Level: intermediate to advanced
Primary goal: build vocab
Secondary goals: reading, listening, prosody (word stress, timing, intonation)
Time: Adaptable (max of 2 hours in-class, 3-6 hours of homework)
How it works
Each resource has three lessons and three homework assignments.
Before the first class, the student takes a vocabulary quiz based on a resource. This is nothing too complicated–just a Google document where they mark how well they know each word.
Then, in the first lesson, I ask them questions to prep the vocabulary in the video. I use their answers in the vocabulary quiz to choose which vocabulary to focus on.
AFTER taking the pre-vocab quiz and prepping the vocab, I tell them which video to watch (or article to read). They watch/read for homework. I also send them main idea, detail, logic, and inference questions. If it’s a video, they also get prosody (word stress, timing, intonation) questions. They should prepare answers.
In the second lesson, we review the questions. I also help them with anything they had troubles with. We might review some grammar or speaking skills.
Next, we usually take a week or two off. (The lessons continue, but we do a different topic.)
After the break, we return to the article/video. I’ll give them one more assignment and we review it in the third lesson.
Note on Google Docs: I made the folder public on the web. You can copy/paste it to edit it to suit your needs. I think that’s easier, but let me know if you’d like a PDF version:)
(1) Commodity: A product like sugar or oil. All sellers have exactly the same product.
The price of commodities is a good indicator of the overall economy.
(2) To bundle: To sell one or more products together.
In the 1990s, companies had to bundle Microsoft Windows with their computers. Otherwise, no one would buy them.
(3) Network effects: The ways things change when many people use the same thing
Network effects are the main reason Facebook is so popular. Everyone uses it, so you use it too.
1. Which part of a computer was a commodity in the 1990s?
a. The hardware
b. The software
c. The retail store
2. After initial development costs, how much did it cost Microsoft to continue producing Windows?
a. It varied greatly by country
b. Almost nothing. Copying software is free
c. Nearly 50% of their operating budget
3. How did Apple’s strategy differ from Microsoft’s?
a. They only sold software
b. They only sold hardware
c. They bundled hardware and software
By Jeremy Schaar
Imagine this situation. You want to sell lemonade. You need sugar and lemons. Lots of people sell sugar, so the price of sugar goes down. But only one person sells lemons, so the price of lemons goes up.
Today on the blog you’ll learn about Microsoft. You’ll learn the strategy that made them so successful. In the process, you’ll learn some great strategy vocabulary and be better able to discuss the strategy at your company.
Why was Microsoft was so successful in the 1990s? Because Microsoft was a lemon seller. They understood that the hardware of a computer was a commodity. The software, however, depended on network effects. It meant that the makers of computer hardware would have many competitors. But the makers of the software would have no competitors.
In the 1980s it wasn’t clear if Microsoft or Apple would win the computer wars. Apple had a different strategy. They bundled their software and hardware. The result was that if you bought a Macintosh computer, then you used Macintosh software. If you bought almost any other computer, you used Microsoft software. Because it was hard to learn new software and easy to share information if everyone was using the same software, Microsoft dominated.
And that was great for Microsoft. If you wanted to sell a computer, you needed Microsoft. Customers wouldn’t buy computers without it. This let Microsoft demand very high prices.
In addition, Microsoft was able to make an infinite number of copies of their product at almost no cost. Microsoft has had piracy problems over the years, but the ability to copy their software has basically been a huge competitive advantage.
So, what’s changed? I’ll answer that question next week on the blog.
In the meantime, think about your company. Do you sell lemons or sugar? Do your customers demand your product or is it easy for them to choose something else? Is there any way for you to use network effects to make your product more valuable?
(1) Resource: A useful thing
The consulting group has many resources for helping companies succeed.
(2) Trade Show: An event where people in a specific industry meet to show their products
The trade show is a great opportunity for us to meet potential buyers.
(3) Supply Chain: The movement of stuff from the start to the consumer
Our supply chain begins in China and ends right here in New York City.
1. How can you use LinkedIn?
a. To find a job
b. To find an employee
c. A and B
2. Why should you join groups on LinkedIn?
a. To network
b. To see discussions about your industry that will help you learn
c. A and B
3. How can you easily find blogs about your industry?
a. Search on Google
b. Go to company sites
c. Look for links from your country sites
By Jeremy Schaar
The hardest thing about studying Business English is that most Business English lessons have nothing to do with your job. It’s just general English. It might be helpful, but not really. The English you need for your job is different. So, how can you get better? Fortunately, there are many resources online that can help you. Today, you’ll learn about some different ways to study English that will really help you. I’ll share two resources and give an example for a specific industry.
You probably know about LinkedIn. If you’re not a member, you should join now. You create a profile that’s like a resume. It’s great for searching for new jobs or finding new employees. But, it’s so much more. It’s an excellent place to study English. You can find a group that’s about your industry. After you join the group, you’ll receive emails from the group. You’ll see lots of great discussions.
Reading is the best way to improve your English. This is a great resource for reading about your industry. You’ll find the vocabulary and grammar that you need. And if you have problems, you can ask the people in the group to explain things to you. It’s also a great way to network.
