Business before pleasure!

Do you need to improve your business vocabulary? You're in the right place! This article will help you feel more confident in your interviews as well as in business meetings and board rooms from Singapore to Vancouver, from corporate offices to small corner shops.

Black market refers to illegal trade or places where such trade is carried on. Do not confuse it with the semi-legal "grey market". The "black market" was known as the "bootleg market" in America in the 1930s.
If you can't find it in the shops, try the black market, but beware—the quality is not guaranteed.

Blank cheque originally meant a cheque that was signed by the payer but had no amount indicated, so that the payee could fill in any amount they wanted. Nowadays it refers to authorizing somebody to act as they see fit.
He got a blank cheque to reform the department.

Aboveboard describes legal business that is open to all its customers and has no hidden tricks designed to cheat people. It originates from the 17th century, when players were asked to keep their hands above the table in order to prevent cheating at a card game.
His offer to buy the company was aboveboard.

Break your back stands for extremely hard work.
He broke his back to get the work done in time.

Business as usual means that everything is continuing in a normal way. This expression is mostly used to mark the end of a turbulent period.
The shop has opened after a month of repairs, so now it is business as usual.

Business before pleasure means that responsibilities should come first, and enjoyment should come later.
You offer for lunch is attractive, but business before pleasure!

Business is business is a way of saying that work-related matters and friendships (personal feelings) should be kept apart.
I will employ the best candidate and not a friend, because business is business.

Cash cow stands for a product or a service that produces an abundant, steady flow of cash.
This investment could be the cash cow we need to start a new project.

Cash in your chips is an expression used when a person sells something, usually stocks or shares, either because he or she needs money or because their value is expected to drop.
Mary cashed in her chips and is now looking for a new investment opportunity.

Clinch a deal means come to an agreement. There is an old proverb saying, "Better a clinched deal than two clenched fists".
His final presentation enabled us to clinch the deal.

Corner the market is a situation when a single business entity controls the whole market, leaving no space for competition. This idiom dates back to the time of the Industrial Revolution. It uses "corner" in the sense of "drive would-be buyers into a corner" (i.e., offer them no alternative).
Large companies such as Wal-mart or Microsoft are considered to have cornered their markets.

Creative accounting refers to a presentation of company results which are imaginative and misleading but not necessarily illegal. Creative accounting is often used to manage earnings and to keep debt off the balance sheet.
I'm sure that we can avoid arguments with our investors if we apply some creative accounting.

Cutting edge means that something is at the forefront or has the leading position in a given field.
Silicon Valley in California is at the cutting edge of IT technology.

Dead wood is an expression used to describe people or things that are useless or burdensome.
The board decided to reduce costs by cutting the dead wood.

Dog-eat-dog describes a situation of fierce competition when companies fight only for themselves, with no concern for morality.
The only rule in this market is dog-eat-dog.

Donkey work is boring and repetitive work that everyone would like to avoid.
Even the interns will not do donkey work.

Dream ticket is a combination of candidates who are considered to constitute a great team. It is often used during election campaigns to describe a would-be presidential candidate and his would-be vice president.
Two of our best sales representatives working together are our dream ticket.

Finger in every pie describes someone who has an interest or is involved in a lot of different things, often in a way that people do not approve of.
He is interested in every aspect of this industry and has a finger in every pie.

Foot in the door describes someone who has accomplished the first stage or step.
The interview went really well. He has his foot in the door.

Get your hands dirty means to get involved in all the aspects of a given task, even the menial duties. It also means getting involved in something that might compromise your reputation.
If we want to meet the deadline, then we will all have to get our hands dirty.

Get the show on the road means to start something or to put a plan into operation.
This cannot wait till tomorrow, so let's get the show on the road.

Golden handshake is a generous incentive, usually money or some other benefit, that is given to a senior member of a company so that he accepts early retirement.
He received no golden handshake or pension after being dismissed by the board.

Upper hand is an advantage that someone has over competitors in the market. The term originates from the 15th century and refers to the driver who holds the whip in a horse-drawn vehicle.
He has the upper hand in this fight.

Have one's hands tied describes a situation in which a person cannot do something because of restrictions.
I would gladly support your cause, but my hands are tied.

The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing means bad communication between departments or people within a company.
It will be hard to coordinate such a project, because in our office the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

Monkey business stands for deceitful conduct or questionable behaviour.
I don't trust their offer; there's some monkey business going on.

Ostrich strategy is used to label a risky financial decision that ignores an obvious problem. The idea comes from the supposed habit of ostriches, who hide their heads in the sand in order to avoid danger.
You will only make the situation worse by adopting the ostrich strategy .

Learn the ropes stands for learning something new. It is originally a nautical term implying that new recruits had to learn all the control ropes for the various sails to become true sailors.
This is a new position for him, and he will need time to learn the ropes.

A square deal is an equitable arrangement or a fair and honest transaction.
I assure you that this transaction is a square deal, beneficial to all.

Take the floor is used when somebody is expected to formally address a group of people in a speech or presentation.
The Chairman will take the floor for a few moments before the staff party begins.

Up and running is used to indicate movement to an operational stage of a project. In the business world, it applies to a successful start of an operation or a project.
Our family business is up and running.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained means that one cannot profit without taking a risk. The expression dates back to the 1300s and is also known as "no pain, no gain".
It is impossible to make a profit without looking at the new markets: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Walk into the lion's den means to step into a situation that will put you or your business in a vulnerable position.
By investing in an unsecured market you are walking into the lion's den.
Do you have questions about Business English? Feel free to post them in our forum - Business & Finance English