Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thoughts on Zed (courtesy Colleen Jolly) #APMP

I am a member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and therefore receive the organization's journal. The Fall/Winter 2011 journal included an article by Colleen Jolly entitled "Case Study: An American (a)Broad: The story of one small business expanding internationally." Jolly is one of the partners of the 24 Hour Company, a firm that provides high-quality proposal graphics to bidders who need graphics done quickly.


Jolly chose to expand the Fairfax County, Virginia-based business to the United Kingdom. Since she often markets to APMP members, she was encouraged by the fact that there was an APMP chapter in the United Kingdom. She also made several other assumptions, including this one:

Americans and Brits more or less speak the same language.

Five years have passed since Jolly launched the UK branch of 24 Hour Company, and she learned a number of lessons during those years. One of the lessons that she learned was that this assumption was incorrect.

Her APMP journal article includes an entire section entitled "Meet Zed, just another letter or something more sinister?" The term "Zed" encapsulates several differences between British and American people. First off, this is how British people refer to the letter Z. Jolly mentions another difference:

The British do no like "Zs." They use the letter "S" in place of most "Zs" (or Zeds as they call them), they add "Us" in funny places, and occasionally mess up the spellings of normal, little words like "centre" and "tyre."

Jolly noted that the British are somewhat tolerant when we Americans spell things incorrectly, but when we combine misspellings with cultural ignorance, we appear amateurish. Tip from Jolly: do not refer to a presentation in Britain as "Design 101" - the British number their educational courses differently, so Jolly's intention to describe the course as an introductory seminar was completely lost on her audience.

Jolly learned from this experience and other experiences, and now 24 Hour Company's marketing in the United Kingdom has been designed to meet that market. In fact, 24 Hour Company has two different websites - and Can you tell which website includes the text listed below?

24 Hour Company UK specialises in providing consulting and training services to support proposal development. Since 1992, we have helped companies win billions through our graphics and conceptualisation, desktop publishing, proposal editing, and instructional seminars and workshops. Increase your win ratio with our team of qualified consultants or let us train your own staff using our effective, bid-winning methods.

That was easy. Even if I had removed "UK" from the text above, you could probably identify the source after seeing "specialises" and "conceptualisation." Note that "billions" is not followed by either "dollars" or "pounds," by the way.

OK, let's try another one:

[DELETED] was founded as a traditional graphic design firm in 1992 by Dennis Fitzgerald. Realizing the opportunity to focus on an underserved niche market in the Washington, DC area, Dennis transitioned the company into one whose primary clients are business development professionals who bid on government and commercial contract work. To provide a growing client base with unique, new services, the company added three new partners: Mike Parkinson and Paul Kay in 1999, and Colleen Jolly in 2004.

Now here's similar text from the other website:

[DELETED] was founded in 1992 with Dennis Fitzgerald as managing partner. To provide a growing client base with unique, new services, the company added three new partners: Mike Parkinson, Paul Kay in 1999 and Colleen Jolly in 2004.

One more question. Jolly has different business cards depending upon whether she is in the US or the UK. She even uses a different title - on one card she is a "Managing Director," and on the other one she is a "Partner." Do you know which is which?

P.S. If you want another example of the differences between the various English speakers, ask Steven Hodson for his zip code.
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