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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 5 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 5 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 5 – Talking about Company Strategy


Andy and Laura work for Saltonica, a maker of cell phones. Sales have been slow lately, so Andy is recommending the company adopt a new strategy.

Andy: My team has come up with a new strategy. We can’t continue being fast followers. We need to start developing our own cutting-edge technologies.

Laura: Why? We’ve been fast followers for the past ten years. Why mess with success?

Andy: Success? Get with the program. Our sales are way down. Our cash cow, the Model 8B, only sold 900 units last month!

Laura: I can understand why. That phone’s a relic. It’s been around for over three years. What about our new phones?

Andy: Our latest model cell phone was a real dog! It sold only 20 percent of our sales forecast.

Laura: Any idea why?

Andy: Product life cycles are much shorter now than before. New technologies are developed at a much faster rate.

Laura: So what are we supposed to do?

Andy: We need to become much more innovative as a company. Instead of producing me-too products, we need to leapfrog our competitors.

Laura: How do we do that?

Andy: For starters, we need to beef up our R&D department. We need to develop differentiated products which we can sell at a premium.

Laura: As a next step, let’s get buy-in from our marketing and sales directors.

Andy: Right. We should get everyone on the same page.


  • fast followers

 a company that doesn’t come up with new ideas or concepts first, but rather quickly copies those of other companies

EXAMPLE: Many PC manufacturers don’t spend much on R&D. They are fast followers, waiting for competitors to innovate and then quickly copying their products.

  • cutting-edge

 very modern; using the latest technologies

EXAMPLE: Sony focuses on innovation and is known for its cutting-edge electronic goods.

  • Why mess with success?

 Why start doing things differently when the way we’re doing them now is working?

EXAMPLE: We could move our manufacturing plant to China, but we’re doing very well manufacturing in the United States. Why mess with success?

  • (to) get with the program

 to pay attention to what’s going on right now; to be alert to what’s happening now

EXAMPLE: Get with the program. Our competitors have all started to outsource their call centers to India to save money, while we’re still paying a fortune here in the United States!

  • cash cow

 a product, service, or business division that generates a lot of cash for the company, without requiring much investment

EXAMPLE: With strong sales every year and a great brand name, Mercedes is a cash cow for DaimlerChrysler.

  • real dog

 a bad product; a commercial failure

EXAMPLE: In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company released New Coke. It was a real dog and was in stores for only a few months.

  • me-too products

 products that are extremely similar to another company’s products; copies

EXAMPLE: Procter & Gamble is a company famous for innovation. They rarely produce me-too products.

  • (to) leapfrog one’s competitors

 to make a product that is technologically superior to competitors’ products

EXAMPLE: Logitech introduced a product that leapfrogged its competitors: a mouse that was both wireless and ergonomic.

NOTE: Leapfrog is a popular children’s game in which one child bends down and another jumps over him or her.

  • for starters

 as a first step; to begin with

EXAMPLE: You want to do business in Russia? For starters, I’d recommend setting up an office in Moscow.

  • (to) beef up

 to improve; to add to

EXAMPLE: Leave plenty of extra time at the airport. Ever since they beefed up security, it takes a long time to get through the lines.

  • at a premium

 at a high price; at a relatively high price

EXAMPLE: When flat-screen televisions first came out, they were selling at a premium.

  • (to) get buy-in (from)

 to get agreement or approval from

EXAMPLE: To be an effective leader, you need to get buy-in for your decisions from employees throughout the organization.

  • (to be) on the same page

 to be in agreement; when everybody has the latest information on what’s going on

EXAMPLE: Before we start on the next phase of this project, let’s have a meeting and make sure everybody’s on the same page.

NOTE: This expression is overused. You will likely hear it, but you may not want to use it.

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