Thursday, May 23, 2013

Business English Especially For Those With a Sweet Tooth!

In our last Business English lesson, we featured an article on cupcakes. Today we're continuing in our sweet series with a video on the growing demand for chocolate in China. Hershey's chocolate  a leading chocolate brand in the USA  is now entering the market in China. This video has lots of terrific English idioms. Read the idioms with their definitions below. Then listen for them in the video. Repeat that process again (this time while snacking on a piece of chocolate!). Then think about how you could use these expressions in your daily life (as in: "It's an uphill battle trying to get my kids to keep their rooms clean." or "I hope our customers will snap up our new product.")

(to) play catch-up – to make a big effort to overcome a late start; when you are behind and you have to take actions to get to the level of your competition

uphill battle – a difficult fight (when you are "facing an uphill battle," you face difficult circumstances)

(to) gain market share – to increase one's share (or piece) of a market (definited in percentage terms). This can refer to either dollar market share or unit market share

(to) pay a premium – to pay a higher price for something (because it's better quality or has a better brand, for instance)

(to) snap up – to buy quickly, or in large quantities (this term implies that the product is very desirable, so that many people are buying it)

mass market – produced in large numbers and sold through retail outlets, such as supermarkets 

(to) move upmarket – to start appealing to high-income consumers

bullish on – optimistic about a market (often used when describing investors, as they're "bullish on" a certain stock)

Want to learn useful English expressions and idioms every day? Got two minutes a day to study English while  you're taking a break for a piece of chocolate? "LIKE" the new Facebook, Speak English with Amy Gillett.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Business English and The Great Cupcake Crash of 2013

Today's business English lesson may make you hungry! In the United States over the past 10 years,
The great cupcake craze might be over ... but I'd still like
to take a big bite out of this one!
cupcakes have had a huge rise in popularity. They went from being a favorite at kid's birthday parties to being a popular treat for adults too. They got fancier and fancier and of course, more expensive. Cupcake shops sprang up all over the USA. Many cupcakes sold for a pretty penny (a lot of money) -- some for $4.50 each. Like any great craze, this one is now crashing. Maybe Americans just ate too many cupcakes. Maybe the cookie is back in vogue. Whatever the reason, cupcake shops are now struggling. Let's read a piece of an article from the Wall Street Journal entitled "Forget Gold, the Gourmet-Cupcake Market is Crashing. The words and expressions we'll explore are highlighted:

The icing is coming off America's cupcake craze. The dessert became a cultural and economic phenomenon over the last decade, with gourmet cupcake shops proliferating across the country, selling increasingly elaborate and expensive concoctions.
The craze hit a high mark in June 2011, when Crumbs Bake Shop Inc. a New York-based chain, debuted on the Nasdaq Stock Market  under the ticker symbol CRMB. Its creations—4" tall, with fillings such as vanilla custard, caps of butter cream cheese, and decorative flourishes like a whole cookie—can cost $4.50 each.
After trading at more than $13 a share in mid-2011, Crumbs has sunk to $1.70. It dropped 34% last Friday, in the wake of Crumbs saying that sales for the full year would be down by 22% from earlier projections, and the stock slipped further this week.
Crumbs in part blamed store closures from Hurricane Sandy, but others say the chain is suffering from a larger problem: gourmet-cupcake burnout.
"The novelty has worn off," says Kevin Burke, managing partner of Trinity Capital LLC, a Los Angeles investment banking firm that often works in the restaurant industry.

Now let's look at the words and expressions in bold: 

(to) proliferate – to grow or expand quickly; to spread
concoction – food or drink made by combining different ingredients (often many different ingredients in an unusual way)

in the wake of – following; as a result ofburnout – having had so much of something that one no longer wants it (note: also, often describes what happens when people work too hard and get too stressed out -- they suffer from burnout)

The novelty has worn off – something that was once new and popular, but no longer is; something that people have lost interest in (note: novelty means something new)

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Monday, May 13, 2013

A Business English Lesson Inspired by the CEO of IBM

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IBM had to tell her employees that they needed to change. So what did she do? She recorded a video message and posted it on the company blog. Her message to her 434,000 employees: you need to move faster! Of course, the video was passed on to the news media (also called "the press"). Did CEO Virginia Rometty deliver the news to her employees the right way -- or was she yelling at them as if they were children? The jury is still out (that means, people are still discussing that question!). Businessweek — a weekly business news magazine — just published an article about this. Let's look at some pieces of this article and then discuss the expressions and words in bold:

After the disappointing earnings report on April 18, Rometty released a video to all 434,000 employees in which she admitted that IBM hadn’t “transformed rapidly enough.” She called out the sales staff for missing out on several big deals. “We were too slow,” she said. “The result? It didn’t get done.” The press got wind of her message, and Rometty’s now accused of the corporate equivalent of yelling at her children in public. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, called the outburst a “rare companywide reprimand.” IBM declined to comment on the video ...

Employees aren’t going to watch one video or read one memo and completely change the way they work—the company has to change, too. In the video, Rometty laid out a plan for IBM to respond to customers within 24 hours: “Engage management, engage leadership, and let’s deal with it.” She’s already “reassigned” the head of IBM’s computer hardware department, the source of a large portion of the sales drop. “Ginni’s a very direct, no-BS type of CEO, and she had one message that she delivered to everyone,” [Professor Noel] Tichy says. “It would be much worse if it went through the internal channels. No one wants to hear that the CEO thinks they dropped the ball through word of mouth.”

Now let's look at the expressions and word in bold:

(to) get wind of - to find out about something, often a secret

outburst - a sudden expression of feeling (often full of emotion)

(to) lay out a plan - to present a plan

no-BS - short for no bullshit (BS means bullshit; therefore, no-BS is just the opposite!)

(to) drop the ball - to make a mistake; to fail to perform one's responsibilities

word of mouth - gossip; news spread by people talking to each other (note: often used as a marketing term to describe an advertising or marketing message that is spread from one person to another -- which is a positive thing for the company because it means that people are talking about the company's product or service).