Idioms to Advance a Business Start-Up


Big thanks to the many ISSofBC program participants who read and commented on the blog posting, Idioms to Advance Your Job Search.

You have shared so many interesting and useful idioms! It seems like we should keep the ball rolling (continue) with a similar topic. Let’s discuss a few idioms that could be used to talk about starting a business.

You may want to use these at an upcoming ISSofBC and RBC Immigrant Entrepreneur Exhibition (IEE) on Wednesday, May 27 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Bonsor Recreational Centre in Burnaby. This free event will offer newcomers with established, new or possible businesses a chance to network and get helpful tips about business start-up here. Plan to join us and register online at www.rbc.com/bcevents.

And now, let’s get down to business (get to the main topic) with this posting’s business idioms.

1–24/7: Twenty-four seven is the idiom to mean “continual.” If you plan to start a business that never closes, then you will need staffing 24/7 (24 hours a day, seven days a week). Most businesses are not open that much, but starting a new business may mean a lot of work. You might feel like you’re working 24/7.

2–Corner a market: This is what Apple did to the mp3 player market–almost total domination. If your business is able to corner a market, you will be very successful. Most businesses don’t do that. Most don’t create “cash cows” like Apple has. But a business owner can always dream, right? When she does, though, she probably dreams more realistically of a substantial market share rather than a cash cow product that absolutelyeverybody wants to have.

3–In the black: The main goal for a business start-up is to be profitable, and that is what we mean by “in the black.” This idiom reflects the idea of using a black pen to write totals in accounting documents.

3–In the red: In contrast to the previous idiom, “in the red” reflects an unprofitable and indebted business. But let’s be optimistic and not talk too much about this!

4–Back to square one: If the first idea doesn’t work out, businesses (or anyone) sometimes has to completely start over. “Back to square one” reflects the idea of completely abandoning work in one area and starting over from the beginning.

5–Word-of-mouth: If you’ve got a business, you can’t be shy about it and neither can your friends and customers. You need them to talk about your product or service with other people. You need them to say good things about you. This is “word-of-mouth” advertising, which is often shortened to “word-of-mouth.” This is the most valuable type of advertising any business has because it is free and extremely powerful.

The interesting comments we’ve received in the ISSofBC blog demonstrate the huge resource we have in our program participants. You have shown you have a lot of experience and knowledge to share. So I have two requests:

Comment on this posting and share some idioms you know about business. Your comments really help others who are learning and developing their skills.

If you’re interested in running your own business, join us at the IEE in Burnaby on May 27. We know lots of you operate businesses in your previous countries. Lots more of you have started businesses already here and still more are thinking about setting up shop here in Canada. The IEE is a great opportunity to share what you know and ask about what you don’t know.

Please register online for this event at www.rbc.com/bcevents.  If you have any questions, please email carmen.ryujin@rbc.com.

Consider being an early bird to register.  If we know the number of people who will attend, it helps us with our “game plan” (an idiom that means, simply, our plan or strategy.)

Gwen PawlikowskiAbout the Author:
Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.


18 thoughts on “Idioms to Advance a Business Start-Up”

  1. Hello,
    I would like to share the following idioms.
    1.state of the art
    It means that the latest thing in technological aspect.
    For example, “The new model, ABCD1234 which released last month is state of the art”.

    2.get down to business
    It means that starting discussing important topic which is directly related with business.
    For example, “I think we already finished warming-up. Let get down to business.

  2. Hi, everyone.
    I’d like to share two idioms here.

    1. at stake – at risk

    2. by the book – To do things “by the book” means to do things according to company policy or the law. It means to follow the rules 100%.

  3. Hello everybody, thanks for sharing some idioms, a few are new for me.
    Here I leave some more:
    Take the bull by the horns: You can use it to say that you have the control of something.
    EX: Now, as director of this company, you need to take the bull by the horns and to bring order here.

    Ahead of the pack: To be “ahead of the pack” means to be better or more successful than the competition.
    EX: If we want to stay ahead of the pack, we are going to have to work hard an continue to innovate.

    Backroom deal: A backroom deal is an agreement or decision that is made without the public knowing about it.

    EX: I think they got the government contract because of a backroom deal.

