Analogies and Business: The Fastest Way to Get Your Point Across

Communication throughout all levels of an organization is essential to a business’s success. When running a business, one may find it necessary to sometimes communicate with peers, junior level employees, and even your customers in simpler terms.

Human interaction -- a key to business.

This type of interaction is where the use of analogies has become increasingly effective. An analogy is like a metaphor where you explain a complex idea or situation in terms or in a story that the other person can relate to and understand easier. 

The time used to correctly phrase this information is productive, memorable and a “to the point” way to describe information to those around you. Though simple, these easily understandable phrases elevate the ease in which a message can successfully be delivered.

The analogy -- providing actionable understanding.         

Understanding why analogies are effective in the business world is almost as important as their use.  When communicated properly, analogies can convey everything from the urgency of an idea, to the value of a deal, to even simplifying a business strategy. 

The key is finding the proper analogy -- and that can sometimes be difficult. The analogy comparison needs to fit the mold of exactly what you’re attempting to accomplish. In most cases it is best not to make this description so cliché that it’s insulting. You also don't want it to be shrugged off and ignored or too generic to specifically apply to your goal.

Though analogies are frequently used on a daily basis in your environment, whether you know it or not, they may not always be easy to spot. Here are a few examples that I find to be effective at illustrating my point within common business situations.

1. You can’t run a marathon on an empty stomach.

Simple and to the point, this analogy is often used in reference to scaling or growing your business. This analogy works well because scaling and growing your business is never a sprint. If done successfully, your business growth is often more accurately represented by a marathon. You must have a full stomach, or in other words, be supported by the proper resources, effort and energy that a marathon requires. 

Be confident that your business infrastructure is in good shape. Remember moving too quickly without the right pieces in place will result in your business feeling like a sprint that is destined to end too soon. An unprepared sprint can end in injury and sometimes without even crossing the finish line. 

2. There is no harvest without water.

A business is nothing without its customers. Once established, it’s imperative for a business to feed their customers (water). Taking steps to engage your customers, listen to their wants, actively attempt to please them by investing time, money and energy into your business -- these effort are the water that will allow your business to ultimately acquire and retain customers more effectively. 

If your customers are “watered” (taken care of), they will feel engaged and satisfied, resulting in their return business. Becoming established is just the first step. You then have to care for those that keep your company afloat. When that care is provided, your business will blossom, resulting in a full harvest.

3. A leaking boat is a sinking boat.

One of the worst situations a business can encounter is losing money.  Even a small, steady stream of loss can lead to a hemorrhage, inevitably leaving your company in ruins. Businesses are fluid and things can change rapidly, which is part of what makes them exciting. 

But it is vital that you and your team know how to properly plug any “leaks” you encounter, learn from them, and do everything to ensure that leak never occurs again. If a leak in a boat is not properly treated, it will sink. And if you don’t regularly inspect the integrity of the boat, your business will be defenseless against new leaks.    

4. Go the distance.

There are a number of analogies that emphasize this same idea and thought. Possibly you relate best to: finish the race, play to the final whistle or it’s not over until the fat lady sings. But I prefer this take, as it eludes to the truth that sometimes the journey is a longer one than many assume, and to keep going until you are certain your work is done. 

Go the distance emphasizes concentration, tenacity, and hard work. These three guides are often the pillars of any successful company. Typically, the goal of a business is a collection of smaller goals that lead to the large pay off at the end. 

When an employee focuses on and accomplishes one of the smaller goals, it’s important that the value of the work isn’t compartmentalized here. Leaders should encourage their team members to proactively push forward -- going the distance. Otherwise, these smaller goals will have little meaning and the larger mission at hand remains incomplete. 

5. You can’t bake a cake without all the ingredients.

This analogy is typically in reference to product development or customer experience. A cake only comes together when the right amount of every ingredient is integrated into the batter, mixed and baked properly. 

The same is to be said about a product or service. It’s not a matter of one or two factors solely attributing to the growth of your company, it’s a culmination of all pieces working together to create the product, service, and the identity. Every department must be covered, from customer service, to marketing, to research, to development. 

If you neglect to include one aspect of the business in a plan, your business will struggle to stay upright, much like a table with three legs. But with the correct ingredients, in the appropriate proportions, mixed together at the right time, you may quite literally discover your company’s perfect recipe for success.