Speak Business English Like an American » LESSON 10 - Discussing a Difficult Request

Discussing a Difficult Request

Tanya is head of R&D in a laboratory for Sudsco, a company that makes shampoo. Here she meets with colleagues John and Andy to discuss a request from the marketing department.

Tanya: Let me kick off this meeting with some news. Our marketing department would like us to produce a new fragrance by the end of next month.

John: Oh, brother.* We need this extra work like a hole in the head! What fragrance are they looking for?

Tanya: Mango.

Andy: Mango? Are they out of their minds? Do they know how tough that is?

Tanya: Yeah, but I told them we'd take a crack at it. If we put our minds to it, I know we can do it.

Andy: I don't know. It's not going to be easy.

Tanya: Let's roll up our sleeves and give it our best shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

John: Well, Tanya, you certainly have a can-do attitude!

Tanya: Actually, this is child's play compared to what our CEO wants us to do by the end of the year. He wants us to come up with new, improved formulas for all 50 of our shampoos.

Andy: What? How are we supposed to manage that? Sometimes I think the bigwigs at this company are out of touch with reality!

* oh, brother - a polite way of expressing annoyance

  • (to) kick off
    to start something, such as a meeting or a project
    EXAMPLE: Bill Gates kicked off the conference by showing a demonstration of Microsoft's new search engine.

    NOTE: You will also see the phrase "kick-off meeting," meaning the first meeting to get a new project started.

  • (to) need something like a hole in the head
    to have no need for something; to have no desire for something
    EXAMPLE: One of our competitors is threatening to take us to court. We need that like a hole in the head!
  • out of one's mind
    crazy; having unrealistic thoughts or ideas
    EXAMPLE: Our DSL provider is telling us that our rates will soon go up by 50 percent. Are they out of their minds?
  • (to) take a crack at something
    to try something
    EXAMPLE: It's going to be hard for us to lower our raw materials cost on this product, but we'll take a crack at it.

    SYNONYM: to have a go at something

  • (to) put one's mind to something
    to focus on a task; to try hard to do something
    EXAMPLE: Your accounting course may be difficult, but if you put your mind to it, you'll get through it.
  • (to) roll up one's sleeves
    to get ready to start something; to prepare to do something
    EXAMPLE: We've got to pack up 500 crystal vases by tomorrow morning, so let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.
  • (to) give it one's best shot
    to make one's best effort to get something done; to try to do something, even though you're not sure if you'll be successful
    EXAMPLE: The small brewery went out of business after three unprofitable years, but at least they gave it their best shot.
  • nothing ventured, nothing gained
    If you don't try to do something, you'll never succeed.
    EXAMPLE: It's risky to spend so much money developing a new brand, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • can-do attitude
    a positive way of looking at things; an optimistic perspective; a positive attitude
    EXAMPLE: Marie always says that nothing's impossible. She's got a real can-do attitude.
  • child's play
    an easy task
    EXAMPLE: Evan has been an auto mechanic for 20 years, so replacing your windshield wipers will be child's play for him.
  • bigwig
    very important person; person in charge
    EXAMPLE: All the bigwigs from the company went to Hawaii for a four-day conference.

    SYNONYMS: head honcho; big cheese; VIP (very important person)

    ORIGIN: This term comes from "big wig" -- the large wigs that English men wore in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men of great importance wore the biggest wigs.

  • out of touch with reality
    unrealistic; not aware of what's really going on
    EXAMPLE: The CEO believes His company's stock price will triple in a year. Most people think he's out of touch with reality.
Practice The Idioms

Choose the best substitute for the phrase or sentence in bold:

  1. Our president gave everybody business card holders for Christmas. I need another business card holder like a hole in the head.
    • a) I really need a new business card holder.
    • b) I'm happy to get another business card holder.
    • c) I really don't need another business card holder.
  2. Installing that new computer software was child's play for Mark. He's got a PhD in computer science.
    • a) very easy
    • b) challenging
    • c) enjoyable
  3. I agree with you that we may not be successful entering the market in China, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    • a) we should take a risk and enter the Chinese market
    • b) we shouldn't enter the Chinese market
    • c) if we enter the Chinese market, we'll definitely succeed
  4. If you can't figure out how to fix the jammed printer, let Adam take a crack at it.
    • a) fix the crack in it
    • b) try to fix it
    • c) throw it in the trash
  5. The company kicked off the new fiscal year by announcing several exciting new products.
    • a) ended
    • b) postponed
    • c) began
  6. It won't be easy, but if you put your mind to it, you can study for your law degree while also working full-time.
    • a) don't think too much about it
    • b) work hard at it
    • c) think about it
  7. Sorry I couldn't get you the financial reports by Friday. I gave it my best shot, but I just couldn't finish on time.
    • a) tried as hard as I could
    • b) made a little effort
    • c) didn't try too hard
  8. If you want to work for IBM, call my cousin Alan. He's a bigwig there.
    • a) low-level employee
    • b) frequent visitor
    • c) senior executive
Answer Key
Practice The Idioms
  1. c
  2. a
  3. a
  4. b
  5. c
  6. b
  7. a
  8. c
Answer Key
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