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Partnership happy talk

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

In recent times, you will have seen many business relationships described as “partnerships”. In the corporate world, the word is now a euphemism for a financial transaction.

This may have arisen from a discomfort among new generations of executives for the mucky implications of profit, and preference for the happy talk of ‘making a difference’.

The result is too much room for confusion when things get serious, such as communicating to others about the implications of the sale of one business to another.

We looked at a bunch of acquisition announcements from Kiwi companies over the past couple of years. We found a predominance – about 80% of the content – was vague and unspecific language, and corporate buzz phrases. The word “partnership” was everywhere to describe what was in- fact a sale.

One financial services company even claimed it was joining a ‘new rocket ship’. We like the intent of sparking excitement rather than worry, but facts matter first, and the word ‘sale’ or ‘purchase’ was hard to find.

Buzz phrases cause confusion because they do not relay information. The word ‘partnership’ means a mutually balanced relationship. The word ‘sale’ means a change of ownership. These are very different.

Avoidance of using ‘sale’ does not reduce customer angst over the future. It leaves them no wiser about what has happened. This invites more worry and questions. Moreover, this mushy meaning annoys customers because it signals a lack of appreciation for their value and capability.

Organisation’s should speak normally. The best story to tell, if it’s true, is that you were purchased because the service, customers and staff were so good. That suggests a more positive future.

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