Functional Business Jargon

Insight and understanding into your working environment allows you to ask relevant questions, participate in wider circles, and subsequently earn more.


When watching a sport you know nothing about, you will sit there quiet and bored. That is until you ask about the rules and the players. Then it becomes interesting and you can join in the conversation. When growing your understanding of your business, it not only enables you to join in conversation, but also grow your career and your life's earnings!

Table of Content:

What does being "business literate" mean?

It is the ability to assess your contribution to your company, at the level that you are at. In other words, to know what effect your job has on the overall production of the company, and how to increase your contribution. Knowing these things and maximising your contribution, at whichever level, will make you an asset to the company and will permit you to grow your income through promotion and increase in responsibility. The business literacy proficiency will introduce you to business concepts that might seem a bit complex at first. But, remember to use and to clarify and verify unknown words and concepts.


As a starting point, we can pay some attention to Holden's four-stage model. This model applies to any job where client interaction occurs. This could include being a supplier, people in different departments/business unit including administrative personnel. The focus of the model is to increase the value you contribute to the people around you. The focus is on four different stages of proficiency and the exploration of the impact of various factors on how people operate in each stage.


Refer to the table below:

  • Ranking from emerging sales person to competitive sales consultant on the horizontal axis.
  • And the four factors impacting on each stage on the vertical axis. 

Applying the above principles to any job will make it clear why some people grow and get promoted and others do not. Growing your focus and customer relationship depends on how much effort you put into growing the other associated competencies and knowledge. Knowledge is the only dividing factor between those who excel and those who stagnate in jobs.

EVA (Economic Value add and Profit)

We would like to repeat that this section might be tough for most readers, we recommend that you work through it and ask people around you for help and use on-line tools like Wikipedia to research the topic and concepts thoroughly if you wish to become part of any business.


We widely refer to Economic Value Add or EVA for short as the most effective way of measuring business success. EVA is the final measure of business value. It is what investors will pay for the business. The market usually looks at two aspects:

  • Results: Profit measured in Rands and Cents.

  • Expectations and confidence:

The market's expectations of the company's ability to sustain, repeat and grow the profit stream.
(Usually reflected in the P/E rate.) Click for an explanation of P/E


Personal EVA is similar in that it is measured in terms of what you are worth to the company, your actual results and your economic value added to the business. Here you create space for sustainable personal income.


This means that your contribution however small had a direct impact on the company's overall value and profit. This means that if your contribution does not increase the value to the customer or business you are involved in, then why should they continue to employ you? This applies to everyone, from the cleaning staff to the CEO of the company.


To increase your individual EVA in order to grow the EVA of the company you need to improve factors that the value the customer gets from the company. An example of these is being an effective receptionist saves the client time and the time of your employer, directly saving them money and time that could be spent elsewhere rather than spending it waiting or trying to understand you. The other factor is to increase the customers value to the company (E.g. increasing the your sales by effectively assessing the client's needs enabling your company to provide more services or products and thus generate more profit)

From this we can identify 5 key factors that need to be focussed on to increase individual and company EVA:

  • Understand cost and value (from time to products and services)
  • Measure and communicate value (the value you have as well as the extra time and effort you put in)
  • Optimize cost through effectivity and ever increasing competence
  • Increase value (including your value to the company and the customer)
  • Grow the market (Taking ownership of your job and function increasing our company's capacity to provide its products and services to clients


Read more:

A tutorial to help you understand EVA:

Asking and gaining more information = personal and financial growth!

It should now be clear to you why your employer would want you to become a more effective and growing employee! All you need to do is to show your interest and to ask questions about functions and happenings that you do not understand. Why are your current clients important, how can you contribute to the level of service, what are the opportunities for promotion in your current job?


By taking charge of your career and becoming business literate, you can decide on which level of the business you would like to function. Some would need to work harder and learn more than others but the beauty of the situation are that all the information you will ever need is freely available.


