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Business as a Second Language

For those of you that haven’t been to business school, allow me to save you $60,000+.

Today, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that could dramatically increase how much money you’re able to make in your career. Armed with this knowledge you will close more sales, you will keep more customers, and you will have better relationships in your professional life.

Today you’re going to learn how to speak business as a second language.

What are you good at?

I’ve been creative for nearly all of my life. I used to like drawing. I liked creative writing and poetry. I enjoyed photography, videography, and anything else that allowed me to express myself. So when I got to my MBA at 27 years old, I felt like an outcast. I didn’t understand accounting or finance and for the first half of the program, I felt like dead weight to my cohorts. All I did was ask for help, I had little to offer.

Until one day in the second half of the program, we started marketing classes, organizational behavior, and other people and feelings-related work. It was at this point that we had to give our first presentations.

It was finally my time to shine.

selective focus photography of brass-colored microphone

While others were scared to death of public speaking, I am an only child and I welcome your full attention with glee.

It was at this moment that I learned an important lesson:

Maybe your role is in the finance department, maybe you’re a copywriter, or perhaps you are a competitive sales type. There is a role for everyone in business.

This was one of the three important lessons that I learned during my MBA. Mostly everything else could be forgotten or outsourced.

This was an important lesson and the start of my self-acceptance in the world of business.

But it is the other two lessons that will really change your career.

There’s Never Enough

dried soil

You probably have an idea in your head of what economics means. That’s fine, but when I say economics, I’m speaking about a very particular perspective on the subject: the study of scarcity. All economics involve the study of how to manage, trade, or work around scarce resources.

Every decision you, your clients, your boss, or your vendors have to make, exists under a condition of scarcity. There are two main reasons why this is true.

  1. A decision itself fundamentally means: among two or more options, choose one. You have a finite supply of options and the demand for a single solution. A decision, by definition, requires scarcity.
  2. Every decision-maker, prior to making their choice, must consider a variety of factors including their available resources (time and money), as well as what they have to lose or gain from any particular path. Those variables limit the total number of options available.

Scarcity is at play in virtually every business decision. Once you understand this and build it into your approach to business, you can better navigate almost any situation.


Here’s why this really matters…

Money dictates business decisions. This includes the flexibility to make decisions regarding labor costs, costs of raw materials, and investments.

  • The more money a business has, the more flexibility they have and the greater degree of risk they are able to take on.
  • The less money they have, the more risk-averse they become and the more watchful they are over every dollar spent.

Every person in business must think about these constraints because each understands (even if only in the back of their mind) that any decision they make that impacts the company’s finances, can have serious personal ramifications, including their own promotion or termination. Everyone is incentivized out of self-preservation to make decisions that benefit the company’s finances.

These are universal business conditions. Do not forget this fact.

Business as a Second Language

Both time and labor are finite resources and, like everything else, have a monetary value associated with it. Therefore, we must come to the realization that every business decision is fundamentally about money.

This reveals one of the greatest lessons you can learn in business.

Money is the language of business.

This may sound simple or even obvious on the surface. Maybe it is but, in my experience, the vast majority of people I’ve encountered in business still take this for granted.

If you strip it down to its core, a business only has three elements: revenue (assets), expenses (liabilities), and profit (margin).

  • How much is coming in?
  • How much is going out?
  • How much is left?

That’s it.


Literally, every single thing that you talk about in business, MUST, in some way, relate back to money or be communicated through a money frame. Because that is all that business is.

When you are talking to a prospect about doing work together, they are most likely thinking about how much time and money they have available relative to your offer, and they are definitely thinking about how much revenue this will generate or how much money this will save them.

This is the frame from which you must speak. Anything else, is ignoring the reality of business and that person’s own self-interest.

When you are talking to a client about a new logo, video, blog post, or social media campaign, they are most likely thinking about how much time and money they have available relative to your offer, and they are definitely thinking about how much revenue this will generate or how much money this will save them.

This is the frame from which you must speak. Anything else, is ignoring the reality of business and that person’s own self-interest.

