|ace up your sleeve
||If you have an ace up your sleeve, you have something in reserve with which you can gain an advantage.
Our new product is an ace up our sleeve.
|hold all the aces
||A person who holds all the aces is in a very strong position because they have more advantages than anyone else.
Given the high unemployment rates today, employers hold all the aces.
||A lawyer who finds work by persuading people injured in accidents to claim money from the person who caused the accident is called an‘ambulance chaser’.
Peterson and Scott are well-known ambulance chasers – that’s how they make their money!
|back to the salt mines
||Saying that hyou have to go back to the sale mines is a humorous way of talking about returning to work, usually with some reluctance.
We get two days off at Christmas and then it’s back to the salt mines!
|bait and switch
||This term refers to a deceptive commercial practice of advertising
a low-priced item to attract customers, then telling them that the product is out of stock and persuading them to buy a more expensive article.
This store is famous for its bait and switch tactics.
|in the black
||To say that a person or organization is in the black means that they are financially sound, have a positive balance on their account and that they owe no money.
||The black market refers to the illegal buying and selling of goods or currencies.
Be careful of what you buy on the black market – it’s not always good quality.
||A discussion among a group of people who try to determine who
or what is to blame for a particular mistake, failure or wrongdoing, is called ‘blamestorming‘.
A blamestorming session took place following the unfavourable reviews in the press.
||If you give someone a blank cheque, you authorize them to do what they think is best in a difficult situation.
Tom was given a blank cheque and told to negotiate the best deal possible.
|blue chip company
||This term refers to a company with a solid reputation for the quality of its products and the stability of its growth and earnings.
It’s usually safe to invest in a blue chip company.
||If a situation or business is described as above board, it is open, honest and legal.
There are not secret negotiations. Our dealings have always been above board.
|get down to brasstacks
||When people get down to brass tacks, they start to discuss the essential aspects of a problem or situation.
The situation was so serious that after a few polite exchanges they quickly got down to brass tacks.
|break your back
||If you work extremely hard, or put a lot of effort into achieving something, you break your back to do it.
If you want the job done well, you should accept to pay more. He’s not going to break his back for such a low price!
|bricks and mortar / bricks and clicks
||An established trading company (office/shop) is referred to as a ‘brick-and-mortar’ business.
‘Click companies‘ refer to internet-based operations.
Companies which do both are called ‘bricks and clicks’.
Click businesses are usually more flexible than brick-and-mortar operations.
|business as usual
||After an unpleasant or unexpected event, this expression means that everything is continuing in a normal way, in spite of the difficulties.
It was business as usual at the supermarket the day after the hold-up.
|business before pleasure
||This expression means that it is considered preferable to finish one’s work before going to relax and enjoy oneself.
I’d love to have lunch with you but I’ve got a report to finish – business before pleasure I’m afraid!
|business is business
||This is a way of saying that in financial aned commercial matters, friendship or personal feelings should not be allowed to have any influence.
I’ll hire your brother only if he is the best candidate. I’m sorry but business is business!
|can’t stand the pace
||If you can’t stand the pace, you are unable to do things well when there is a lot of pressure.
She once worked for a famous fashion designer but she couldn’t stand the pace.
|carve out a niche
||A person or company who carves out a niche concentrates on a particular segment of the market, to which they supply a product or service, and develop their expertise in that area.
In today’s competitive market it is better to carve out a niche and try to become the best in that area.
||A product or service which is a regular source of income for a company is called a cash cow.
His latest invention turned out to be a real cash cow.
|cash in your chips
||If you cash in your chips, you sell something, especially shares, either because you need the money or because you think the value is going to fall.
Andy cashed in his chips as soon as business started to slow down.
|too many chiefs, not enough Indians
||This expression refers to a situation where there are too many people giving instructions and not enough people doing the work.
The business wasn’t successful. There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
|clinch a deal
||In a business relationship, if you clinch a deal, you reach agreement on a proposal or offer.
Paul’s final argument enabled us to clinch the deal.
|cog in the machine
||If you say that someone is a cog in the machine, you mean that, while they are necessary, they only play a small part in an organization or plan.
The police quickly realized that the suspect was just a cog in the machine.
|make cold calls
||If you make cold calls, you telephone potential customers from a list of people you do not know.
In my first job I had to make cold calls using the telephone directory.
||To describe something such as a plan, a contract or a financial arrangement as copper-bottomed means that it is completely safe or reliable.
He signed a coper-bottomed agreement with a distributor.
|corner the market
||If a company dominates an area of business, and leaves no room for competition, it is said to have cornered the market.
