Business Idioms: Idioms about Failure

failureIn the cutthroat world of business sometimes even the best ideas fall flat. So hope for the best but plan for the worst in this installment of our series which covers business idioms about failure.

to close up shop – to close a business.

  • Business had been slow for a while so they were forced to close up shop and try something else.

Note: In the UK, close in this example can be exchanged with shut without the meaning changing (e.g., shut up shop).

to go belly up  – to go out of business because of financial problems.

  • The local bakery went belly up last year.

Note: Use this one carefully as this rather morbid idiom refers to the position of an animal when it is dead (and carries the negative connotations to match).

to cut one’s losses – to end or withdraw from something that is already failing in order to reduce the loss of money, time or effort invested in it.

  • The project is heading for failure. Let’s cut our losses before it’s too late.

Note: Another idiom, to get out while you are ahead, has a similar meaning.

to go up in smoke – if a plan or project ends in failure before producing a result.

  • After the closure of his business his dreams of being self-employed went up in smoke.

Note: a similar idiom is go up in flames can be used when something is extremely damaged or destroyed (e.g., his career went up in flames when he was jailed for theft).

to wither on the vine – to fail or cease to exist because of lack of support or encouragement.

  • Due to the lack of foot traffic the store is destined to wither on the vine.

Note: this refers to a plant dying (or withering) due to lack of nourishment.

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