by: Geoff Ficke

Words matter. How we express ourselves is the most important indicator of the type of person we are and the type of life we lead. In my work as a marketing consultant I have the opportunity to meet hundreds of people each year. They are usually attempting to bring a product, service or idea to the commercial marketplace. I rarely physically meet them, most contacts being made by mail, phone or e-mail. My only gauge of their capacities, abilities and passion for their project is what I can glean from their spoken words.

Two words that always indicate an excuse, or series of excuses are about to be thrown into play are “If” and “When”. “If” is the forerunner of self-justification for inaction in almost every instance that this unfortunate word pops up. “If” I receive the inheritance I will proceed. “If” I can keep my job I will be able to pull the trigger. “If” the bank will give me a line of credit I am in.

“If” is a word that is employed by people who will always be dreaming, not doing. People who meander through life and awaken in their twilight years and regret having never gotten in the game are addicted to the word “If”. I find the loss of time and blown opportunity to be tragic.

In the 21st century poetry is not the most popular form of written expression. And yet, the great Nobel Prize winning British writer Rudyard Kipling has left us a dazzling ode to success and happiness in his classic poem “If”.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With 60 seconds of distance run”
Give this still so relevant poem a read. Better still print a copy and refer to it often. It offers the antidote to excuses, justification of obfuscation and laziness that cripple so many otherwise talented people.

“When” is another word that denotes an annoying impediment to making progress! “When” the time is right I will decide. “When” I sell my ranch I will make the move. “When” my dog gets over the flu I will be better able to concentrate and make a decision.

Minimize the use of these words. I am confident that the less the words “If” and “When” are utilized the greater one’s personal and professional results will become. The person who minimizes the use of these words will make far fewer excuses for their circumstances and enjoy a more fulfilling journey through life.

Recently I was presented with a wonderful product in the hardware, Do It Yourself space. The product has immense potential. As we reviewed marketing strategies, distribution channels, international sales options and branding we grew more excited. As a project analysis was prepared for the client some red flags began to pop up.

The most glaring was that he and his partner had been working on the project for almost a decade. When asked why the dawdling, they replied with a series of “If” and “When” excuses. We passed on the product.

The same week, we were introduced to another home improvement item. It has great novelty and will be successful. However, it does not have the quite same universal potential for huge sales volume that the DIY product enjoyed. Nevertheless the creator is passionate, realistic and aggressive in pursuing his spot on store shelves. He does not make excuses and he will succeed.

We chose to work with the second product inventor and passed on the first. Our thinking was guided by the words spoken as we interviewed each presenter and queried them on all aspects of their consumer products. Consider how you represent yourself verbally in every situation, personal and professional. The words you choose to utter speak volumes about your attitudes and ambitions.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.