You will also notice that you will need to grow your other competencies along with your business literacy in order to communicate effectively and understand the numerical concepts and applications. Again, you can equip yourself with all of these competencies by yourself or within groups free! Take note of the additional information below and see more information and detailed explanations.

Project management as a tool for business understanding and success

The goal of any project within a company is a successful outcom. The trick lies in how to increase the odds that you will have a successful outcome! Any business initiative requires focussed effort through planning and execution. A way to describe that focussed effort is project management. Project management can be applied in virtually any task from financing to software development and product development and roll out. Remember the focus is on a successful outcome!


Understanding project management will enable you to do your job better and contribute more to the team you are working in.
By setting up a project plan, you also increase your understanding of the project and its purpose, enabling yourself to align your effort in a way that is more focussed on the goal in sight. You will be able to justify your daily actions, also assess the progress, and distribute tasks to the relevant people in you team. You and your employer can thus speak on equal terms and have a better understanding of needs to be done. This increases your ability to take true ownership and responsibility for your job. Problems also arise from an outcome-based context, where conflict can remain focussed on the task and not the person.


The objectives of such information are so that everyone in the team can understand the ability of the product and the ability it has to satisfy customer needs. Everyone better understands his or her function and role. This is worth a lot, especially if you ever find yourself in a managerial role.


Managing the project enables you to manage :

  • Risks
  • People involved
  • Resources
  • Change
  • Decision making
  • Publicity
  • Transfer upon completion


Project management is thus more than just a possible career. It is a means to unite a team working towards a common goal. If you apply the principles like task clarification, you can do your job to the best of your ability, gain visibility and work as self-driven and informed employee. 
An added bonus is that if you take interest in this line of task orientation and clarification that you can also make a career of it. Visit the following websites for more information!
And, take some time and read these recommended books:


Free Self Assessment Tests

Listening and speaking ability

Being able to pronounce words correctly is also of supreme importance. Many of us think we pronounce words correctly but in fact, we don't. We thus recommend a site that teaches you the sounds of English through activities and exercises that you can use in groups to check and practice pronunciation. It is a common problem among native Afrikaans and African language speakers that first language speakers often struggle to understand them and that they even ridicule people who struggle with pronunciation!


Free Self Assessment Tests

Industry Specific English

Once you have identified your desired industry and career, it is also incredibly important that you familiarize yourself with business English and industry jargon. This can be done by searching for white papers and ezines concerning your industry and career, or by using BBC's Business English section.


Free Self Assessment Tests

Writing and Typing

Improve your grammar and vocabulary as well by going to BBC's Grammar and Vocabulary section. Note on the left hand side the specific areas of vocabulary like news, business, sport etc. This is especially important for people who write reports, speeches or produce any other type of document or presentation. Let the language that you use project the level of your trait and attitude.
The above should serve as a thorough introduction to why we need to always improve our lingual abilities and to the ways in which to do it. If you wish to improve your English further visit sites like BBC Learning English and use and enter words like "Increasing my reading speed" or "learning correct pronunciation". Using these free tools, you can prepare yourself at home or in your free time to function better and earn more in an English-speaking world!


Free Self Assessment Tests

Tools to help these four categories

  1. Always use dictionaries (and even Wikipedia) to check the meaning and spelling and pronunciation of words you do not know.  Two great online dictionaries to use areMerriam-Webster and Pearson Longman.

  2. Listen to English radio and watch English television programs.

  3. Read English newspapers.

  4. Talk English at home and challenge each other.

  5. Use the Internet tools.

  6. For more comprehensive English learning resources:
    Learning Resources designed to help adults improve basic skills like reading and spelling using real-life stories on interesting topics:

  7. Find access to real English 1st language speakers.  They might want to learn your home language.  See if your can teach each other and do a value exchange!

  8. BBC Grammar and Vocabulary
  9. BBC Learning English


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