12 Key Business Topics. 

Business English Coaching in the key areas of vocabulary.  

My Word is My Bond: 

Rediscovering Social Initiative

Back before this world of big corporations and algorithmic digital markets we are now accustomed to, there was the world my dad was engaged in. He worked in Lloyds of London from the 1960s to the 1990s, myself to the latter end, in the early 90s. Starting out at 19, in this my first job, my dad told me the first rule of business in the city was encapsulated in the motto of the Baltic Exchange and the Stock Exchange “My word is my bond”. Work in the City of London wasn’t to be my path, after just a few months of reading philosophy, rather than the real task of my job (as a broker, of changing the names of ships), I left to study history. Yet, later in life, on consulting my dad of matters economic for social collaboration, he reflected to me on the evolving history of the corporation (i) and how it bore relation to the history of marine underwriting and world trade.

This older rule, of word and bond, similar to the utmost good faith of Lloyd’s (the duty to provide a full declaration of all material facts in an insurance proposal) are, one could say, a need for business ethics – supplanted through the course of time by the security offered by the incorporated company. (ii) Traditionally, to be involved with the insurance market of Lloyds, one needed to have sufficient personal capital to ensure one was good for their money (to be what was called a Lloyd’s ‘name’) (iii). Assets were the personal assurance that one gave should losses occur, in an exclusive group of wealthy landed gentry. It was a place, where personal reputation and honour meant more for how business was conducted, than they have since come to be.

The Salomon v A Salomon & Co Ltd, case of 1897 was a landmark one for UK law, which emphasises this dual ethical and social aspect of business practice. The effect of the 1897 House of Lords' Salomon and Salomon ruling was to defend corporate personality, defined in the Companies Act 0f 1862, so that creditors of an insolvent company could not sue a company's shareholders for payment of outstanding debts. Yet the following quote from the Salomon ruling highlighted concern for the potential abuse:

“There are many small companies which will be quite unaffected by this decision. But there may possibly be some which, like this, are mere devices to enable a man to carry on trade with limited liability, to incur debts in the name of a registered company, and to sweep off the company's assets by means of debentures which he has caused to be issued to himself in order to defeat the claims of those who have been incautious enough to trade with the company without perceiving the trap which he has laid for them.”iv

For myself, I see this motto in a spiritual and philosophical light. Of relevance more broadly to the very essence of moral life: My ‘word’ is my creative word, the Word as referred to in the beginning of the Gospel of John: in the beginning was the Word. This Word is the creative power to shape and to create the new; – it is not solely ‘my’ word therefore, it is a social ‘Word’. It is my ‘bond’ in so far as it creates my reality: how I think, how I reflect and perceive, with the individual words I use shape my character which in turn shape my karma, the world around me so created by my word: is by its deployment in life a ‘bond’. So, the motto of the Baltic Exchange and stock market and Lloyd’s, contain a deeper social truth, the truth of human interaction, an individual and social truth. ‘My word is my bond’, is my bond to others – to humanity.


For the whole concept of limited liability raises ethical considerations, of the degree of moral uprightness my commercial activity comes to embody.


And now since the turn of the century, to the financial crises of 2008 to the pandemic of 2020 onward, the question of the interrelations, of global markets and society, and the human beings place in them come ever more to the fore. In light of historical change, my question is increasingly about the spiritual speaking to us through events. On the Monday after Friday 10 April, 1992, I was working opposite Lloyd’s. My first boss was an Irish man, joint owner with a Scott, together Lochain Patrick Insurance Brokers. On the morning of 13v April I came in to work to see the Baltic Exchange building, in the square beside my offices with its glass windows blown out by an IRA bomb. (vi)



With the distance to family and friends accentuated since the lockdowns of 2020 onward, when physical experience is no longer a given, deeper questions arise: the search for messages across time. As I reflected on my own path in life, and spoke to others of collaborative initiatives, those messages of lives and destinies, other than my own, either brought to a sudden halt by death or changed irrevocably by political and social forces outside their control, were social questions to be re-engaged with ... My work primarily teaching Business English largely transferred online since 2020, as my old world has so to speak, died away, surprisingly, my closest work engagements now became with people looking to work in some way socially, in business – all equally challenged by unfolding socio political events: all somehow, each questioning their place, economically, socially and politically, in their own karmas of time and place, in history. (vii)