By importing large quantities and selling at low prices, they have cornered the market.
||This term refers to the presentation of a company’s results in a way that, although generally legal, glosses over the problems and makes the results appear better than they are.
It was suggested that some creative accounting might help to attract investors.
|cut and dried
||If you refer to a situation, problem or solution as cut and dried, you mean that it is clear and straightforward with no likely complications.
When the new manager arrived, he didn’t find the situation as cut and dried as he had expected.
||This expression refers to the newest, most advanced stage in the development of something.
The company is at the cutting edge of aeronautics.
||The term dead wood refers to people or things which are no longer considered useful or necessary.
The new manager wants to reduce costs by cutting out the dead wood.
|do the spadework
||Someone who does the spadework does the preparatory work or the preliminary research.
Although I did all the spadework, my name was never mentioned.
|dog eat dog
||This expression refers to intense competition and rivalry in pursuit of one’s own interests, with no concern for morality.
The business world is tough today. There’s a general dog-eat-dog attitude.
|in the doldrums
||To say that a person, a business or the economy in general is in the doldrums means that the situation is gloomy and that nothing new is happening.
Despite the recent measures, the economy is in the doldrums.
|a done deal
||This expression is used to refer to an agreement or decision which has been reached on a certain matter.
We’re still considering several proposals, so it’s not a done deal yet.
|done and dusted
||When a project, task or activity is done and dusted, it is completely finished or ready.
I’ve nearly finished preparing the presentation. When it’s all done and dusted I’ll be able to relax.
||This expression is used to describe the unpleasant, repetitive or boring parts of a job.
I do the donkey work – my boss gets the credit!
|doom and gloom
||A general atmosphere of pessimism, and a feeling that the situation is not going to improve, is referred to as doom and gloom.
Fortunately it’s not doom and gloom for all businesses, in spite of the economic situation.
|down the drain
||To say that money, time or energy has gone down the drain means that it has been wasted or lost.
His years of research went down the drain when the company went bankrupt.
|drastic times call for drastic measures
||When faced with a difficult situation, it is sometimes necessary to take actions which in normal circumstances would appear extreme
After Johnny’s third accident, his father confiscated his car.
Drastic times call for drastic measures!
||If you refer to two people as a dream ticket, you think they would work well together and be successful.
Clinton and Obama teaming up for the elections would be a dream ticket
for many Democrats.
|dry /dummy run
||If you organize a rehearsal, a trial exercise or a practice session
of something, in realistic conditions, to see how well it will work before it is launched, you do a dry run.
Let’s do a dry run of the ceremony to make sure everything goes smoothly.
|above the call ofduty
||If a person does something which is over and above the call of duty, they show a greater degree of courage or effort than is usually required or expected in their job.
The fire-fighter received a medal for his action which went above and beyond the call of duty.
||The term eager beaver refers to a person who is hardworking and enthusiastic, sometimes considered overzealous.
The new accountant works all the time – first to arrive and last to leave. He’s a real eager beaver!
| elbow grease
||If you use elbow grease, you need energy and strength to do physical work such as cleaning or polishing.
It took a considerable amount of elbow grease to renovate the old house.
|farm something out
||If something,such as work, is farmed out, it is sent out to be done by others.
We farmed out the packaging to another company.
|finger in every pie
||If someone has a finger in every pie, they are involved in many activities.
For information about the activites in this town, you should talk to John Brown. He’s got a finger in every pie.
|work your fingers to the bone
||A person who works their fingers to the bone is extremely hardworking.
He deserves his success; he worked his fingers to the bone when he started the business.
|foot in the door
||To say that someone has a foot in the door means that they have a small but successful start in something and will possibly do well in the future.
With today’s unemployment, it is difficult to get a foot in the door in any profession.
|get a foothold
||If you get a foothold somewhere, you secure a position for yourself in a business, profession or organisation.
The contract got the firm a foothold in the local administration.
||If you have a free hand, you have permission to make your own decisions, especially in a job.
My boss gave me a free hand in the choice of supplier.
||A business which is conducted in a deceitful, dishonest or unethical manner is called funny business.
I’ve got suspicions about that association. I think they’re up to some funny business.
|get your hands dirty
||If you get your hands dirty in your job, you become involved in all aspects of it, including work that is physical, unpleasant or less interesting.
His willingness to get his hands dirty won the respect and approval of the whole team.
|get something off the ground
||If you get something off the ground, you put it into operation after having organized it.
After a lot of hard work, we finally got the campaign off the ground.
|get the show on the road
||If you manage to put a plan or idea into action, you get the show on the road.
