "Blue Sky"; "In the Black"; "Raise the Bar"; "Pay to Play"; "Scalability"; "Planned Obsolescence"; "The Bottom Line"; "Close Enough for Government Work"; "800 Pound Gorilla in The Room"; "It's Business"; "It's Just Business"; "Skill Set"; "Making Money Hand over Fist"; "Team Building"; "We Have No Choice"; "Pushing the Envelope"; "Dodge A Bullet"; "We Are What We Are"; "Everyone Is Doing It"; "Want Fries With That?"; "User-friendly"; "The Buck Stops Here"; "Cash Cow"; "Drink the Kool-Aid"; "Best Practices"; "Core Competency"; "Hit the Ground Running";

Popular Business Cliches - Lessons Learned

I hope this analysis and list of common business cliches was helpful. I think it illustrates how we must be careful when we say them and realize they are simplistic views of reality. They can be inaccurate, wrong, overused, bad, funny, stupid, or just plain full of fallacies, so even with popular cliches: business managers beware!

If you're interested in making some positive changes to your business, career and/or personal life, I'd suggest you look at the bottom portion of this page; it will give you some quick steps to outline a process I know works! I wish you success in your pursuits.

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