Common courtesies

Apr 19, 2010

One of the keys to success in business— all types of business, not just the A/E/P and environmental business— is practicing common courtesies (or perhaps they should be called not-so-common courtesies?). Architects, engineers, and scientists certainly don’t typically get any training in manners or etiquette in school (M.I.T. students perhaps being the exception— they are taught how to dance and even hold their forks, I hear!). So, if someone’s parents didn’t teach him or her how to be courteous, they are at a real disadvantage once out in “the real world.” Here are some of the common courtesies everyone should use: Greeting those who greet you. When someone says “hi,” say “hi” back. It is just the decent thing to do. Not doing it is rude. It may seem like a small thing, but I have actually seen people quit their good jobs in design or environmental firms over hard feelings because a principal would not greet them! Greeting those who may not greet you. You should try to be the one who says “good morning” first yourself. Not greeting is not as bad as not responding to someone who greets you, but it is still a problem. Be courteous! People will like you better. Saying something nice when you first meet someone. Just saying “I have heard good things about you” or “I really like your tie” is the nice thing to do. Again, the other person will likely immediately have a positive impression about you and what kind of person you are. Sending a follow-up note or e-mail to those you just met. Follow-up notes are the courteous thing to do. Get some cards printed up with the company logo. Not as good, but becoming more and more acceptable, is the follow-up e-mail. At least the e-mail is more immediate and that could prove advantageous for you if time is crucial in establishing a positive relationship. And, it’s also nice to acknowledge someone’s note to you with a “thanks— got your note” note (or call). Sending a thank you note or e-mail to clients for their project. It’s always nice to thank people for their business. I have bought two new Ford automobiles in the past five months or so and the owner of the dealership has sent me both a text message and e-mail thanking me for the business and even sharing some of the dealership’s sales numbers with me. It makes me like him (and his dealership). I have a similar experience every time I do business with a local asbestos abatement firm. The CEO always sends me a hand-written thank you note. Courtesy wins friends (and business), plain and simple. Waiting for your guest to pick a seat at a restaurant before you do. Let them decide to take the corner seat and you can be Wild Bill Hickok with his back to the door if that’s what your guest prefers. Waiting for your guest(s) to order at a restaurant before you do. It’s always nice to let them order first and then you can follow suit if you want something less than what a normal breakfast/lunch/dinner meal would be. If you order a skimpy meal first, you are sending a message out to your guest to do the same. Introducing all those you are with any time you run into someone else you know. Do this even if you cannot remember names. Introduce your party and hope the person you are supposed to know is courteous enough to state his or her name and introduce himself or herself. Acknowledging all e-mail requests made of you immediately. I cannot stand it (it’s a real pet peeve) when I ask someone to do something or for some information and they don’t respond with “I can get that for you tomorrow” or “you need to see Susie Whitaker with that request” or something. Just getting what is requested or doing it without first acknowledging the request is rude. The requester doesn’t know if it is being handled! Acknowledging all e-mail responses to your own requests for information immediately. If someone does give you the information you asked for or does what you asked them to, say “thanks.” Don’t just act like nothing happened. The person needs to know you got what you wanted and that you appreciate their response. It is the courteous thing to do! I would be willing to bet you that if you did these 10 things this year, every time, you will feel better and be more successful. Why not try it? Originally published 4/19/2010

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