Etiquette Basics for New Business Owners

Friday, June 10, 2016, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

In the business world, times have changed. As the owner of a startup, you probably don’t spend a lot of time wining and dining overseas clients and worrying about business etiquette.

You’re not trying to impress anyone with an intimidating office in the best part of town, or walking to the office with a suit and briefcase.

Instead, you’re operating on a shoestring budget, utilizing modern tools, and working online.

Why Should Business Etiquette Matter to You?

While some rules have changed, the basic principles of politeness, respect, and connection haven’t. Every business needs genuine, personal connections to thrive. Your daily presentation can determine whether you sink or swim.

You don’t have to be conventional. But you do have to be courteous.

Here are some basic rules that every business owner should know and follow:

    Pretty young business woman with arm extended to handshake

  1. Be Prepared for First Impressions

    Always stand up when you meet someone. Learn names quickly, and use them frequently. This allows you to facilitate introductions, makes people feel special, and lets you take control of conversations better.

    • Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

      It’s hard to know how much to share about your business in a casual conversation. Either we avoid the subject altogether, or we talk our acquaintance’s ear off because we’re so excited about our project.

      Find a balance by following the elevator pitch format. If you’re in an elevator and someone turns to you and asks, “Now what do you do?” are you prepared to answer effectively before the doors open?

      Do a brainstorm session with your business partners and winnow your business down to the essential principles that you want to share.

    • Be Ready for a Follow-Up

      If, during a first encounter, someone seems very interested in your business and wants to know more, you should always be ready with a business card, or something else that they can take with them to remember you.

      Never considered yourself the conventional business card type? That’s okay! Look for other creative options that will get your name out in a unique way, from pens to stress balls. These will also be handy for presentations, thank you follow-ups, and conferences.

    • Practice Your Handshake

      A handshake is one business basic that hasn’t changed over time. It might feel silly, but practice your handshake to make sure it conveys the right impression. Whether you’re meeting a man or woman, always lead with a handshake, firm but not aggressive.

    • Dress Well

      Many of us who operate tech companies have a new standard for “business professional”… which might include t-shirts and sweats. It’s okay to be comfortable, but you should be presentable at all times. Make sure that you’re clean and that you’re portraying the impression that you want to.

    • Every Connection Matters

      Be as interested in others as you hope that they’ll be in you and your business. Just because they’re not an immediate customer doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from a mutually amicable relationship. Look for ways to connect with, and learn from, everyone you talk with.

  2. Group of young entrepreneurs in meeting

  3. Use Technology Wisely

    Technology has made amazing things possible in business. It also makes terrible faux-pas possible. Follow a few rules to keep your technological business interactions from becoming stumbling blocks for your business.

    • Always Proofread

      Emails are often the first impression someone will have of you and your business. The fastest way to discredit yourself is to have blatant spelling or grammar errors.

      Make sure that you come across as competent, intelligent, and professional by double-checking everything you write before you click “send”. This includes memos, texts, and chats.

    • Respect Business Hours

      As a small business owner, you’re probably always on the clock. And with technology making us constantly accessible, we sometimes fall into the assumption that everyone else in the world is always on the clock, too. This isn’t the case, and it shouldn’t be.

      Allow others their downtime, and respect their space. Make business calls during business hours, and give people a proper time cushion before you demand a response.

    • Young businessman talking on the phone.

    • Focus on Who You’re With, Not Your Phone

      New business owners have a lot of information coming in at any given moment. While it’s okay to check your phone’s notifications now and then, it’s really easy for it to get excessive.

      Think about the message that you’re sending when you check your phone during a conversation. Consider switching to silent during certain meetings, or limit the number of notifications you get.

  4. When in Doubt, Remember Your Mother’s Advice

    Many rules of the business world are the same things that your mother taught you about being polite: say please and thank you, make eye contact, think about others and be respectful of their time and attention.

    The small nuances of business etiquette can get confusing, but if you follow the basic rules of thumb, you can’t really go wrong.

This article is written by Christine Hill

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