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Business Etiquette

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Dr. Algirdas Makarevicius



Business lunch etiquette

As schedules become more hectic, the business lunch continues to grow in popularity. Make sure to do things right when meeting over lunch with a prospective client or important associate. The last thing you want is for your encounter to be the final one.

Avoid extravagance. Pick a quality restaurant noted for its good food and reliable services.
Book a table that is in a quiet corner where business can be discussed without too many noisy disturbances.
Leave instructions at the counter to usher in your guests to your table.
You need to stand up when someone arrives and wait for them to be seated before you sit down.
If the client has a cocktail, follow his lead. If they order alcohol, you can too, but limit your drinks to one or two light ones. If they don't drink, you don't.
Enter gracefully, don’t be late. People typically have a limited amount of time for lunch.
Take time to chat. Don’t delve into business until you’ve placed your order. Instead, make conversation, and try to get beyond the weather. Most people love to talk about themselves, so ask thoughtful questions that aren’t too personal in nature, and actively listen to your dining companions’ responses.
Despite all of your preparation, you may make a faux pas during a business lunch - remain calm. A fork could slip out of your hand, or a piece of food could get stuck in your throat. Pardon yourself, smile and continue the conversation. Your ability to handle a glitch with grace will make a far deeper impression than any minor blunder could.
The most important people are the ones sitting in front of you. Remember to turn off all cell phones. If you answer a phone call and discuss other business in front of them, the meeting may be over before it began.
Order with care: Ignore your craving for the barbecue pork sandwich or any other potentially messy dish. By sticking to easy-to-eat items, you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of sauce dripping down your shirt. Also, don’t order the most pricey entrée if you’re not paying, and follow the lead of your host when it comes to appetizers, desserts and other extras.

Making A Client Wait

An urgent and unexpected task may lead to unavoidable delays at times. The situation becomes even more critical when one has a client waiting in the office wondering about the appointment that had been fixed well in advance! So, how does one avoid alienating a customer who has been inadvertently placed in such an awkward situation?

• First, take the trouble to make apologies in person. Tell your client how long you are likely to be delayed. If you are away from office, have your secretary or a colleague do this for you.
• Offer refreshments and reading material. This is definitely an occasion to pamper him.
• Don't keep him waiting longer than 15 or 20 minutes. If you can't get away from the urgent task delaying you, explain the situation, apologise and schedule another meeting.
• Call to express regret for wasting his time. Making amends and restoring goodwill should be your top priority.

Learn About The Art Of Gifting

The act of gifting is a symbolic way of marking special occasions, impressing another, expressing thanks, and sometimes offering a bribe! Your reason for gifting is your business, but here are some tips on how to do it graciously.

• Ensure that your choice of gift is appropriate for the occasion, and for receiver. For instance, a chocolate cake given to a friend on a diet would be a little thoughtless!
• Sometimes very expensive gifts could embarrass the receiver, especially if he is not in a position to reciprocate with one of similar value. Be sensitive to this issue.
• Certain companies have strict policies about their employees NOT accepting expensive gifts or any gifts from business associates. Take note.
• Be careful when considering your choice of gift, by keeping the nationality of the person in mind. Certain items may signify mourning, or be considered a bad omen and the last thing you need to do is upset a foreign business associate, whom you’re trying very hard to impress.


Express Yourself Through Your Business Card

Business stationery is the first step in building a corporate identity. It allows a free expression of one’s true personality in a smart, 'business’ sort of way. If you are an artist, or employed ‘in the media’ you can give your imagination free rein. For most other kinds of business, it is best to be conservative and project an image of practicality.

The purpose a business card is to introduce you. It is also an invitation to establish and retain communication.
• Your card should bear your name, position and responsibility in the organization, the name of the business, address, a scaled down logo (if any) and information about how you can be contacted.
• Use a standard sized business card. If your card is too large to fit into a card holder or wallet, it will end up in the back of a drawer or thrown in a dustbin, and it’s of no use to anyone there!
• The standard business card measures 31/2 inches by 2inches. The most appropriate font size for a business card is 8-10 point for name and business name and 6.5-8 point for address and other information.


(Avoid) Running Errands For Your Boss

In an ideal case scenario, the boss would never ask a subordinate to run personal errands for him/her. Reality, however, is very different, but when handled with deft and poise can turn a no win situation to a win one.

• When asked to run a personal errand by your senior, tell him/her that it is beyond the limits. Citing pressing office work as reason also works. These reasons are good enough to put off even some of the most pressing seniors.
• Another method is to avoid running personal errands for boss would be to tell him/her in a casual manner, preferably away from the office that official work doesn't give you time to run personal chores. S/He might not be thrilled about it but a mixture of diplomacy and firmness should be convincing.

