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Etiquette tips for entrepreneurs

By Pauline Muindi | November 9th 2021
By Pauline Muindi | November 9th 2021

Whether you own a business or are employed, there are a set of rules that can make socialising with others more pleasant and respectful. Unfortunately, these rules are often unspoken expectations that makeup what is considered good manners.

Mastering the nuances of etiquette is what separates good entrepreneurs from truly great ones. As a business owner, you should understand that you set the tone for acceptable behaviour for your employees.

By simply practicing good manners and following appropriate protocol, you can have a positive effect on the workplace morale and productivity. The nuances that define good and bad business etiquette can make and break an important meeting, influence a first impression with a potential investor, or impress a prospective client.

Below, we’ll discuss some essential but often-overlooked rules of business etiquette. Implementing these etiquette tips will make your business interactions more pleasant, while also increasing your chances of long-term success.

When you meet a new person, the first thing you do is introduce yourself to each other. In business situations, you should always introduce yourself with your full name. If you have a common first name, such as Anne or John, emphasize on your surname. You can hand the other person your business card at the end of the introduction to help them remember your name.

Make an effort to remember other people’s names. A simple way to remember names is by repeating them during conversation. Alternatively, you can write down the name of the people you’ve been introduced to in your notebook, including their titles and relevant associations.

Addressing people by name is a simple yet powerful strategy for creating stronger relationships. It subtly communicates that you hold them in high regard. Generally, you should refrain from using people’s nicknames – unless they give you permission to do so.

Make sure that you pronounce people’s names correctly. If you’re unsure how a name is pronounced, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Most people will be happy that you’re making the effort to pronounce their name right. Doing so gives the impression that you’re sincere and caring.

Introductions involve more than exchanging names. In addition, make sure to be always presentable to make a great first impression. In most cases, you should stand up when being introduced. This establishes your presence and communicates that you’re confident. In cases where standing isn’t appropriate, you can lean forward to acknowledge the introduction.

Shake hands with a firm grip. However, handshakes shouldn’t turn into a power struggle – let your grip be firm but not bone-crushing. Handshakes should communicate mutual respect, not an effort to exert dominance. Take note of how long your handshakes are – a general rule of thumb is that handshakes should take no longer than three seconds. The handshake shouldn’t last longer than the introduction – or you’ll just be awkwardly holding hands.

In addition, remember to maintain eye contact during an introduction or conversation. By holding eye contact, we don’t mean you should stare the other person down. Experts recommend that you should hold eye contact 50 per cent of the time when speaking and 70 per cent when listening. You should maintain eye contact for only around five seconds at a time – more than that is likely to come off as creepy.

You’ve probably attended your fair share of meetings that turned out to be a waste of time. When setting a meeting as an entrepreneur, make sure that you have a clear agenda to avoid wasting other people’s time. Additionally, take each attendee’s schedule into consideration. If you’re not sure about the best time and date for all attendees, you can call them or text them to confirm.

Prepare or have someone prepare the materials and information you’ll need for the meeting. For example, if you are meeting potential investors, you should have all the important numbers for your business at your fingertips. You should know how much you have in inventory, your sales projections, net income, overheads and so on.

When a meeting starts veering off-topic, gently remind the attendees to go back to the agenda. After you’ve achieved your agenda, you’ll have time to discuss any other matters at leisure. At the end of the meeting, thank attendees for their time and contributions. For official meetings, you should send out a written record of what was discussed, including action items for attendees. If a meeting doesn’t result in action, it wasn’t necessary in the first place.

Remember to always be punctual for meetings. Being late communicates disrespect and can end up losing business prospects. Whether you’re meeting your employees or business, make a point to arrive in good time so the meeting can run as scheduled.

With plenty of business dealings taking place online, there’s also a digital code of etiquette to adhere to. Make sure to respond to emails or texts as soon as possible. Check your emails before starting your workday and note all the ones that need immediate action or response. For group emails, make sure that you reply to everyone rather than individuals – this will keep every party in the loop.

Make a habit to carefully proofread your emails or other written communication before hitting the send button. Badly written emails full of grammatical and spelling errors reflect badly on both you and your company.

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