Cut the BS
When we asked Tripp Crosby what his current job title was, he responded “very serious businessman.” That made us laugh because, you see, Tripp has made his living in business being anything but serious. His corporate comedy videos routinely go viral for the companies he works for and he’s been able to parlay that success into a lucrative career as a corporate speaker and comedic host. In this Q&A, Tripp shares his experiences with BS in corporate America.
Q: How did you get into the business world?
It was an accident. Out of college I tried to work for someone else and didn’t last a year. I moved back to my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia to start a video production company, but I became quickly miserable in that pursuit and stopped doing it before I had a plan to do anything else. I eventually got so bored, just sitting around my house wondering what I should do with my life, that I picked up my camera again and started making funny videos with my friends. I was very fortunate to start making these videos at the birth of YouTube. We became one of the first popular sketch comedy groups on YouTube with a viral video called “Things You Can’t Do When You’re Not in the Pool." After some time building an audience, we started getting contacted by businesses, and eventually we had another viral video that struck a nerve in the business world (“A Conference Call in Real Life”).
That made it very easy for us to start getting hired by companies to do humorous advertising, marketing, internal communication, etc. That’s what I’ve been building my business around ever since.
Q: How would you describe your daily work for that business?
It’s really disappointing to hear. Most days I go into an office that’s about a mile from my house and I do what a lot of people do at work: I sit at a computer and I type stuff and I click my mouse button. I do very business-y type things: building proposals, reconciling financials around a film project or communicating with someone else about a collaboration of some sort. Every now and then I get to spend a couple of days on set directing a bunch of actors and actually creating something. Then a few times a month, I’ll do an appearance gig of some sort: speaking, doing a keynote, or hosting.
Q: How much of your work is devoted to learning the lingo of the businesses you create content for?
That’s a huge part of what we do. Most of our video projects now are ads for B2B companies that have a very specific product that they’re selling to a very specific kind of business. It’s usually something that we know very little about going into it. So, part of our process involves getting in a room with these companies for a full day discovery session and learning about their business, their objectives, their audience, their competitors. That all informs a comedy script that we write for them. I have to learn a lot of things that I never thought I would know in those sessions.
Q: Have you ever had a discovery session where the business shares a specific acronym or term with you and you’re like, “Wait. What did you just say?”
That’s every time. Every business has their own set of acronyms so half of it is just keeping up with it in these sessions. The other thing that happens a lot is there are a lot of apologies. They’ll say an acronym and then immediately say, “Oh, sorry. We know you don’t know what that means.” I always feel like the dumbest one in the room. I’m trying to keep up. I’ve worked with some businesses where learning their acronyms is part of their training for new employees. It’s like an expectation.
Q: Why do you think businesses are so full of acronyms?
I would guess businesses love acronyms because all businesses to some extent are self-obsessed. I think they like having their own language. The trouble is they can’t keep up with all the words, so they have to start abbreviating them. I think people forget in the business world how to just talk like a normal person sometimes.
Q: Do you ever work with businesspeople from foreign countries?
Yes, often. We work with some brands that are based in Europe, Israel, all over.
Q: Do you ever have to explain some of the English business idioms you use with them?
It’s not the terminology that gets in between us as much as it is the humor. We did a project for a company based in Belgium. They were making joke suggestions to a script that didn’t make sense to us. There were just some cultural hurdles there.
Q: Do you think humor is its own kind of language?
Yeah, it is. We did a project a couple of years ago for a brand (and I’m not going to say who they are), but I was certain that the video we were making was really stupid. We gave it our best. We wrote the funniest script we could. There was just too many chefs in the kitchen and when the video was done, we were like, “This thing is so dumb.” But then it played in the country of origin for this company and the feedback we got was they were on the floor laughing. They thought it was the best thing ever. And we were like, “Wow. OK. As long as the check clears, and you all thought it was funny then we’re happy.”
Q: Are there specific business terms that you personally dislike hearing?
Man, the list is so big. Customers. That’s an impossible one to get around. I like “partners” or “clients” better. When you say your business has customers it feels like all of a sudden, you’re a fast-food restaurant for some reason. I also don’t like the phrases “the bottom line is…” and “at the end of the day.” Those really get on my nerves. I don’t think people mean to communicate this when they use those terms, but what I hear is, “Hey, everyone. I actually understand what we’re talking about and I’m now going to explain it to you. You’re all going to think about this the correct way now, and then we can just move on to another topic.” Another business term that I feel like I overuse a lot myself that annoys me is ROI. It’s probably a useful term but I always feel like suddenly this pressure or anxiety to deliver more than I can when I say it.
Q: Any “bottom line” thoughts on business speak?
I think it would be beneficial to all businesses or departments of businesses to just take their company hat off for a minute and think through how they speak and ask themselves, “How much of this language is actually necessary and how much of it could we just say in plain English?”
Well said, Tripp. Well said.
Do yourself a favor and subscribe to Tripp's YouTube channel here.
Q: Do you work more by yourself these days or with Tyler (of Tripp & Tyler)?
Both. Tyler and I still work together a lot creatively and we come together when it makes sense, but life is seasonal. When we were in our 20s and early 30s, it was really fun to spend our weekends making silly videos with our friends. Then we grew up and started having kids and families. Now Tyler has his own separate venture and I have mine. It’s really healthy but I think most people want to hear some dramatic story there -- “Two friends at odds over a business!” – when that isn’t the case.
Q: Another person we interviewed for this blog, Bob Kulhan, doesn’t like the word “bandwidth.” What do you think of that word?
I like bandwidth. I might have to go head-to-head with Bob on that one.