As mentioned in our overview of Business Idioms, each industry has its own patterns, its own rhythms, of speech. That means that even common words and phrases can take on entirely new meanings in a business context. Thus it is a prudent executive – or executive-in-the-making – that studies up on these distinct phrases.
Here are a few common expressions used in the boardroom.
Accept an Offer – to say yes to an offer; to agree to the terms of a contract or deal
- After several rounds of intense negotiation the union finally accepted the offer regarding the proposed contract changes and ended the strike.
Note: As above, this expression can be used in almost any tense (present, past, etc.) by changing the verb “accept.” Likewise it is possible to use the article “a” (for a general offer), the article “the” or “his/her/their/Jim’s/management’s offer” (for a specific offer).
Across the Board – complete or total
- Following several false starts the design team decided that they needed an across the board overhaul of the campaign. As a result they threw away everything that they had developed so far and started over.
Note: Across the board can be used either a positive (pay raises) or negative (changes, as above) situation.
At a Loss – to end unprofitably or otherwise “in the red” (less than the initial cost)
- Sometimes retailers sell out-of-season products at a loss just to free up valuable shelf space.
Note: This expression can be thought of as a shortened form of the term “at a financial loss” and should not be confused with the idiom “at a loss (for words)” which is used to describe someone who is overcome by emotion and therefore speechless.
At the Eleventh Hour – at the last minute, when it is almost too late
- After such lengthy negotiations we didn’t think the two sides would be able to reach a deal but at the eleventh hour they finally decided on a compromise.
Note: The “eleventh hour” in this idiom refers to 11 o’clock, one hour before midnight (and the end of the day).