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Wellbeing / Business values

We’ve forgotten our manners when it comes to business etiquette

Is it just me? Or does it seem like being punctual for meetings, saying thank you and paying bills on time are becoming ‘old fashioned’?

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We live in a fast-paced world, but that shouldn’t mean we abandon common courtesy and good manners. It is easy in the hustle and bustle of modern business, with so many things being juggled by so many, to skip over this pesky intrusion in our busy day, but it could come at a cost to a business.

This lack of manners is becoming more prevalent in the small business space. Things like:

  • Ignoring messages 
  • Not showing up to meetings (and not bothering to let the person know who is meeting them)
  • Reneging on business agreements (because they know the person cannot afford a lawyer)
  • Not following through on work promised
  • Answering the phone during a meeting
  • Not RSVPing to events
  • Bad mouthing people on public forums.

Our grandparents must be wondering what has happened to us.

Bad manners are bad for business. It is a smaller world now with social media and word of mouth powerful tools to share information. What all these manners infractions comes down to is a lack of respect – for each other, and people’s time and efforts.

Business etiquette 101

It is time to go back to school. Here are few reminders on how to treat each other in business.

  1. Meetings. If you’ve made a time to meet someone, leave on time so you aren’t late. Of course, things come up so if you going to be late, call or message instead of leaving someone wondering if they have the right day and right time. If you cannot make it, try to give that person plenty of notice. There is nothing more annoying when you have a busy day to get a message 15 minutes from an appointment time that they can’t make it. Respect people’s time. You aren’t the only busy person on the planet.
  2. Mobile phone. Put it away during meetings. No, you are not being polite by turning it over. You’re saying to the person you are meeting if something more important happens, you’re happy to abandon them. There was a time when we all survived without carrying our phones around; surely any phone call or message can wait an hour until the meeting is over.
  3. Invoices. There’s nothing more annoying than having to repeatedly chase invoices. If you cannot pay on time, let the business know so they can work around it. If they message asking when you’ll pay (because you are late) ANSWER them. It’s so rude to ignore them – they have bills to pay, families to feed and shelter and staff to pay. As a small business, they understand sometimes cashflow is slow. The key is communication.
  4. Agreements. If you start working with someone and they’ve taken time to onboard you, brief you, explained the process and set up the project plan …and you decide after a month, you don’t have enough money, or it’s not the right time for you, communicate that ASAP. If you’ve signed an agreement, it’s legally binding. Sadly, many small businesses cannot afford to hire a lawyer when there is a breach of contract and they’re left in the lurch. Stop and think before you sign a contract – do you: have the funds to see the contract out, understand results are not instantaneous and take time, understand it is an agreement? If for any reason you must break the contract, give the business provider plenty of notice.
  5. RSVPs. You’ve been invited to an event. You respond ‘GOING’. Then the event organisers must spend time chasing you for payment or to confirm your attendance. Or perhaps you are one of those people who hedge their bets, responding ‘MAYBE’. Be a person of your word; if you say you’re going, go (unless you are sick or something urgent comes up). Don’t respond unless you intend to go. Events take time, planning and money to organise, so when you play hard to get, you’re causing undue stress and frustration for the organiser. 

It really does not take a lot to be polite. A few minutes of your time to remember the person you are standing up, not paying or who’s constantly chasing you is another human being. Treat others with respect and you will get it back in kind. 

Annette Densham

, is a storyteller whose business Publicity Genie utilises her strategic know-how, love of teaching and knowledge of the media to show small businesses how to promote themselves better. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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