Speak Business English Like an American » LESSON 5 - Talking about Company Strategy

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.

Practice The Idioms

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

  1. Mattel, a large toy company, always beefs up its advertising around the holiday season.
    • a) changes
    • b) increases
    • c) decreases
  2. Amazon.com uses cutting-edge technologies to determine which products each of its customers is most likely to buy.
    • a) sharp
    • b) inexpensive
    • c) the most modern
  3. We need to re-design our entire store. For starters, we should move the cash register from the back of the store to the front of the store.
    • a) as a final step
    • b) as a first priority
    • c) for people who can't find the cash register now
  4. Your company is introducing garlic fruitcake? That sounds like a real dog!
    • a) What a great idea!
    • b) That sounds like a terrible idea!
    • c) I'm sure dogs will love it!
  5. After Apple's iPod proved to be successful, several other manufacturers came out with me-too products.
    • a) products very similar to the iPod
    • b) their own innovative products
    • c) products very different from the iPod
  6. Your plan is good, but before you proceed, you'll need to get buy-in from the company president.
    • a) get a purchase order
    • b) get approval
    • c) get a promotion
  7. With our new solar-powered automobile, we're going to leap frog our competitors.
    • a) make all our competition disappear
    • b) turn our competitors into small green animals
    • c) come out with a superior product
  8. You don't own a cell phone? I thought everybody had one. You need to get with the program!
    • a) get a program to teach you how to use the phone
    • b) join a cell phone calling plan that offers unlimited minutes
    • c) get a cell phone too, so you're not missing what everyone else has
Answer Key
Practice The Idioms
  1. b
  2. c
  3. b
  4. b
  5. a
  6. b
  7. c
  8. c
Answer Key
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