OK, we’ve got all we need, so let’s get the show on the road.
|give someone a run a run for their money
||If you give someone a run for their money, you present strong competition in circumstances where the other person expects to win easily.
We didn’t get the contract but we gave our competitors a run for their money!
|go belly up
||If a business or project goes belly up, it is unsuccessful or goes bankrupt.
The restaurant went belly up before the end of the first year.
|go for a song
||If something goes for a song, it is sold at an unexpectedly low price.
I was able to buy the car simply because it was going for a song.
|go out of business
||If a shop, firm or enterprise goes out of business, it closes down or goes bankrupt.
If the new road bypasses the town, a lot of shops will go out of business.
||A business or activity that is dynamic and successful is a going concern.
They opened a coffee shop that is a going concern today.
||The term golden handcuffs refers to a large sum of money or a generous financial arrangement granted to an executive as an incentive to stay in their job, or to ensure long-term cooperation after their departure.
||A golden handshake is a generous sum of money given to a person when they leave a company or retire (sometimes given to encourage early retirement).
||A golden opportunity is a favourable time or an excellent occasion which should not be missed.
An internship in that company would be a golden opportunity for you – it might lead to a permanent job later.
||A golden parachute is a clause in an executive’s employment contract stating that the executive will receive certain large benefits if their employment is terminated.
|grease someone’s palm
||If you accuse someone of greasing somebody’s palm, you are accusing them of giving money to someone in order to gain an unfair advantage or to obtain something they want.
In some countries, it is common practice to grease government officials’ palms.
|one hand washes the other (together they wash the face)
||This expression means that when people cooperate and work well together, there is a better chance of a achieving results.
||If a person or organization gains or gets the upper hand, especially in a fight or competition, they take control over something.
We increased our market share and gained the upper hand over our competitors.
|all hands on deck
||When there is a need for all hands on deck, everyone must help, especially if there’s a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time.
As the opening day approached, it was all hands on deck to have everything ready in time.
|have one’s handstied
||If a person has their hands tied, something such as an agreement or a rule is preventing them from doing what they would like to do.
Mark deserves to earn more, but the manager’s hands are tied by the recent salary agreement.
|hive of activity / beehive
||A place where there are lots of things happening, and everyone is very busy, is called a hive of activity.
When I went to offer help, the kitchen was already a hive of activity.
|hold the fort
||When you hold the fort, you look after a place or a business in the absence of the person who is normally in charge.
Rosie, could you hold the fort please while I go to the post office?
||When the name of something becomes very familiar because it is so often used, it is called a household name or word.
The product was so successful that its name became a household word in no time.
|irons in the fire
||If you have a few, or many, irons in the fire, you are involved in several projects at the same time.
The travel agency is not his only venture – he’s got more than one iron in the fire.
|hit the ground running
||If someone hits the ground running, they are ready and eager to start immediately on a new activity.
He intends to hit the ground running when he starts his new job.
|jump on the bandwagon
||If a person or organization jumps on the bandwagon, they decide to do something when it is already successful or fashionable.
When organic food became popular, certain stores were quick to jump on the bandwagon and promote it.
|keep head above water
||To keep one’s head above water means to try to survive by staying out of debt, for example a small business.
Business has been slow, but we’ve managed to keep our head above water.
||If someone knuckles down to something, they start to work on it seriously.
If you want to succeed, you’ll have to knuckle down to some serious work.
||A person or organization in difficulty and unable to manage without help is called a lame duck.
Some banks have become lame ducks recently.
|left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing
||To say that ‘the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing’means that within a group or organization, communication is so bad that one person doesn’t know what another person is doing.
|licence to print money
||This expression refers to an officially authorized activity which enables people to make a lot of money without much effort.
The contract to supply computers to schools was a licence to print money!
|make hay while the sun shines
||This expression is used as an encouragement to take advantage of a good situation which may not last.
Successful athletes are advised to make hay while the sun shines.
|mix business with pleasure
||When people mix business with pleasure, they combine work and leisure or social activities.
Seminars or training sessions that include leisure activities are a good way of mixing business and pleasure.
||If an activity is a money spinner, it is a very successful way of making money.
Washing cars was quite a money spinner when I was a student.
||An activity which is organized in a deceitful or dishonest way is calledmonkey business.
The results announced seem suspicious – I think there’s some monkey business going on.
|move the goalposts
||During a course of action, if someone moves the goalposts they change the rules or conditions.
Our objectives have been set for next year. Let’s hope the boss doesn’t move the goalposts halfway through.
|movers and shakers
||The term movers and shakers refers to people in power who take an active part in making things happen.