As a senior executive, don't ask juniors to run errands for you. You know they have a right to refuse, but chances are that they will not. Resentment doesn't make for the best work environment!

How Do I Meet A Customer Over A Meal?

Meeting a customer or prospective client over a meal has become a common practice today. The meal may be as casual as a sandwich in a fast food joint or an elaborate lunch or dinner at a more formal restaurant. Whatever be the case and setting, one must follow certain rules to make the conversation and meeting effective:

• Ask for food preference, but don’t leave the responsibility of choosing the restaurant to your guest. Keep in mind his preference, the location of his office and of course your budget while making the choice.
• Be specific about the time and place. You don’t want to be sitting at a restaurant called ‘The Residency’ while your guest is waiting at the foyer of the `Residency Hotel’, wondering why you haven’t turned up.
• Confirm your reservation at the restaurant, and confirm the meeting with your guest.


How Do I Decline An Invitation To A Meal?

A ‘working’ lunch or dinner is common corporate practice in most business houses. Once an invitation has been extended to you, it is your choice to accept or decline it, but it is your obligation to follow through with it once you accept.

• Give your response as soon as possible. Confirm the exact time and place if you have accepted the invitation.
• If you are a vegetarian or have particular food preference/allergies, let your host know well in advance.

Once you accept an invitation and you are forced to cancel it for some reason, inform your host at the earliest, apologize profusely, and try to reschedule the appointment.


How Do I Design My Business Stationery?

Business stationery is the first step in building a corporate identity. It reflects upon the person, the institution and the values they profess. If you are an artist, or employed in the 'media' you can give a free reign to your imagination. However for the rest who are forced to adhere to dapper standards here are a few basic guidelines:

• Do not compromise on the quality of paper. Select smooth, thick paper in white and off white shades.
• Use dark coloured inks like royal blues and blacks for printing.
• Avoid fancy fonts. Stick to routine ones like Times New Roman in 12 point size or Arial in 10 point size which makes reading easy.

Ensure that the card contains basic and relevant information including name of business, address and a scaled down logo.


Personal Calls At Work

Most companies frown upon personal calls being made in the office, but it happens anyway, sometimes with unpleasant consequences. If you are going to make personal calls at work, find out what the company policy on this is.

• Find out if personal calls are allowed, and if there is a charge for this. Even if you are allowed to make free calls, don’t push your luck by sitting on the phone, exchanging gossip or discussing cricket scores!
• Long distance love is expensive; don’t fund it from your company telephone kitty. Most companies keep detailed accounts of numbers dialed, and you could be in for a reprimand, as well as a big bill at the end of the month.
• When receiving personal calls in the office, keep them short. You get paid to work!
• Your colleagues need not be a part of your telephonic conversation. Keep your voice as low as possible.


Choose The Right Restaurant To Dine Your Client

A leading gastronome once said, “My favourite restaurant is the one where I’m known best.” Business entertaining is fraught with enough dangers without you having the additional worry about the quality of food or service! Always ask your guest for a food preference. If the details are left up to you, the choice should be swift and sure.

• Favoritism is the best policy sometimes. Patronise a restaurant known for its central location, good food and service. It pays to familiarise yourself with the waiters, staff and management.
• Make sure the restaurant is not too trendy or popular. You should not have to jostle with crowds or shout above the loud lunchtime conversation to make yourself heard.
• The management will be more inclined to give you the best tables at short notice if you are courteous, tip well and dine there often enough.

Remember that your guest is observing you every minute, so take that extra precaution to set the stage for a successful business exchange!


Should You Refuse Alcohol At A Biz Meeting?

You are at dinner, at a business associates house, and have just been served a helping of delicious looking, and painstakingly stuffed, mushrooms. Unfortunately, you are allergic to them! Should you refuse to eat them and risk Would you refuse to eat them and risk upsetting your host, or swallow them bravely and pray that bagging the contract is worth the suffering? The golden rule is: as far as possible, avoid making a fuss and embarrassing anyone.

• If you have any food allergy or preference, if for example, you are a vegetarian, inform your host when you accept the invitation. You don’t want to keel over at the table, at the sight of a rare steak!

• At a buffet or large gathering, it is easy enough to avoid taking the food you don’t eat. However, in some situations it would be very awkward if you refused to eat or drink something that was offered to you. Use your discretion. If a polite refusal is not possible and it’s not a life-threatening allergy, don’t fuss. Swallow it with a smile!

• If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t hesitate to say so. It is perfectly acceptable to refuse wine or any other alcoholic drink and equally possible to have a great evening drinking fruit juice or water!

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