My trip over to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in August and November of 2021, was a battle of wits between myself and this regulatory system the world has implemented since 2020. A world of tests, considerable hundreds of pounds, – of ‘fit to fly’ QR codes, threats of fines, and endless reading of regulations. These conditions are bonds. They are also bonds created by words. Ideologies employed by the state and global health authorities and institutions (however uncreative they may be). A Google search to read about the upcoming vaccine mandate in Austria, is a good example. Set for 1 February 2022, it shows a list, the first page of which were websites and articles of no significant distinction, all parroting the official global party line: – all new policy is necessary, vital, ‘safe’, and opposition is dangerous, conspiracy theory etc.

One feels many would like the new world to have not changed, many would like, it seems, to avoid looking at what has been happening. New laws have been passed (or are set for the near future viii) against demonstration and ‘misinformation’ (a term used by Stalin to denounce resistance); advice rather than law is being enforced, and one is confronted with relentless state propaganda. Is not that the great challenge of these times: identified prophetically by the United Nations, the rising danger of mental health? For when one feels blocked to shape or even decide on what enters one’s body, submission to the state and medical authorities has indeed something truly traumatic to it.

 

A state able to encroach so far into basic human rights, is a state that regardless of what one takes into the body, increasingly seeks to augment its power over private life, supported of course by all those corporations who would thereby profit. Whether from the description of the Great Reset ix of the United Nations or the Green New Deal, socio-economic programs from multinational corporate companies see the vaccines and pandemic simply as an important prerequisite for a whole raft of new measures for socio-economic control, (issues well covered in critical literature).(x)


In order to seek solace and understanding for this situation, the answer I feel, is not to endlessly outline what is happening, rather it is to look at what can be done with new social bonds, between people, whether on the internet, or at demonstrations, in business, or in the struggle to engage newly with questions of human solidarity.


There were two experiences I remember from the flight from Belfast, Northern Ireland back to Basel, Switzerland on January 7th 2022. One was a man, in his mid 40s, talking incessantly (even in the boarding tunnel) to a mini laptop, of various contracts for warehouse space. Roughly my age, and dressed as I used to when I had corporate clients, back before ‘home office’, how strange it was to see before me, my old me, pre-2020. The other experience was more distressing: I watched a man dragged away in handcuffs at passport control for trying to enter Switzerland, for some bureaucratic infringement, – “Arrest me then” he said to the police. Bound inflexibly to regulation, the heavy- handed treatment of this man an utter failure of civil society. When this old world becomes finally obsolete in a few years, as technology continually ramps up corporate technological efficiency, we shall have to increasingly turn to each other.

For essentially if anything positive has come from all this since 2020, it is the rise of the demand for our human empathy. Whether for family unable to visit in care homes, to those injured by vaccines, to those who have lost work and businesses, the list is rather long in terms of human suffering, and conspicuously high in terms of corporate profit. Even that bulwark of the economic establishment, The Economist now testifies to dangers of growing censorship (see footnote vii). Surely these issues reflect a need for deeper cross-party reform of the social and political rather than solely economic interest.

The use of propaganda and media during and after the First World War was something indeed which Rudolf Steiner was concerned about in his spiritual work on the social order. He stressed that without initiative, the future would simply continue to proliferate disaster. For new values of business, politics and culture are now needed. The world of medical authority, state and financial control, and media is now so huge the temptation is to bow in subservience to it, and to ignore the human suffering. Yet, undoubtedly people need community: real and true bonds. Potentially, there are ample business and social opportunities now for people to turn from the old establishments of corporate and state control, but those new ways have to come from those willing to enter into business endeavours.

By means of example: In Basel and Switzerland mobile phone frequency densities are already that 4 times that of London. Can I prove a detrimental electromagnetic effect: as materialistic science wants me to? The answer is probably no: I have neither the time, expertise or resources. The essential point here is different: The tech and media companies simply seek to go over the heads of citizens and have the financial resources to indefinitely prolong court cases and shape the debate. We were told by an industry and government insider, that politically the case would centre around whether the judge would feel embarrassed to take a stand in the face of his or her peers, and that a groundswell of public opinion is really the only way citizens may take back some influence.