Mover and shakers are assembling in Brussels for the summit.
||When people get down to the nitty-gritty, they begin to discuss the most important points or the practical details.
I was interested in the project, but we didn’t get down to the nitty-gritty until his partner arrived.
|nuts and bolts
||The nuts and bolts of something are the detailed facts and the practical aspects.
We neeed to discuss the nuts and bolts of the proposal before going any further.
||A person who holds the same position as oneself in another company or organization is called one’s opposite number.
I spoke to my opposite number in several local companies and we all agreed to join the anti-pollution campaign.
||Someone who adopts an ostrich strategy or policy chooses to ignore or evade an obvious problem in the hope that it will resolve itself or disappear.
Adopting an ostrich strategy will only make matters worse – we’ve got to find a solution.
|overplay your hand
||If you overplay your hand, you are overconfident and spoil your chances of success by trying to obtain too much.
Sam is hoping for a bonus for his good results, but he may be overplaying his hand if he asks for a promotion.
|pass the buck
||If you say that someone is passing the buck, you are accusing them of not taking responsibility for a problem and letting others deal with it instead.
Whenever a customer comes to complain, she always finds a way of looking busy – a great way of passing the buck!
||If someone or something passes muster, they are considered to be satisfactory or acceptable.
The interview went well. I hope I’ll pass muster.
|pick up steam
||If a project or process picks up steam, it starts to develop or become more active.
The campaign started slowly but picked up steam after Christmas.
|piece of the action
||When someone wants a piece of the action, they want to participate in what other people are doing and benefit from it.
The songwriter thought the show would be a success so he wanted a piece of the action.
|in the pipeline
||If something is in the pipeline, it is currently in progress or being organized.
A new version is in the pipeline at the moment.
|play the market
||If you play the market, you buy stocks and shares in the hope of making a profit when you sell them.
It’s always tempting to play the market, but it’s more risky at the present time.
|pull your weight
||To say that somebody pulls their weight means that they do their fair share of the work.
It’s great working with Sandra. She always pulls her weight.
|put your shoulder to the wheel
||If you put your shoulder to the wheel, you start putting a lot of effort into a difficult task.
We’ll have to put our shoulders to the wheel to deliver the goods on time.
||The term red tape refers to official rules and bureaucratic paperwork that prevent things from being done quickly.
If there wasn’t so much red tape, the company would be up and running already.
||If you do a roaring trade, your business is very successful.
Cosmetic surgeons are doing a roaring trade these days.
|roll up your sleeves
||When you roll up your sleeves, you get ready for hard work.
The house was in a mess after the party so we had to roll up our sleeves and start cleaning.
|learn the ropes
||If you learn the ropes, you learn how to do a particular job correctly.
He’s a smart kid. It won’t take him long to learn the ropes.
|seal of approval
||If a project or contract receives a seal of approval, it receives formal support or aproval from higher authorities.
We can’t conclude the deal without the director’s seal of approval.
|second a motion
||During a meeting, if you second a motion, you formally agree with a proposal.
She seconded the motion to introduce flexible working hours.
|separate the sheep from the goats
||If you separate the sheep from the goats, you examine a group of people and decide which are suitable and which are not.
Examining job applications is the first stage in separating the sheep from the goats.
|set the stage for
||If you set the stage for an event or a development, you create conditions that allow it to happen.
The agreement set the stage for their future working relationship.
|shape up or ship out
||This expression is used to warn someone that if they do not improve, they will have to leave their job.
When Tom started neglecting the customers, he was told to shape up or ship out.
||If you use a shotgun approach, you cover a wide range in a non-selective, haphazard and inefficient manner.
Identifying a specific segment of the market as our target will be more effective than a shotgun approach.
|sign on dotted line
||If you sign on the dotted line, you formally give your consent to something by signing an official document.
I consulted a lawyer before signing on the dotted line.
|signed, sealed, and delivered
||When an agreement, contract or treaty is signed, sealed and delivered, all the legal documents are in order.
It is hoped that the agreement will be signed, sealed and delivered before the end of the week.
|skeleton staff / crew
||If a business or organization works with a skeleton staff, it is run with the smallest number of people necessary.
The office is closed the week after Christmas but there will be a skeleton staff to handle essential operations.
||This term refers to a person who invests in a business without taking an active part in its management, and whose association with the enterprise is not public knowledge.
He works alone but his business is partly financed by a sleeping partner.
|slice/share of the cake
||When people feel entitled to a share of the profits or benefits, they want a (larger) slice of the cake (or pie).
