In this episode we look at the options or choices that have to be made.
DENISE: Now we're looking at the options for handling our on-line orders. They're going through the roof and frankly the lead-time for delivery is blowing out. We need to improve our performance in this area. Any suggestions?
TAN: Well, as I see it, we have three options. The obvious one is to employ more people to do the job. Another alternative is to automate the system more - cut down on the physical handling.
JOHN: And the third option?
TAN: We could outsource.
DENISE: What are the pros and cons?
BARBARA: Well, looking at increasing staff versus automation, we have to consider the cost. Automating has a higher capital cost than putting on more staff. On the other hand, employing more people is more expensive over a long term. If we keep growing, it'll cost more in the long run.
DENISE: How likely is it that we'll see continued growth?
TAN: I'd say it's a certainty.
JOHN: I'd say a high probability. Nothing's certain in business.
DENISE: So what about the third option?
TAN: Outsourcing? Well, it does take the problem off our hands. But we lose contact with our customers.
DENISE: What about the bottom line?
BARBARA: Outsourcing is the cheapest option, and the easiest - in the short term. But if we want to keep the operation in-house, the best option is automating our system. The only down side is, we're taking a risk that our business will keep growing.
JOHN: Which we hope it will.
DENISE: We certainly do.
We've looked before at formal meetings. Today's meeting is a more informal one, to discuss a specific issue. The discussion is more free-flowing, or uncontrolled. Let's look first at some of the language used by Denise when she introduces the problem.
Denise says 'we're looking at the options'.
'Options' are different solutions, or answers, to a problem. What is the problem? 'On-line orders are going through the roof'.
'On-line orders' are orders for goods received through the internet, and if they're 'going through the roof', they are increasing in number very rapidly.
The 'lead-time' for delivery is the amount of time it takes from when the order is received to when it's delivered, and if it's 'blowing out' - that time is becoming too long. We use the expression 'blowing out' for something which is becoming too great, in a bad way.
So to 'improve our performance' means, in this case, to shorten the time it takes to deliver goods.
Let's look at Tan's suggested options.
Tan describes three options. First he lets us know that this is his opinion, by saying 'As I see it'.
Practise with Tan some different ways of letting someone know that what you're stating is your opinion.
As I see it, there are three options.
In my opinion there are three options.
From my point of view there are three options.
As far as I'm concerned, there are three options.
The three options are: employ more people, automate, and outsource.
To 'outsource' means to use an outside company. When presenting different options, we can order them by numbers, like this.
Firstly, we could employ more people, secondly we could automate, and thirdly we could outsource.
We can also use phrases, such as 'one option is to' and 'another option is to...'
We can also use linking words, such as 'or' and 'alternatively'.
Or, we can use a combination of these methods.
Now let's look at the language used to discuss these options.
When considering two options, we are comparing them. Barbara talks about increasing staff versus automation. She is saying that she is going to compare these two things. Another phrase she could use is 'as against'. Practise with her.
Let's look at increased staff versus automation.
Let's look at increased staff as against automation.
When comparing two things, we use comparative adjectives.
Listen to Barbara again, and see if you can hear the two comparative adjectives.
She says automating has a higher capital cost than putting on more staff. 'Higher' is a comparative adjective.
We often use 'than' for the option that is being compared. Remember for words of longer than two syllables, we use 'more' for the comparative. Employing more people is 'more expensive'. Because Barbara has already said what the second option is, automating, she doesn't need to say 'employing more people is more expensive than automating'.
Notice that she uses the phrase 'on the other hand'. This is used to introduce another side to an argument. Practise this with Barbara.
On the one hand automation is expensive.
On the other hand it's more efficient.
Another way of comparing two ideas is to use linking words such as 'but' ,'although' and 'however'.
Now listen to the discussion about the likelihood of continued growth.
Denise asks how likely continued growth is. In looking at words to describe likelihood, we can use these words:
So we can say:
And so on.
We can also qualify these with words such as 'very' 'quite', 'highly' or reasonably
'It's very unlikely'
It's quite possible'
"Its highly probable'
'It's reasonably certain
And in a different kind of sentence, we can use them as nouns:
It's a certainty
It's a possibility
There's a probability
There's a high likelihood
But we don't say 'there's an unlikelihood. We say 'There's no likelihood.'
Finally, look at what happens when we compare more than two options.
Did you hear the superlative adjectives used to compare more than two things.
Listen again. There are three.
Well our bottom line is that that's all we have time for today - so I hope it's quite certain I'll see you next time for The Business of English.