Reclaiming poetry on this subject: Tony Blair (of Iraq infamy) meets Bill Gates (Of Covid infamy) Klaus Schwab (Great Reset) the Queen and Prince Andrew (Of BBC Epstein infamy) outside the court house: the party look downcast, knowing that they are about to be tried for too often themselves wearing and forcing others to wear masks. Such a move would be a call for a return to true and honourable forms of business and leadership: a call for resurrected word, deed and utmost good faith, which would not have to be revolutionary, but would need us to reconsider assumptions of how things are done and by whom, only then can we be free to don the masks we so choose in spectacles of our own making, rather than ones that seek to deceive us.

A group of people on the outskirts of power, as well as ‘in power’ hold and are swayed, by the only true power in the world, the power of the Word. This power arises as much by what we say as what we don’t say. It arises as much in what we notice or fail to notice in a world. This world beckons a new sense of community, working together with new ideas. Our interest expands back into history as much as forward into history. As it unfolds, as much as having empathy for others, we question how we would like to relate – to those that we see and those we don’t –, as much as the world that brings like-minded souls together for mutual social and economic initiative.



(i) In the late 18th century, Stewart Kyd, defined a corporation as: “a collection of many individuals united into one body, under a special denomination, having perpetual succession under an artificial form, and vested, by the policy of the law, with the capacity of acting, in several respects, as an individual, particularly of taking and granting property, of contracting obligations, and of suing and being sued, of enjoying privileges and immunities in common, and of exercising a variety of political rights, more or less extensive, according to the design of its institution, or the powers conferred upon it, either at the time of its creation or at any subsequent period of its existence.”— A Treatise on the Law of Corporations, Stewart Kyd (1793–1794).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_law

(ii) Labeled by contemporaries and historians as "the grandest society of merchants in the universe", the English East India Company would come to symbolize the dazzlingly rich potential of the corporation, as well as new methods of business that could be both brutal and exploitative. Keay, John (1991). The Honorable Company: A History of the English East India Company. New York: MacMillan.

(iii) The Lloyd’s Act of 1871 created the possibility for partially-mutualised private / corporate membership.

(iv) Salomon versus A Saloman, 1897 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salomon_v_A_Salomon_%26_Co_Ltd

(v) BBC News, Thursday, 11 April, 2002, Three bombs, three times lucky http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1920917.stm


(vi) Lloyds Rostrum. Traditionally, home to many insurance underwriters, big naval losses are announced by the ringing of the bell.


(vii) Anthroposophicum was founded 100 years after the opening of the First Goetheanum for a new initiative for Meditation, the First-Class lessons, and Anthroposophy. https://www.anthroposophicum.com


(viii) The Economist. https://www.economist.com/international/2021/02/11/censorious-governments-are- abusing-fake-news-laws Inconvenient truths. Censorious governments are abusing “fake news” laws. The pandemic is giving them an excuse to gag reporters.

(ix) Klaus Schwab: His latest books are The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016), Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018), and the Great Reset (2021). During the course of his wide-ranging career, Schwab has received numerous honours. Wikipedia.

(x) Richard Cooper, Geopolitical Template for the Next Decade, 2022.

1. Social Media 

– has changed the way society interacts and how language is used. 


Elements of team and group work are changing as much as communication skills.

For businesses, advertisement now takes place across Facebook and YouTube.

The older methods of placard, billboard and flyer have lost their dominant influence, yet still persist and shape our city experience.

6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Social Health

The power of image is as strong as ever …


2. Leadership 

– is now coming to be understood differently. 


The importance of soft skills increasingly means a leader is more of a facilitator, a supporter, and above all else a good communicator.

It seems the role of the leader will start to be defined anew.

Shared leadership and flatter hierarchical structure reflect the new choices that leaders can chose to make.

What are the personal characteristics and attributes of a leader? How hands-on should a leader be?

– Assertiveness and soft skills, how do the two fit together?

Forbes article on leadership 8 Defining Qualities 

3. Marketing 

– has become more personalised. 


The power of personal testimony and the importance of customer reviews have created a new feedback and response culture. 

At the same time, the sophistication of digital media means data can be analysed to a very high level.


What is SEO (Search Engine Optmisation)?

What is storytelling for companies? What is branding? How important is word of mouth reputation?

SEO: A step-by-step guide for 2020.

4. Corporate culture 

Strategic planning is an invaluable skill to learn.