Since profits are higher this year, the workers feel they deserve a bigger slice of the cake.
||Industries involved in heavy manufacturing such as the production of iron and steel, especially if they cause a lot of pollution, are calledsmokestack industries.
Smokestack industries are no longer authorized in residential areas.
||A business or operation that is in smooth waters is making regular and easy progress.
The company seems to be in smooth waters these days.
||This term refers to a relatively new urban trend which consists in making a potential business contact by briefly talking to a series of people at an organised event and exchanging contact details.
||A transaction that is fair and honest, or an equitable arrangement, is called a square deal.
We’ve used the same supplier for years and we always get a square deal.
|start the ball rolling
||If you start the ball rolling, you begin an activity in which other people will join.
Let’s start the ball rolling by calling on our first speaker.
|steal a march
||If you steal a march on someone, you do something in an unexpected or secret way that enables you to gain an advantage over them.
We were able to steal a march on other retailers by immediately offering a 10% reduction on orders received the first day.
|step into the breach
||If you step into the breach, you do work that someone else is unexpectedly unable to do.
Steve stepped into the breach when his colleague had a car accident.
|step into someone’s shoes
||If you step into someone’s shoes, you take over a job or position held by someone else before you.
William has been traiined to step into his father’s shoes when he retires.
||An appointment or event that is entirely devoted to business, with no leisure or relaxation, is called strictly business.
Yes we had lunch together but it was strictly business.
|sweat of your brow
||If you earn or achieve somehting by the sweat of your brow, you do it through hard work and no help.
I got a comfortable lifestyle by the sweat of my brow – I owe it to nobody but myself!
||The term sweetheart deal is used to refer to an abnormally lucrative arrangement between two parties.
Opponents say the contract was awarded to the builder as part of a sweetheart deal, and is therefore illegal.
|take the floor
||When someone takes the floor, they rise to make a speech or presentation.
‘When I take the floor, my speech will be short.’ he said.
|take a nosedive
||If something takes a nosedive, it drops or decreases in value very rapidly.
The stock market took a nosedive when the property market began to weaken.
||If you suggest that a subject be taken offline (during a meeting for example), you consider that it is a separate issue and should be discussed at another time.
Peter, you’re confusing things, so let’s take that offline shall we?
||If you talk shop, you talk about your work or business in a social situation with someone you work with, and make the conversation boring for the others present.
I never go out with my colleagues because we inevitably end up talking shop.
|there for the taking
||If something is there for the taking, it is easy to obtain.
When our main competitor went out of business, the market segment was there for the taking.
|things are looking up
||To say that things are looking up means that the situation is improving and you feel more positive about the future.
Andy has got two job interviews next week so things are looking up.
|throw over the wall
||If someone throws something over the wall, they deal with part of a problem or project, then pass the responsibility to another person or department without any communication or coordination.
You can’t just manufacture a product then throw it over the wall to the sales department!
|too many chiefs, not enough Indians
||This expression refers to a situation where there are too many people giving instructions and not enough people doing the work.
The business wasn’t successful. There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
|too much like hard work
||An activity or task that requires too much effort is too much like hard work.
It’s so hot today, there’s no way I’m going to do any cooking. That’s too much like hard work!
||This term refers to the secrecy of a company’s production methods but is often used teasingly.
“Can you give me the recipe for your lemon meringue pie?” ” No way – that’s a trade secret!”
|tricks of the trade
||This term refers to a clever or expert way of doing things, especially in a job.
He’s a tough negotiator; he knows all the tricks of the trade.
|up and running
||If a business or a project is up and running, it has started and is fully operational.
In some countries you can have a company up and running in a very short time.
|nothing ventured, nothing gained
||You cannot expect to achieve anything is you risk nothing.
He’s going to ask his boss for a promotion even though he has little chance of obtaining satisfaction. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
||If you are given your walking papers, your contract or a relationship has ended.
After causing a diplomatic incident, Carter got his walking papers.
|wear many hats
||Someone who wears many hats has to do many different types of tasks or play a variety of roles.
Our company is small so the employees need to be flexible and accept to wear many hats.
|wheeling and dealing
||Someone accused of wheeling and dealing is though to be involved in complicated, if not dishonest, deals in business or politics.
Since the beginning of the election campaign, there’s been a lot of wheeling and dealing going on.
||The term win-win refers to a situation or proposition where both or all parties benefit from the outcome.
There were smiles all round when the contract was signed – it was a win-win situation.
|have your work cut out
||If you have to face a difficult task or a challenging situation, you have your work cut out for you.
I’ve got a month to reorganize the accounts department. I have my work cut out for me!