VC Cliche of the Week

I like cliches that are visual.  It’s why I am a fan of open the kimono, which according to an asian woman entrepreneur who was in my office last week is offensive.  I apologize for offending anyone who took offense and will be more careful with my use of that one in the future. That said, I still like it.

Visual cliches are great because they pack some extra punch.

One cliche that I use a bit is The Strawman Proposal. I don’t even know what the origin of the "strawman" term is but to me it means something that you can take apart without consequence.  The image for me is a strawman that you can kick around, pull apart, etc without harming anyone.  I know its kind of brutal, but that’s the visual that comes to mind.

A Strawman Proposal is very useful in all sorts of business exercises – budgeting, dealmaking, strategic planning, etc. It is hard to have a really meaty conversation about something without having a reference point.  So A Strawman Proposal serves as that reference point.  It is not meant to be a "draft" of the final proposal.  It’s meant to be something that "can be kicked around, pulled apart, etc".  So its more important that A Strawman Proposal address all the key issues in some way than anything else.

The cool thing (and the reason the word gets used so much) is that you can tell everyone upfront that the proposal is just A Strawman.  That tells everyone not to waste a lot of time and energy on the specifics of the proposal. So poeple don’t start negotiating when The Strawman arrives (in theory).  They should just start thinking.

It’s a great business trick and a great cliche. The next time you are doing some important business in a large group, start with A Strawman Proposal.  And let me know how it goes.