When you are talking to your boss about taking time off from work, they are thinking about how much lost productivity the company will have to make up for and whether or not they have the labor available, and whether that lost productivity will cost the company money.

This is the frame from which you must speak. Anything else, is ignoring the reality of business and that person’s own self-interest.

This all sounds so heartless, doesn’t it?

Look, let me be perfectly clear: I do not believe that money is not the most important thing in business…far from it. I am not a capitalist, and I’m not trying to convince you to be one.

In fact, my personal position is that the belief that greed is good, or that companies exist solely to increase shareholder value is some morally-bankrupt nonsense conceived by and perpetuated by people whose hearts have become as dull as charcoal briquettes and as empty as the cold, lifeless vacuum of space. I’m looking at YOU Milton Friedman 👈👀.

The point I’m trying make is that, if you want to survive and thrive in business, you need to speak in the native tongue, not reshape your values.

To be clear, I work my ass off to make my clients money or save them money. So, I’m not suggesting you use a money frame as a form of deception. I’m suggesting that whatever you do, you translate it for your audience. If you want people to listen to you, talk about what’s important to them, not what’s important to you.

So, even though I talk to my clients about taking care of the employees, taking care of the environment, and ultimately making the world a better place, I make sure to show them how all of those things can be very profitable, in addition to being the right things to do.

The Creative Problem

person holding click pen

I have been a creative throughout my career and I work with many creatives. Creatives are not known for their preoccupation with money as a driving force in their career. While creatives, like everyone else, want some safety, security, and recognition (in the form of money) that their work is valuable, it is not the same motivating force as self expression, personal growth, or self actualization. For these individuals, talking about money is often uncomfortable. We are often much more comfortable talking about how things make us feel, listening to our gut, or creating work that resonates in the hearts and souls of our clients.

There is nothing wrong with any of that. But, my fellow creatives: say it in a different language.

If you want to sell your client on a video project, instead of saying:

I think you’re really going to like what we’re going to do with this video project. We’re using a two camera setup and with the lighting we are bringing, we’ll really bring out your best side. Also, because we’re shooting the video in 4K, it’s going to look crystal clear on any screen size. It’s going to look great!

Try saying:

We always bring two cameras to our shoots so we can condense everything into a single day of filming. Our clients tend to like that because it saves both time and money. We also shoot in 4K because we want to make sure that whether you run that Facebook Ad Lead Gen campaign or post it to Linkedin, that you stand out against your competitors because of the quality. We do everything we can to make sure it’s a no-brainer for your target customer to choose you so that you can not only justify the cost of working with us, but see it as a wise investment.

If you want to get a prospect to move forward with a brand strategy project, instead of saying:

Brand Strategy is so important because it shows everyone on your team who you are and what you stand for. It also gives you the tools to effectively communicate with your target audience reinforcing your positioning, values and mission.

Try saying:

Building a Brand Strategy is among the most important things you can do to grow your business. A Brand isn’t just about feelings, it’s about creating a strong position in the market to drive customer loyalty and unleash the raving fans that help the company grow. For instance, having a clear positioning that drives your marketing, is your best tool to show your ideal customer exactly why they should choose you and continue coming back. A clearly articulated and authentic brand story will attract top talent that shares in your missions, vision and values leading to higher employee retention and lower recruiting costs.

In both of these examples, I tried to say virtually the same thing, but with a different lens.

  • The deliverables are the same.
  • The frame is different.

Frame everything you do in business around the financial impact it will have.


It’s time for the rubber to meet the road.

Look back on your last 3 client engagements that didn’t go exactly right.

What went wrong? What might’ve changed if you framed what you were doing in terms of the financial impact of the work?

Think about your last 3 sales conversations that didn’t move forward.

Did you make it clear how working together would benefit them financially?

What about the work you deliver?

Are you making sure the client properly contextualizes it in terms of financial gain or avoiding loss?

Commit to working on this for the next month. Remember before every meeting to look through the money frame.

Report back and let me know how it went. For me, it changed my entire career.

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