The demands of corporate life can pose a huge challenge to employees. Before we know it, we are caught up in an intense work schedule within an aggressive and competitive environment: difficulties achieving work-life balance arise. 


Issues such as change management, internal communication and assessment of the workplace as a 'great place to work', we look at some of the latest ideas in HR.

Human Resources Today 


5. Conferences 

can be exhausting or stimulating. 


How do we handle a conference to get the best out of it? 

We meet new contacts, have stimulating discussions, and take away new insights and information.


How important is networking; Are conferences tiring or exciting; How useful are working groups and seminars?

What was your experience of the last conference you went to?

Networking Pitfalls 


6. Presentation 

People not only want to see the person standing before them, but also interact with them.


In todays world, standing before a power point presentation and reading off a script is old fashioned. 

People want to see and interact with the person standing before them.


How does the speaker build rapport with the audience; How should they use speed and tone of voice?

As an example, I've put in bold words we would focus on.

Presentation Magazine.

7. Startups 

– have even more flexibility and freshness to challenge the established system. 

New ideas and ethical ways of working increasingly shape new businesses and products coming to market.


For established corporates and younger enterprises, learning to pitch and discuss ideas becomes increasingly important.

Discover the most promising Swiss startups. 


8. Promotion 

Getting a clear understanding of our aims and objectives.

The important question of ambition, target and career. Should an employee go for the new job, the new opportunity, or stay where they are? We have to consider all the options on the table. 


The plus points and drawbacks of getting promoted. Should you climb the corporate ladder or get out of the rat race?

Make Yourself Indispensable?

9. Management consulting 

Education and training are now offered in an unbelievable range. 

From one firm to another differences in what is offered by consulting firms can be significant.


What are the dangers and plus points of getting consultants involved in the business?


Consultancy firms have come under some criticism over the years.

Online learning also shakes things up in this area.

Case studies of McKinsey

10. Cross cultural Understanding 

Other cultures may do things differently, but they help us better see our own ways of thinking and developing insight.


From etiquette to norms and social codes. Going overseas requires careful consideration of how they do things 'over there'.

Understanding history and culture develops our ability to make and develop relationships.

Looking at how business and cultures differ: from Britain to America, Germany to Switzerland.

Doing business in China and India: What are the alternative perspectives to consider?

FT feature article.

Example Language

Vocabulary 

Financial community - pressure of deadlines - high ticket clients - decision making abilities - dress code - standard procedures - friendly atmosphere in the workplace - SEO search engine optimization - competitive prices and salaries - giving a sales pitch - a persuasive speaker - make sure everyone has their say.

PR | public relations - building rapport with clients - advertising and marketing - stylish and sophisticated - reputation and company image - approachable - make a good impression

Convenient time | inconvenient - getting distracted - interview candidates and put them on a short list - sales team - cheerful | dull - videoconferencing glitches - special deal - conference center - stunning visuals - business associates.


Writing Task

A writing task is a 300 word short answer to a question such as 'What is important when chairing meetings?'. In the case above the question was 'How should you run a meeting?'. The question developed out of the discussion and conversation. I set the use of the new vocabulary and grammar in the writing. 


Other Online Business English Resources

English Club
https://www.businessenglishsite.com
Cambridge Business English 

Phrasal Verbs

  • Phrasal verbs are more commonly used in speaking than more formal abstract words. The key is to be able to use both. 


We need to get up to speed. 
I was taken aback by the answer.
Can you give us a brief run through?
Can you tell us what it boils down to?
What do you put his success down to?


5 tenses for the future:

When are you going to complete the project?

We'll be completing and handing over June.

When will it be done?
When are you completing?
When are you going to be completing?


Grammar

Invariably, it's important to look at the present perfect continuous and to brush up on the tenses.

  • How long have you been working in your company? 
  • How long have you been working on the project?


11. Contemporary art 

– gives us an experience of thinking in action and creation. It can also give us the chance to stand back and reflect on ourselves and our work. 

The days of grey board rooms are over; art and thinking is a necessity rather than a luxury.


Contemporary art and philosophy can tell us a lot about the modern world, they provide insight and inspiration.

12. The Future  

With the speed of the modern world changes will come quickly and unexpectedly. 

The question is, are we ready for a new society that is coming and can we therefore see in advance the path society is going in.

AI futures.


rjcfraser

Switzerland

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