I have some students in the Trade Show industry, so I joined a Trade Show group. Here’s an example of an email I got. (Click on it to make it bigger.)
Blogs are a second great resource and finding them is easy. Just do a Google search for [your industry]+blogs. You’ll find a lot of great reading material.
Some more of my students are in the supply chain industry, so I like to read supply chain blogs. Here’s a link for a ton of great supply chain blogs.
Learning English can be hard. You’ll need specific language for your industry. LinkedIn and blogs are a great place to start.
And, by the way, if you have trouble understanding the blogs or LinkedIn groups, send me a message. I’ll be happy to help with lessons.
(1) Measurable: You can check the amount of it.
Testing makes teaching a measurable profession.
(2) Unrealistic: Not likely, probably not possible
It’s unrealistic to think we’ll gain 30% market share in our first year.
(3) Vague: Unclear
He gave a vague speech on improving sales or something. Actually, I’m not sure what he was talking about.
1. Why are goals good?
a. They inspire and are measurable.
b. They motivate and focus.
c. They help concentration and get results.
2. Why should a goal be specific and measurable?
a. So you’ll know when you succeed.
b. So that it’s motivating.
c. So you can get a raise.
3. Why does Jack Welch encourage unrealistic goals?
a. They give you good ideas.
b. To help employees do great things.
c. You can get $1,000,000.
By Jeremy Schaar
Personal Growth: Goal Setting.
Do you make goals for yourself? How about for your employees? Today, I’ll discuss the advantages of making goals, discuss how to make good goals, and introduce some good vocabulary too.
So why is it good to make goals?
In short, goals are motivating and they help us stay focused.
Goals are motivating. If we don’t feel like we’re going anywhere specific, we’re less likely to work hard. Everyone likes to be able to see good things in their future. Goals should be those good things. On a personal level, your career might advance when you meet a goal. Like, if you hit a sales number, then you’ll be considered for a promotion. On a company level, teams feel great when they complete something together.
And goals help us stay focused. For example, if you just think a little bit about becoming a better cook, it will never happen. A goal, such as I’m going to cook every day for one month, will focus you on actually getting better.
Next question: How can we make a good goal?
The first thing is that it needs to be specific and measurable. “I’m going to cook everyday for one month” is a great goal. I can check that. “I’m going to become a better cook” is bad. What does “better cook” mean. How can you know you’ve been successful? The same thing goes for work. Specific, measurable goals work. Vague ideas don’t.
Next up is that goals should be related to your values. Here at Stuart Mill, my goal is to help people learn English. My value is education. It doesn’t help me to say, let’s make a lot of money. It should be: let’s really help people learn Business English. (And hopefully money will follow.)
Now, normally in articles about goals, the writer or speaker will finish by telling you that goals should be realistic. I think that’s good advice, but not always. At GE, Jack Welch also had people set unrealistic goals. He wanted people to dream. He wanted them to do great things. Unrealistic goals can take you to a new place. So, yes, set realistic goals, but don’t be afraid to dream big. If you don’t, you’ll never be great.
(1) Cost Effective: This means that the price of doing something is good.
(2) To pick and pack: To get an item and put it in a container.
Factories in countries like China are usually more cost effective because the pick and pack workers work for low wages.
(3) Tote: A plastic container.
We used plastic totes instead of cardboard boxes when we moved to a new house. They were much stronger.
1. Where did Mick work before?
2. What problem nags at him?
a. How to cost effectively pick and pack various items
b. How to send a can of soup for less than $1.00
c. Shipping stuff out of a warehouse
3. What solution does he imagine?
a. An item magically appears
b. A company-centric solution
c. Both A and B
By Jeremy Schaar
What I need is a system where I put out my hand and “poof!” a product shows up. -Mick Mountz
Sounds pretty good right? Products magically appearing. In this week’s lesson, we’ll look at why Mick Mountz wants products to magically appear. We’ll see the problem he’s trying to solve. You’ll learn some vocabulary you can use to describe shipping problems and you’ll improve your supply chain listening skills.
In this week’s section of the video, he explains a little more about his personal history. He got his start at a company called Webvan. Webvan wanted to deliver groceries to people. However, the company failed. At 2:10, He says:
We couldn’t do it cost effectively. It turns out ecommerce fulfillment is very hard and very costly. We had an $.89 can of soup that was costing us $1.00 to pick and pack into that tote.
So Webvan failed because it wasn’t cost effective.
But the problem stayed with him after he quit. He noodled on it. (Which means he thought about it.) And it nagged on him. (Which means it bothered him.) Material handling providers just didn’t have a solution. They took pallets and cases of goo and shipped them out. The pallets and cases had many of the same product instead of having many different products like you would need for a grocery store order.
What he wanted was an operator-centric approach to the problem. He wanted to help the workers become very productive. He imagines a system where products magically appear and the pick-pack worker can just put them into a tote.
Next time, we’ll see some more about how he thought about the problem.
For today’s lesson, I also created a quiz on TedEd. That’s a great website for studying online videos. Check it out here.