    Miguel Angel

  4. Hello everyone!
    Thank you for your sharing! Here i’d like to add up some idioms:
    1. Pull up your socks—to make an effort to improve your work or behaviour because it is not good enough
    2.Bounce back—to start to be successful again after a difficult period, for example after experiencing failure, loss of confidence, illness, or unhappiness
    3.The acid test—the true test of the value of something

  5. Hello everyone, I would like to share 2 idioms about business with you.
    1.“cut corners”
    It means doing something the cheapest or the easiest way.
    2. “between a rock and a hard place”
    It means a dilemma, or both possibilities that aren’t good.


  6. I’ve been hearing “24/7”, “back to square one” and “word of mouth” before but this is my first time to encounter “corner the market”, “in the black” and “in the red” so thank you so much for sharing these idioms.

    Speaking of idioms, I bet everyone heard about “think outside the box” and “from the ground up” already. If not then here’s my two cents. 🙂

    “Thinking outside the box” simply means thinking something out of ordinary. It is very essential for entrepreneurs especially during business planning as it makes them innovative, creative and it helps their future businesses stand out.

    “From the ground up” – I bet almost everyone would understand this. It simply means starting from zero or starting from scratch.

    Am I correct? 🙂

  7. Hello everyone,
    I would like to share this idiom “backroom deal” which means agreement or decision that is secretly made without the public knowing about it. For example, “they gained the government contract because of backroom deal.”
    In fact, backroom itself is one of the idioms, meaning where plans are made or works are done out of public view or secretly by powerful or influential persons.


  8. Hi, everyone!

    I found some idioms for start-up that I like. Here are two of them:

    On the same page- meaning we are compatible in some ways, it’s likely a good start because we have something in common, like interests, the way of thinking or so.

    Another idiom is win-win situation. This is the ideal situation in business, it shows that it is a pretty fair business.


  9. Hi, I would like to add an idiom which seems to be helpful for us as newcomers.
    “diamond in the rough” which means: something or someone that has a lot of potential but first requires a lot of work.
    EX: He was a diamond in the rough. He was intelligent and had great ideas, but his management and English weren’t very good.
    I also like these idioms as well:
    “miss the boat” which means “miss the opportunity”
    “be in the same boat” which means “be in the same situation”

  10. Dear Gwen,
    Thank you for the idioms you shared with us.
    I liked “Word-of-mouth”. As new comers, this is the best way to advertise ourself through networking and to find a job.
    I also like the expression “The sky is the limit”. We should not limit the career progression we expect, we should dream big it is the only way to achieve big.
    Thanks to everyone for sharing yours.

  11. Hi everyone,
    Thank you for the idioms. I would like to 2 more idioms that I found. Thank you!

    1. Fill the bill
    Meaning) To be just what is needed
    Example) The new machine should fill the bill for what we need to finish the job.
    2. Close the books
    Meaning) To stop taking orders, to end a bookkeeping period
    Example) The company will close the books at the end of December.

  12. Hi
    The government gave “the thumbs down” to the workers and only approved minimum wage increase of 40 cents from $10.45 to $10.85 an hour. Whilst the government thought that all the labor unions have “to take all lying down”, most of them fight back the new minimum wage rate of $10.85. Unions believe that at least a $15 minimum wage is fair and would be able to lift a worker above statistics Canada’s low-income threshold.


  13. I like the idioms:
    1. sky’s the limit – Idiom that means if there is no limit to what can be achieved.
    For eg: With their commission structure, the sky’s the limit to what you can earn.

    2. get the ball rolling – To “get the ball rolling” means to start something (a project, for example).
    For eg: We need to get the ball rolling on this project. The deadline is in June, and it’s already April.

  14. My favorite idiom is “big picture”.
    In starting up a business, there are many tasks to do, many plans to be executed.
    The leader need to direct the team and to make sure that they don’t lose sight of the big picture, a big vision and mission of the business.

  15. Dear Gwen,
    Thank you very much for sharing these useful idioms. “in the black” and “in the red” were new ones for me.
    I believe nowadays finding a suitable job is a concern that we – new comers who are seeking a job- are thinking about 24/7. Also, we all try the fact that we are job seekers become a word-of-mouth so maybe we could find a suitable opportunity via our connections.

  16. I am not an entrepreneur; however, I love this expression Give the thumbs up: an expression of approval.

    In the driver’s seat: to be the control o the things


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