19 Business English Idioms: How Startups Sink or Swim

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a group of words that has a single meaning. Even if you know the meaning of all the words, you still need to learn the special meaning of the whole idiom. For example, the word “plunge” means “jump into deep water.” But the idiom “take the plunge” has a different meaning: it means “do something risky or dangerous without the option of changing your mind later.” By itself, the word “plunge” is useful in only a few situations, such as swimming. But the idiom “take the plunge” is useful in many more situations, including business English.

English idioms for starting a new business: Taking the plunge

If you’re thinking of starting a new business, you need to think very carefully before “taking the plunge.” Starting a business is always a huge risk, so it’s a good idea to “test the waters” before you jump in. For example, you might want to try out your business idea as a hobby first. That way, you can “get your feet wet” by gaining some practical experience before quitting your job and launching your business. You may find that you “get cold feet” and change your mind — perhaps you’ll discover that your great business idea wasn’t so great after all.

On the other hand, sometimes this careful approach is a little too careful. Sometimes it’s better if you just “dive in” and see what happens next. For example, perhaps you’ve spotted a great business opportunity and decided to accept the risks and go for it. If you want to “make a splash,” and make sure everybody notices your new business, diving in “head first” is often your only option.

You might not even have any control over the decision to start your own business. If you’re “thrown in at the deep end,” and find yourself running a business suddenly and unexpectedly, you have no choice. In “sink-or-swim” situations like this, you may discover a talent for business that you didn’t know you had … or you might not.

English idioms for surviving in business: Staying afloat

Once you’ve started your business, the main challenge is “keeping your head above water.” If your business plan isn’t strong enough, you’ll quickly find yourself “up to your neck” in debt. That’s one of the main reasons why 90% of new businesses “go under” in their first few years.

But if you do manage to “stay afloat” for the first few years, there are still many challenges ahead. For example, you may decide that you’ve had enough of “treading water” — simply doing enough to survive — and you want to start taking your business in a new direction. Maybe you decide you’re ready to “swim against the tide,” by doing something different and challenging. After all, you’ll never build a strong business if you always “go with the flow” and take only the easy options.

Just be careful not to get “out of your depth,” by taking risks that you’re not ready for. If you “swim with the sharks,” you might discover that there are a lot of powerful people who don’t want your business to succeed. But if you work hard, take calculated risks, and stay lucky, you might just find that everything “goes swimmingly” for your new business.

So there you have 19 common English idioms that we use to talk about starting a business. How many other idioms in English do you know?

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Originally published at www.GetNewsmart.com