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Annoying isnt it

Lifted from another blog...

In last week's post,
we noted how the accounting profession has contributed a phrase to the
general office lexicon. I began to wonder if there's something here --
a trend perhaps -- so I searched for other examples. First one that
came to mind was net-net, because the first time I heard the phrase, I scribbled a mental post-it to myself (perhaps we'll look at that phrase someday). That post-it, crumpled, but still legible today, reads, "woh -- that's annoying. Not one net but two? What would possess someone intelligent to say this?"

In today's office, net-net has come to replace the bottom line,
yes, another accounting term that we too often use in conversations
that have nothing to do with accounting. Invariably, those
conversations -- we've all had them -- are about the vagaries of
business, where it is often so difficult to get to the heart of the matter, the gist, the bottom line. Both the bottom line and his teenage daughter net-net
serve a useful purpose in business life: to make vague and aimless
business conversations feel as rational and conclusive as a P&L
statement. When a colleague utters either of these phrases, you know
you have reached a point in the conversation when you will soon be done with the conversation.

But there's also something falsely hip about net-net that
some people -- many in marketing -- find irresitible. They are not
thinking of accounting, of course. Marketing people may steal ideas
from the accounting trade, but never their sense of fashion. Instead,
they are thinking -- unconsciously -- about of the Internet. That was
almost certainly the case when I first heard the phrase net-net (during
the mental note episode) in a conversation I had with a colleague
several years ago:

ME: So, how did the briefing with [analyst firm] go?

COLLEAGUE: We, I believe [analyst] was impressed, but as you know, [our client] is not an [analyst firm] customer.

ME: Right.

COLLEAGUE: It was a good meeting, but not sure how much will come out of it.

ME: Will they write?

COLLEAGUE: Uh-huh. Maybe he'll mention them in a note, maybe they'll move nicely on [famously branded industry-analyst report].

ME: Bottom line: they're gonna get something?


ME: But not much, right?

COLLEAGUE: Net-net? Nothing big.

Net-net felt almost right in that situation, given the fact
that our client was a technology company. The accounting metaphor
almost became cool, by adding a second layer of meaning, i.e., by
subtly referencing the Internet, the technology world's super-metaphor
for simplying business conversation. Net-net, in this context, is unconscious short-hand for "the bottom line for us
-- in this stinkin' technology world, where a very few influencers hold
so much sway -- is that our client is gonna get nothing."

But there's one more thing: net-net seems to be helping
marketing people illuminate a world too complicated and compromised for
simple, arithmetical rules. There's often a bottom line, to be sure.
But if you press further, you will sometimes find another (and if you
are in the green business, you might press for three, but that's another story). For some of the best people in our profession, including those who use this unfortunate phrase, net-net -- the bottom line spoken twice -- means you are telling the truth to your colleague, your boss, or your client, the one who would be left holding the bag were it not for this simple act of decency. Bottom line? Net-net is probably a good thing.


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